Power to the Women of the Congo
I fear for my safety. When one in three women is raped or abused in her lifetime, those fears are not unfounded. As a board member of V-Day, a nonprofit devoted to ending violence against women and girls, I channel my anger and horror at these statistics to advocate for the end of violence in the world.
This year, we at V-Day are spotlighting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where more than five million people have died in 10-plus years of civil war (the highest toll since WWII). More than 250,000 women and children— ranging in age from three months to 87 years—have been brutally raped and tortured, often with guns, sticks and glass and by several soldiers at a time. Rape is being used as a cost-effective war tactic to destroy entire communities and gain strategic control over mining areas and export routes.
That’s where we come in. The DRC is rich in resources, such as gold, diamonds, timber and copper as well as what are called “conflict minerals”: coltan, tin, tantalum, tungsten and cassiterite. These minerals are used in the manufacturing of cell phones, iPods, laptops and other electronics, and proceeds from their sales are funding this violence.
At the Panzi Hospital in the city of Bukavu in the DRC, Dr. Denis Mukwege sews up a dozen women and girls every day, some of whom have walked 40 miles to reach him. Many patients need several surgeries and years to recover—if they ever do. He hopes awareness about these atrocities will move people—like you and me—to pressure our electronics providers into buying only “conflict-free” products.
Please join me and take action. Let’s reclaim the mantra “women and children first” and protect Africa’s truest and greatest resource. Help these women and girls heal their wounds. Together, we can stop this violence and make change happen. Visit vday.org, healafrica.org and raisehopeforcongo.org.
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.