A Passionate Voice For The Women & Children of Congo
When she first heard Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast speak alongside a Congolese activist, Canadian actress and activist Emmanuelle
Chriqui was moved to tears. Moved by their passion and dedication to the betterment of African lives, Emmanuelle says she experienced “a personal
wake-up call that catalyzed my own dive into a pool of activists driving urgently needed change.” Mentored by Prendergast, Emmanuelle partici
pated in several of Enough’s Raise Hope for Congo Campaign videos and produced her own public service announcement.
Emmanuelle developed a strong commitment to raising awareness for women and girls after she watched Lisa Jackson’s documentary “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo.” She was astonished by the stories of atrocities and use of rape as a war weapon in the deadliest conflict since World War II, in which Congo’s natural resources are being exploited by armed groups. However, Emmanuelle was also inspired by the hope, integrity and strength of Congolese survivors.
“As I reflected on all my own rights, privileges, and freedoms,” says Emmanuelle, “my appetite to help protect and empower the remarkable women and girls in Congo expanded.”
“Once I realized that we are all very clearly linked to the war, since we purchase the different electronic products that house the conflict minerals mined in Congo, I had to join with Raise Hope for Congo to take action,” says Emmanuelle. “With this understanding of our consumer leverage and ability to make a difference in the lives of such inspiring women and girls, it became clear to me that it is my job to provide a megaphone to help get their stories out.”
Amidst the devastation and hardship, a beacon of hope can be found in the unsung triumphs of local women who strive to make a difference in their communities. One such hero is Denise Siwatula, a human rights attorney dedicated to ensuring justice for the victims of sexual abuse.
As one of only a few female law students to graduate in her class, Siwatula soon discovered the extent of the marginalization these women are forced to endure. In addition to the initial violating act, the abused girls and women also have to face prosecutors and policemen who trivialize the crimes and make them feel as if they are a burden. After learning about the many terrible stories she decided she had to do something.
Working with an advocacy group called Synergie to provide rape survivors with medical and legal services, Denise returned to Goma with the skills she needed to claim back the rights of these women, and give them hope for the future. Since then, Denise has won 7 convictions out of the 26 rape cases, an unheard of victory in eastern Congo.
Though the path is still a long one, heroes like Denise and Emmanuelle give the next generation of women in Congo a stronger voice to fight injustice and the confidence to assist in efforts to bring peace and stability to their nation.
CONFLICT IN CONGO
The conflict that has raged in eastern Congo for some 20 years, has claimed more than 5 million lives. It is fueled partly by the global trade in conflict minerals, which enrich militia leaders and neighboring countries at the expense of civilians. Gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum sourced from Congo’s mines can be found in electronics, jewelry, and other products. Underneath the trade lie long-term governance problems, including dysfunctional justice and military systems. The conflict minerals trade provides a key incentive for these militias and military units to control mineral-rich territories, often through the use of rape and violence to destroy the social fabric of communities. As a result of growing consumer pressure, the world’s largest companies have been moved to take major steps forward and create a framework for a minerals sector in Congo that will help reduce the violence and benefit communities rather than armed groups. Learn more and take action at www.raisehopeforcongo.org.