What is the first thought that pops into your head when someone says, “International Women’s Day?” If eastern Congo is anywhere in that thought, then you probably were at Common Grounds on Friday evening for Chloe Christman, the Congo Campaign Assistant Manager at Enough Project.
Ruhama Baykeda, Junior, is one of the members of International Student Organization who helped organize the event. “Hopefully, people would be educated and learn something new,” she said before the talk.
Christman began with a simple introduction of herself and explanation of why she would be speaking about eastern Congo: Did you know that eastern Congo is the worst and most dangerous place to be female? In the 15 plus years of conflict, about six million people have died and rape is often used as a weapon.
On July 30, 2010, the Mai, one of eastern Congo’s local militia groups, organized and attacked the Walikale area, raping about 300 women and girls. “No one was arrested,” Christman stated before explaining the corrupt justice system.
Recently, there has been a move to support the mobile court, a small group of judges who wander from town to town, putting criminals in prison. “It’s a small trend, but hopefully it’s a trend that we continue,” Christman said.
Other accounts included stories of individual women who were raped or violently attacked, yet still clung to life to support their children. She then shared with us a few video clips of those in eastern Congo, both men and women, who are doing their best to make life even a little bit better for each other. One man held a festival where people could come and share their talents. One woman was studying law when the nearby volcano erupted. “I had time to grab one thing,” she recounted in the video. “And I grabbed my first law book.”
About twenty people sat in a circle with Christman while a few people looked on from the couches. One of those who sat in the circle was Joshua Kanagy, Junior. “I came to this event partially out of principle. I believe that men should be an active support in women’s issues, and as a male I wanted to be part of that,” he explained. He mentioned that he had attended the Mennonite Central Committee United Nations conference about mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had made him quite passionate about this location.
Many components of technology are created using mined resources from the Congo. And as unfortunate as it is, the richest people in the east Congo are illegal businessmen who are hogging all the resources for their own personal profit.
Some big businesses have taken the initiative to claim that they will only buy resources from “clean” sources, i.e. from those who are not involved in illegal activities. Just as companies around the world and projects such like the Enough Project are taking action and raising awareness, students at EMU can get involved as well.
“Peace Fellowship and ISO [International Student Organization] plan to collaborate on some type of conflict mineral awareness campaign on campus,” Kanagy mentioned. “I would like to be involved with that… If we as a campus can begin to put pressure on electronics companies, then maybe things will begin to change.” There’s also a simpler way to help out. Kanagy implores people to refrain from purchasing electronics every time a new model comes out, as well as to recycle old electronics.
Surely we can deal with not having the newest model, if it would help better the lives of those in eastern Congo.