There are so many issues to be covered and discussed that I didn’t know where to start.
The situation for women in the Congo has not received very much attention outside of Africa so I decided to discuss that even though it is incredibly painful to research and think about.
The Second Congo War, which officially ended in 2003, may be the deadliest conflict since World War II and is estimated that over 5 million people have died as a result of the war and it’s aftermath.
Women’s bodies have been used in the Congo as a weapon of war and they have been routinely gang raped and mutilated. It is estimated that 40,000 women have been raped but these are only the cases that are known about. Sexual violence in the Congo is considered the worst in the world. And with the high incidence of rape the number of women infected with HIV has exploded.
It is so bad that there are two hospitals specifically to treat victims of sexual violence. One is the Panzi Hospital of Bukava, which on any given day has 300 female patients being treated from rape related injuries.
With the assistance of VDay, started by Eve Ensler, women are starting to find their own strength and power even though their country and the International Community has done little if nothing about this. The 2010 Campaign is Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource: Power to Women and Girls of Democratic Republic of Congo. On May 25, 2010, with the assistance of VDay and Unicef, the City of Joy will be opened.
V-Day and UNICEF, in partnership with Panzi Foundation, are currently building a special facility for the survivors of sexual violence in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The City of Joy will support women to heal and provide them with opportunities to develop their leadership through programming in: group therapy; storytelling; dance; theater; self-defense; comprehensive sexuality education (covering HIV/AIDS, family planning); ecology and horticulture; and economic empowerment.
Note: The following videos can be difficult to watch.
Dr. Denis Mukwege, the physician at Panzi Hospital, is called the Angel of Bukavu and has treated thousands of women and performs up to 10 surgeries a day. VDay recently honored him with an award in his own name.
And while there is more awareness being brought to this issue and the women are starting to take control there is so much we can do. We can help support the 2010 Campaign, donate to the City of Joy and educate others.
And we should keep in mind that the DRC is a country rich in minerals. Minerals that are used in many of our electronic devices. Demand for these minerals help fund this war and support the rebel and army units. While a ban on these minerals would be even more devastating for the economy of the DRC it is important to think of where our gadgets come from, what materials go into them, and where these materials come from. Pressure should be put on companies like Niotan Inc., of Mound House, Nev. to force them into humanitarian business practices.
The cynical part of me can’t help but wonder if what has been going on in Congo has been ignored internationally because our demand for the minerals exceeds our concern for other people. Or the profit of a company exceeds everything else.