|Source of all Images: Mark Craemer|
This post serves the purpose of explaining to you why my initiative leans torwards making a difference for the women of eastern Congo, as it may appear that I am leaving out the rest of the people and the rest of the country. Furthermore, I will explain my choice of Panzi Hospital as being the recipient of the money we continue to raise.
Firstly, based on my general knowledge and understanding of the DRC's situation, I can tell you that the entire country is in trouble. The citizens residing outside of the war zones in eastern Congo may not be directly affected by the civil war in the sense that they're not being physically hurt, abused, murdered, and traumatized, however the effects of the war remain prevalent and visible in the current state of the entire country.
Although the war in Congo is extremely complex, and fueled by politics and capitalism, there is a general consensus among those who have examined the situation that it is strategically maintained and carried out for the purpose of destabilizing the country, to make way for the illegal exploitation of the its vast resources. Due to the fact that the resources that are most high in demand (ahem coltan, for example) preside in the eastern region of the country (so far as we know, because over 80% of the Congo's resources have yet to be explored, due to the depths of its forests), the war is consequently being carried out there. As a result, I choose to focus my efforts on drawing attention to the situation of the eastern region, because the ending of that war would at the very least provide the chance for the Congolese to rebuild their country and to live in peace (something they have had little, to none of, ever since the post-colonial era began). Nevertheless, poverty and suffering is prevalent throughout the entire nation. This is evident, for example, though the lack of social structures that are in-place to support civilians and provide them the chance for upward mobility. In the Congo, just as in all other economically developing countries, social services such as education and health care are privatized, meaning that people have to pay to have access to them. However, this is problematic because the majority of the population is formally unemployed and lives on a day-to-day basis, therefore has a difficult time keeping up with such costs that arise, when they barely have enough to take care of themselves and their families. Furthermore, there are enormous economic disparities in the Congo, meaning that the richest minority lives side-by-side to the poorest majority, and take advantage of the system of exploitation to maintain their wealth and power, at the expense of the poor. So, in this sense, yes, the entire country is in trouble. However, I don't wish to be broad or too general about the important projects that I undertake. It's why instead of talking about all of the the Congo's endless problems (and I don't say that light-heartedly), I choose to focus on the sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) against women, in the eastern region of the country, where the war is prevalent.
This is not to say that the rest of the country does not suffer from SGBV, patriarchy, or gender inequalities (in reality, the entire world is in the same situation), but it is simply to say that the case of eastern Congo is overwhelmingly worse. The atrocities committed against women, range and vary from burying them alive, gang raping them, raping them with sticks and object, to mutilating their vaginas and other parts of their bodies... And it is not an issue to be taken lightly. Therefore, as a woman first and foremost, I choose to take a stand against it.
Regarding Panzi General Referral Hospital in South Kivu, I chose it as organization to raise funds for because I felt that the stories I read about some of the patients from that hospital marked me, and led me to develop in interest in the issue of SGBV in the Congo, as I had previously been unaware of it. I believe that Dr. Denis Mukwege, who is the founder and director of the hospital, is doing a great job in providing a recovery centre for the women who fell victims to sexual abuse in eastern Congo. Therefore, I wanted to direct part of my efforts towards supporting his hospital.
If I can at least make a difference in one particular area of this complex and unfortunate situation, then I will feel good, and not in a bashful manner, but in the sense that I am at least doing something. I am at least caring. That's what's important. In conclusion, I leave you with the following words: the problem is not that the Congo does not have enough potential, but rather that it has too much of it. Exapand on that.
Until then, remember to #BreakTheSilence and keep up-to-date with the new things I will be doing this year for my cause.
In case you're interested:
- "Who gains from Congo's rebel war"
- "Goma's fall leaves Congo afraid of score-settling and all-out war"
- "Why do soldiers rape?" by Maria Eriksson Baaz, for those of you (e.g. university students) who have access to ejournals or who don't mind purchasing them