Having just been in the Congo for the last month, it is evident that the more than 12-year economic war in the Democratic Republic of Congo rages on. Almost 6 million dead. Almost 500 thousand raped. Here is what I propose:
1. Please stop endlessly repeating these phrases:
• “The Congo has been like this forever.”
• “There is nothing we can do.”
• “It’s too complicated. I just don’t understand.”
• “It’s a cultural thing.”
A. Violence against women and girls is rampant across the entire planet.
B. Sexual terrorism was imported into the DRC like a plague about 12 years ago years ago, after a 1996 military operation know as Operation Turquoise — a plan supported and implemented by the international community which allowed murdering Hutu militias of Rwanda (FDLR) into Eastern Congo. Since then, this sexual terrorism has been sustained by these and other parties interested in the minerals, (coltan, gold, tin), that are serving you. Like a plague, this rape and sexual violence has spread infecting the Congolese Army and even the UN peacekeepers who are there to “protect” the women. Put pressure on the international community to remove all outside militias. They brought them there, they are responsible for getting them out.
2. Stop asking women survivors in the Congo to tell their stories over and over
A woman activist told me yesterday they were going to shut up now.
“There is no reason to keep telling the story or paying expats lots of money
to research the story of women and girls in the Congo. We all know the story.”
We know what is happening in the DRC. Now is the time for action.
3. Deconstruct and abolish subterranean and learned racism
Deconstruct and abolish subterranean and learned racism that lies at the bedrock of human consciousness and arranges and expects and accepts the doom of black and brown people. Undo the brutal and evil indifference to the suffering of the people of Congo, the women in particular.
4. Shoes, shoes, shoes, for everyone who needs them
5. Insist on support for thousands of trained Congolese women police officers
Insist on support for thousands of trained Congolese women police officers who can protect their sisters in the bush. Don’t let Security Council resolutions 1820 and 1325 continue to be random insider numbers UN policy bureaucrats refer to when they are trying to prove they are doing something about sexual violence. Insist they be resolutions with grit that get applied regularly with sincerity and substance. Begin application by insisting that the UN not collaborate with rapists and former warlords in military operations.
Write to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ask her to allocate funding for a women’s police force in the Congo:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
6. Serve the Congolese and take their lead
Support their initiatives. Get out of the way. Support the local groups and campaigns that already exist, that have existed. They need your support to continue to exist. Fight to make sure the money headed for Eastern Congo actually gets to the women on the ground – the grassroots groups who need it most. Believe in grassroots women and men. Send them your confidence, your solidarity, and your money.
Give to V-Day’s Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource campaign as it continues to support local groups on the ground like AFEM, the South Kivu Women’s Media Association, Panzi Hospital in Bukavu and Heal Africa Hospital in Goma, women’s collectives like I Will Not Kill Myself Today and AFECOD, and the Women’s Ministry and Laissez l’Afrique Vivre.
Click here to donate.
7. Tell President Obama to step up to femicide
Insist that as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Obama ask questions about the history of the conflict in the Congo. Ask him to find out how and when this war began. Ask him to put his attention to what’s happening to the women in the Congo, to femicide — the destruction of the female species that is spreading to other countries and will continue to spread if he, himself does not make this a front and center issue. The Congo needs to be more than a phrase reference in one of his speeches. He needs to come to the Congo. He needs to meet the women and bring them to the table with himself and leaders of Rwanda and Uganda and Burundi. He needs to help facilitate a diplomatic plan for peace that does not involve more violence.
Write to President Obama and ask him to make finding a non-military solution to the war in Congo a priority in his foreign policy agenda.
8. Acknowledge what’s fueling this war and your part in it
Educate yourself about how conflict minerals are illegally and inhumanely pillaged from the Congo and make their way into your cell phones and the computer you are using to read this post right now. Demand that electronics companies alter their mining and trade policies so that conflict-free minerals are used in our electronics. Until this happens, we all literally have blood on our hands.
Investigate where and how your electronics companies are purchasing their materials. As a consumer, demand that they use conflict-free minerals in their parts.
9. Talk about the Congo everywhere you go
Be a pain in the ass. Ruin cocktail parties. Stop traffic. Give sermons. Insert facts about Congo in every possible occasion, i.e., in response to “How are you today?,” you might say: “Well, I would be okay if women weren’t being raped in the DRC….”
Host teach-ins and screen V-Day’s film Turning Pain to Power. Visit vday.org to access both.
10. Get angry and stop being polite
Feel what your sister, mother, grandmother, daughter, wife, girlfriend would be feeling if she were being gang raped or held as a sex slave for years or if her insides were destroyed by sticks and guns and she could never have another baby.
Feel feel feel.
Open yourself to feeling.
Eve Ensler, a playwright and activist, is the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.