Last month, I had the pleasure of watching the Netflix documentary, “City of Joy”. City of Joy is about a village created in the Democratic Republic of Congo where women can be safe from gender-based violence and take the necessary steps to begin healing after trauma. The DRC has been at war for more than 20 years with different militia groups within the country. Eastern Congo is home to the four most commonly mined conflict minerals: (gold, tin, tungsten, and coltan). Many of these minerals end up in electronics sold all over the world; especially coltan which is what helps our smart phones to stay charged. The world has been mostly silent about this conflict because many of the biggest corporations such as Apple, Sony, Samsung etc, directly benefit from the conflict as much as they might try to distance themselves from the use of conflict minerals. It’s also no coincidence that as our dependence on these conflict minerals has increased so did the rise in violence; our world’s demand for conflict minerals has led to the war that has plagued the DRC for the last two decades, has differing militias fight and vie for control.
The war in the DRC has led to vicious and heinous crimes against humanity including but not limited to the use of rape as a weapon of war. In the past it has been dubbed the “rape capital of the world,”, with one estimate saying that 48 women in the DRC are raped every hour. This atrocity led to the creation of the City of Joy: a refuge in the city of Bukavu. One of the founders of the City of Joy, Doctor Denis Mukwege along with Nadia Murad, who was held captive by ISIS, won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their work against gender-based violence.
Doctor Mukwege has performed reconstructive surgery on over 40,000 women. Women who have been brutalized just because they are women. The stories told during the documentary are at times painful to hear. But they need to be heard. I knew about the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo because of my work with Invisible Children, an organization which raises awareness about child soldiers. However, I hadn’t heard about the sexual violence against women until I watched this documentary. I am so happy to hear that both Doctor Mukwege and Nadia Murad have been honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for their work.
It is important to remember that in this era of #metoo, that we don’t forget that sexual abuse against women is not privy to the Western world. If we are going to fight for the rights of women, we need to fight for the rights of women everywhere. Here are some ways in which we can help:
· Awareness: Watch the documentary on Netflix. Share it with your friends and your family. Share it on social media. This war has been able to continue because there isn’t enough international pressure to force it to stop. In 2003, the war that started the conflict officially ended it hasn’t done anything to stop the use of conflict minerals and the violence.
· Support: If you can make a financial donation to the City of Joy so that way they can continue their work. Not only do they provide a safe place, but they provide counseling and skills training so that the women can move forward once they leave the City of Joy. https://secure3.convio.net/vday/site/Donation2?df_id=1331&1331.donation=form1
· Responsibility: The major companies that are directly benefiting from this conflict deserved to be called out. As consumers we have a right to know where the minerals used in our products are being sourced. File complaints with the companies. Write to your local representatives. Last year, President Trump drafted an executive order that would suspend the particular clause in the Dodd-Frank Rule aimed to curb the use of conflict minerals. The clause required major corporations to prove that they were trying to use ethically sourced materials. By removing this, companies now have no responsibility to try and use conflict-free materials. Unless we take a stand against what is wrong, this will continue to go on.