Greetings again from Jerusalem.
(youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lOcn7qW_9I )
Please do read my note below before watching the video above.
(* Also, just as a warning in advance, this post is quite graphic and descriptive.)
As you might, or might not know, today (March 8, 2011) is the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day and all I can think about are the Congolese Refugees I met in Uganda.
Well, I actually think about them everyday but I have chosen not to verbally speak about them on Cafe Avra.
The crossroads of International Women’s Day and my arrival to Israel about 3 weeks ago now has done something very interesting to my emotional state.
On one side I have been feeling so wonderful, so welcomed, and so blessed to be able to choose to be a new immigrant in my country which has everything one might ever need, and all I can think about constantly are each and every refugee I met over my half a year in Africa and especially, especially these strong, strong Congolese Women in Uganda. Personally I probably have met over 200+ refugees throughout my time in Kenya/Uganda, which is just a tiny fraction. There are hundreds of thousands.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, today, as I write this post, RAPE is used as a weapon of war which forces many refugees into Uganda.
Life is very difficult and dangerous (in Uganda) in the refugee camps where UNHCR provides food and minor assistance, so many refugees leave and try their luck in the capital, Kampala, which is usually not much easier. Kampala is where I met these Congolese Women.
The political conflict is extremely complicated, but the simple fact is that rebels control the regions of Eastern Congo which are home to various ‘conflict minerals’ used in our cellphones and computers–i.e. the 3 “T’s….tin, tungsten, and tantalum (as well as gold).
Taken from the Enough Project’s website, ( http://www.enoughproject.org )
The principal conflict minerals are:
- Tin (produced from cassiterite) – used inside your cell phone and all electronic products as a solder on circuit boards. The biggest use of tin worldwide is in electronic products. Congolese armed groups earn approximately $85 million per year from trade in tin.
- Tantalum (produced from “coltan”) – used to store electricity in capacitors in iPods, digital cameras, and cell phones. Sixty-five to 80 percent of the world’s tantalum is used in electronic products. Congolese armed groups earn an estimated $8 million per year from trading in tantalum.
- Tungsten(produced from wolframite) – used to make your cell phone or Blackberry vibrate. Tungsten is a growing source of income for armed groups in Congo, with armed groups currently earning approximately $2 million annually.
- Gold – used in jewelry and as a component in electronics. Extremely valuable and easy to smuggle, Congolese armed groups are earning between $44 million to $88 million per year from gold
(There are advocacy groups who are currently putting pressure on companies who use ‘conflict minerals’ in their products to be more transparent.)
Rape is then used as a Weapon of War to force families to flee areas where these minerals are based, in which many Congolese make it to Uganda, and many do not. And just because you made it to Uganda, does not mean you are safe.
Borers are very porous and women are in severe sexual danger of being raped (again) in Uganda by Congolese Rebels.
Now, this is a warning. please shut down the screen if you don’t want to hear this next part.
This is not just Men raping Women.
Men rape Men,(unofficially 3 out of 10 men are raped) as a weapon of war. Almost every man who is raped needs surgery at some point afterwards and might never fully recover from the abuse. Do you think there are enough funds for these surgeries?
In some cases, rebels force fathers to rape their daughters.
Most women are raped in front of their husbands. Once that happens, the husbands usually do not want their wife anymore as they have been truly violated.
Or vice versa, Men are raped by men in front of their wives and they are too ashamed to look at their wife ever again.
What any refugee above would do to be able to choose to go to a new country after the torture they have been through and seen. And that the new country actually wants them as an immigrant! Will give them assistance as a new immigrant!
I am not here to criticize UNHCR, but they understand they have a severe crisis on their hand in Uganda they were not prepared for. (As I know from speaking to a Regional Director in Nairobi a few months after I saw with my own eyes the situation in Uganda.)
The number of Congolese Refugees in Uganda is currently somewhere, unofficially, around a quarter of a million.
Resettlement is like winning the lottery in Kenya and Uganda. Kenya and Uganda can barely take care of their own populations, let alone their refugee populations.
Have you been hearing on the news recently about the internal conflict currently in the Ivory Coast? Imagine the xenophobia against refugee ie other/external populations in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The footage above was all taken when I was in Kampala, Uganda last July 2010. I personally spoke to many of these women, heard their stories, and perhaps, being very, very naive, thought I could move on with my life.
So today, on International Women’s Day, and gd willing every day, I want all my readers to appreciate how lucky you are as women in 2011. We all have the opportunity to help in small, or big ways.
You don’t have to go to Uganda, or Congo. You don’t have to donate money. I think just genuinely trying to help a woman who perhaps has less than you in your own community is enough.
I truly am not sure what else to say but please watch the video.
In my opinion, International Women’s Day is everyday.