The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is said to be the most dangerous place to be a woman. Every week over 150 Congolese women are raped as a weapon of war. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Congolese women have been raped for the past 15 years because conflict has enveloped the region. Death tolls range between three to five million people.
In his new book, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, Jason K. Stearns, who once worked for the United Nations in Congo, traces the story of why and how atrocious acts such as mass rape and genocide continue to be ignored. Recently, a New York Times article cited a study within Dancing in the Glory of Monsters that shows how in 2006 the NY Times gave four times as much coverage to Darfur, although Congolese have died in far greater numbers.
The reason? The NY Times says the DRC's conflict is exceptionally stunning in its complexity, which, frankly, it is. In consequence, enter the creation of Congo NOW!, a coalition of NGO’s and grassroots organizations ranging from Oxfam International to Save the Children that are joining together in order to campaign for the safety of Congolese women and children.
The International Rescue Committee, a member of the coalition, recently sent out a field report about the Congo emergency and highlighted "typical" rape victims' experiences.
I was out in the field farming when several soldiers approached me. I was dragged out of the field against my will. I was held captive and raped repeatedly for days. When I was released, I had nowhere to go to get medical care for my injuries. My family and friends shunned me as a disgraced woman.How many Congolese women and children have to be victimized before there is a solution to stop mass rape?
According to Kate Hughes of Women for Women International, an organization with rehabilitative programs focusing on Congolese women traumatized by rape, "the Congo Now! coalition has agreed on four policy points to halt sexual violence in the DRC."
1. Stop natural resources fueling the conflict."We have launched the campaign," Kate says, "by starting with an action focused on sexual violence. The action is an e-action targeting Lynne Featherstone, International Violence Against Women champion."
2. Address the devastating causes and consequences of the conflict and sexual violence particularly for women and children
3. Protect civilians from violence.
4. Promote nonmilitary and regional solutions to the conflict.
Help support the work of Congo Now! and sign the Congo Now! petition. Your signature brings women and children in Congo one step closer to safety.
Photo credit: Fiona and Studio 9 Films