On October 6th, New Yorkers galvanized to stand up for Congo Women. Wooed and compelled by our humanity we pleaded with each other to continue to fight to end systematic rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Paradoxically, on October 29th, Sandy, confronted New York with an unprecedented irreverence.
Mockery dripped like a dysfunctional faucet in the face of Federal, State and Local government officials as each scurried to return traumatized New Yorkers to some semblance of normalcy.
Power, heat and hot water, simple amenities that are often taken for granted, continue to elude, as misery bares down like double barreled guns.
Some say, Sandy is New York’s Katrina.
Perhaps, Sandy is New York’s Congo.
The sustained dismantling, disturbance and disruption of the innocent and helpless compounded by a Nor’easter just one week after Sandy’s visit still jeers.
But rapists are cowards, whether they are from the Congo or from New York, though they may come in different forms as is the case of Super-storm Sandy or in the form of fellow human beings who have abandoned their humanity.
And just as New Yorkers banded together on October 6th to stand up for Congo Women, we now stand together on the rubble of our lives with a fierce determination to rebuild, as we laugh at the days to come.
Unquestionably, one of the most momentous days of the year, Congo Run 2012 spurred the best of the human spirit onward, that which is to give to those who will never be able to repay us.
Congolese women depend on this spirit.
But what amazes me most, is how Providence provides for the embattled, oppressed and the harassed.
Providence has instilled within each of us the desire to help someone in need.
And it is this spirit that I salute.
This spirit which, when acknowledged, nurtured and encouraged, takes us to the pinnacle of our potential, and, even when ignored, continues to nudge and perhaps even nag us.
Each of us answer the call in different ways and for those who answered the call for Congo Women, salute this spirit within yourselves. But most of all, nurture it continuously. Nurture it in the many forms in which it beckons throughout the year as opportunities to serve, give and encourage good abound.
It may be the pregnant woman on the bus who needs your seat, the senior citizen who feels invisible, and just needs someone to say ‘hello,’ or a family member who just needs a friend.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of our lives, it is so easy to ignore the call within, I often do, so I pray for help to follow through on my good intentions.
I always get an answer.
I wish Providence responded like that when I ask to win the lottery:)
Nevertheless, I am certain that Providence knows best.
Hello, Everyone. Angela invited me to share some ideas on the Run for Congo Women New York Chapter blog this month; so, as it’s easy to write when you care passionately about an issue, I readily agreed.
The civil war in Congo, a truly dreadful conflict that stretches all the way back to 1996 and into the darkest corners of the human heart, is on my mind so frequently and in so many ways: when I pass a woman on the street walking hand-in-hand with her little girl; when I use my iPhone, knowing it is made with conflict minerals; when I steel myself to read UN reports on Congo and imagine myself or one of my sisters enduring such horror….It all seems so hopeless and overwhelming sometimes.
How can I focus any activism on Congo alone, when there are similar atrocities happening all over the world? What about injustices in my own country? What difference can a few hundred dollars make to the enormous needs of Congolese women and girls?
My driving forces during such moments come from a combination of facts and simple faith.
The facts are these: according to www.unwomen.org, “In contemporary conflicts, as much as 90 percent of casualties are among civilians, most of whom are women and children.”
Very often this means systematic sexual violence, which we have seen and continue to see in Congo. It is also a fact, borne out by many a study and statistic, that in order for any kind of global economic recovery to take place, women and girls must be educated and empowered. If this planet is to survive, if the people on it are to thrive and its nations achieve lasting stability, it is imperative that all women and girls must be raised in political and economic status. Peace, security, human rights, and economic stability for all women–this is so simple and logical.
And now for the faith part:
I firmly and fervently believe that anything I do to positively impact the lives of women and girls ANYWHERE will have impact EVERYWHERE. I really believe that I am my sister’s keeper, and that my actions have a ripple effect. Our support for Congolese women, especially through non-invasive educational programs like Job Skills Training or health and safety initiatives created by Women for Women International, actually has huge, lasting, measurable results.
It may seem impossible, but these simple small steps are the only way to really create change. If enough of us lend a hand this way, suddenly we have a movement going; and I believe that these actions help strengthen our responses to many other injustices around the world and in our own countries.
So, come out and support a Run for Congo Women in your own community.
Come out and run for Congo Women in New York on October 6th.
The other night, I was able to catch a very interesting piece on Netflix that was originally aired by National Geographic in 2008. This was called, “The Science of Evil”. What originally drew me to this program is my ongoing fascination with the why the mind works especially trying to understand why people do what they do. While watching, I saw that one of the places they went to see human evil in action was in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo. What is going on out there is nothing short of evil.
There were examples provided where the soldiers will rape the wife in front of their husband and if they have teenage daughters, they will also rape the children in front of their mothers and fathers. Could you imagine seeing such a thing? It would just be too traumatizing for anyone to handle. There was another example given where people are asked what they would do in this scenario: you are hiding in the forest with many other people from your village. You have an infant child, all of a sudden the child begins to cry. If the soldiers hear the child crying, then they will find you along with everyone else you’re with and will kill and rape each of you. Yet, the other option is to cover the baby’s mouth and as a result possibly smother the child. Which would you do in this scenario?
Can you imagine that this is the reality of many women in Eastern Congo? When you go out for a jog at night, walk home on your own after meeting up with friends, or even run errands on your own, do you have to constantly worry that someone will attack you? Yes, we live in a world that there are crazy people everywhere and anything is possible. Yet, if anything bad happens to us what would we do? Call the police and the police will arrive within 15 minutes. After that, you might go to the hospital and if you’re lucky enough to have insurance you’ll be seen within the hour; if you don’t have insurance you’ll still be seen but may have to wait a long time. After that, there are many support groups that you can join for victims of rape and also 1-on-1 counseling that you can sign up for to help you after the incident. Yet, in Congo, it is quite a different result.
This is the likely scenario – you get raped on the street while your family is watching you and they can’t do anything about it. After you get raped, you can’t call the policy or military because they are the ones who raped you. If you’re brave enough to try and say something they will either laugh in your face or just rape you again this time with more brutality or both. Then, when you go to cry to parents or husband, they will shun you for being such a “prostitute” and they will not want anything else to do with you. Then, since Congo is less developed, you can’t go to a doctor as quickly as you would like and if you do, you might wait in line for at least 4 hours just to be told to return tomorrow since they took all the people they can for that day. Then after 3 weeks of waiting, you finally go to the doctor especially since you have been feeling sick and you get 2 surprises when you arrive. First, you find out that you are pregnant. Then, since sub-Saharran Africa has the largest rate of HIV/AIDS, you find out that you now have AIDS given to you by the soldier. You already know about the hospital situation and that you won’t get the care you need to help you with these 2 new health concerns; so you just try to get by all by yourself until your child is born and/or your inevitable death.
This scenario may sound harsh, but it is the reality for too many women in Congo. Can you believe that this is the harsh reality for hundreds of thousands of women and CHILDREN in DR Congo. Many young girls did not get a chance to lose their virginity to the man they love, preferably on their wedding night. Rather, at 12 years old, they were raped in front of their parents and have too many mental issues moving forward to even love a man properly.
There is SO much that needs to be done to help these women of Congo so that they will not feel shame for being raped. So that they will be able to get medical treatment (physical, mental and emotional) for what they’ve been through and most importantly, they will be able to see justice for what has happened to them and be able to walk freely on their own in the country again. Yet, all this can not be done with prayers alone, what is needed is help from YOU. Please sign up to help with Run for Congo Women in your city or even arrange one in your city if it is not already available. There is still so much that needs to be done and it can’t be done without the help of people like you. If you can’t participate in a run or volunteer for a run, I just ask that you get more knowledge about what is going on in Democratic Republic of Congo or at the very least share this article via Facebook, Twitter, email, or Google+. Knowledge is truly power and if more people have knowledge about what is going on in DRC, more of us will be able to empower the women of Congo.
For more information on Run for Congo Women please visit – http://www.runforcongowomen.org/
For more information about the National Geographic episode referenced in this article please visit – http://natgeotv.com.au/tv/science-of-evil/
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then I know you have heard about the mini documentary by Invisible Children called “Kony 2012”. If you haven’t gotten a chance to view the video, the gist of what he is saying is that Joseph Kony should become famous so that he may get caught quicker. Kony is currently listed as #1 on the International Criminal Court’s list of criminals they are trying to capture. He was responsible for capturing at least 30,000 children and making the boys child soldiers and the young girls he used for sex trafficking in Uganda. Kony has since left Uganda and spent several years in East Congo where he did the same grotesque activities and now he is said to be in Central African Republic or South Sudan.
It’s sad to hear that even Kony spent time in DRC after so many girls and women have already been victimized, now he came to my country and did the same thing, again. I agree that Kony should be captured and tried, but there are thousands of other Konys out there that need to be caught too. Too many women and children have been victimized by these monsters who think it’s okay to just rape anyone, anytime, anywhere, and as much as they want. It’s just not right!
That is why we call on you to not only read about what is going on in Congo, but also to TAKE ACTION! There are multiple things that you can do to help, you can:
· Participate in the run as a runner
· Volunteer on the day of the run
· Guest blog (like I’m doing :))
· Guest Tweet
· Help with solicitation efforts to find some sponsors
· …and many more!
Just leave a comment here if you’d like to help and we’ll contact you to join the team! In the meantime, please view this video about the mission of Run for Congo Women – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeMkMlXk3NM&feature=player_embedded
Written by Tania Kasongo
How fitting that the theme for this year’s Women’s History Month is – Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment?
There is so much to be educated about concerning women and our major role in society; and as everyone knows, with education comes empowerment. Sometimes I think one large reason why there may not be more aid provided to the Congo may be because people are not as educated about what is really going on and what is happening to the women there. Here are some staggering stats for you, according to a May 2011 article in The American Journal of Public Health in a study of women between 15 and 49:
Over 400,000 women are raped every year in Congo, which means about 1152 raped every day, equaling 48 raped every hour and therefore 4 women raped every five minutes.
Just think about the magnitude of those statistics. This is why it’s hard to be at peace, when this is going on in the Congo. Could you imagine, in FIVE minutes, 4 women have already been raped? By the time you finish reading this blog post, 4 women have already been raped. That means before you finish showering, getting ready and eating breakfast, it’s possible that 48 women have already been raped throughout Congo? It’s unreal and these women deserve SO much more! The statistics we should be sharing is about all the women who have completed their education, followed their dreams and are living rich and empowering lives doing something they love, rather than living in fear.
If you’re reading this and you’re as appalled as I am, there is so much you can do to get involved and share this knowledge to increase those fighting for the Congolese women and therefore, help them to achieve greatness. You can just spread the word about Congo through your social networks, with friends, with co-workers, or even with a stranger! You can also sign up for the upcoming Run for Congo Women which will be in NYC on October 6th; but if you’re not in NYC, there are plenty of runs throughout the globe – here is where you can find more information: http://www.runforcongowomen.org/.
The women of Congo need our help and our voices, now I have to ask, since you’ve been educated on this atrocity, what will you do to empower yourself and help these brave women of Congo?
I am not entirely sure of all the reasons why I am obsessed with the suffering of Congo Women. After all, suffering is all around us and wears so many different faces and colors. Yet, even with that knowledge, I am irresistibly drawn to defend their cause. Even after five years of sounding the alarm, appealing to everyone I meet to stand up for Congo women, sorrow overcomes me.
I don’t know why, that for a country that I have never been to and for women I will probably never meet, their suffering continues to haunt me. Maybe it is because I see my reflection in their tears and my two-year old son loaded on their backs, as they stumble with the scars of rape in their minds and the burden of fear, terror and anxiety on their hearts.
Perhaps, it is because it could have been my mother, my sister or my friend.
Or maybe it is because, my humanity is holding me accountable.
I doubt it is a single reason, but rather a conglomeration of thoughts feelings and ideas. I may never really know for sure but only that action is this hour’s call.
Sept 24, 2011 is yet another chance for you to tell the world that the Holocaust in the Congo is unacceptable.
Tell the world that this ‘Hitler‘ too, must be hunted down until he falls on his own sword; that the silent consensus that says a woman being raped every five minutes in the Congo is tolerable ends with you.
On September 24th, you get to tell the world, “no! not on my watch.
It is your chance again New York!
Will you stand with me?
” When our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act,” says President Obama in his address to the nation on March 28, 2011.
This month Ben Affleck stood up for Congo Women before Congress. It was their moment in time, an unlikely moment. The stars are still winking at Ben.
He told Congress something they already knew. He told them that 5 million people have died in the Congo since 1998.
I often hear many voices, most likely you have too, but rarely does it mean we recognize them. Maybe it has been the same for our elected officials.
Or maybe, the fact that the United States has helped out with applying band aids to Congo’s dead and dying in the past has soothe its conscience. I am not really sure which is which.
But I am sure that on March 3rd, two days before Affleck addressed Congress, a United Nations report highlighted the horrors endured by Congo’s rape victims as it usually does. In it, a UN panel’s visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo between September 27 and October 2010, detailed the stories from 61 survivors of sexual violence, ranging from a girl who had been raped when she was just three years old to a 61 year old grandmother.
“When our interests and our values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act.” Really?
So is it that our interests and values are not at stake in the Congo? Perhaps it is just our values? And, perhaps that is not so bad? But in Libya, it is our interests and our values?
I think I get it now.
“Sheer surprise is it’s own form of terror. One moment, everyone is singing and dancing in the bar, which also serves as a house of prostitution, and the next moment, there is anger, outrage, a violent act.”
Consider Salima, a young mother who was raped by soldiers. She describes her day before ‘they’ came. ‘Her husband was in town buying her a cooking pot as her infant daughter watched happily as she picked sweet potatoes in her garden, under an open sky. Then a shadow fell across the ground.’
“How did I not see? she asked her friend Sophie, a fellow sanctuary seeker at Mana Nadi’s. But of course you can’t see the onset of arbitrary horror, brought on by those who do not see you as a person. You can’t predict when terror, whether it’s from men wielding machetes or from pilots steering planes into buildings will desend upon you.”‘
This scene, from Lynn Nottage’s poignant portrayal in her drama “Ruined,’ captures the powerlessness and insecurity that Congolese women breathe.
Yet sometimes there exists a detachment from these occurrences even when talented artists like Nottage commits herself to her craft so that her audience can get a clue. It is inconceivable for most that terror so shocking occurs. And when ‘daily’ is assigned to terror, our brain shuts down. It is offensive. Most will not tolerate the details.
Yet over the New Year period, while I was drunk with anticipation and excitement, and readied my self to honor the season with the festivities in New York City’s Time Square, and echoed 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3,2,1, army soldiers raped at least 67 women, of which two were pregnant, in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). More than doubled the number originally thought, according to a United Nations Report.
Meanwhile, the Securities And Exchange Commission deliberates:
“On December 15, 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission published a release proposing new rules implementing disclosure requirements for reporting issuers that use conflict minerals originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or its adjoining countries. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires the Commission to issue final rules regarding conflict minerals no later than April 15, 2011.”
Since 1998, nearly five million people have been killed, hundreds of thousands of women raped, mutilated and desecrated and the SEC is deliberating. I suppose that is progress?
Are you sill wondering what does our appetite for iPhones and other gadgets have to do with an abandoned baby?
Let’s keep the conversation going…