The world knows Iman as a supermodel, a successful businesswoman with her own cosmetics company and as a fashion icon alongside her husband David Bowie.
That’s only half the story. Iman also is a refugee whose family fled war in Somalia. In this exclusive interview in honor of International Women’s Day, Iman shares her incredible story of leaving Somalia for Kenya, being discovered by a fashion photographer, and finding global fame.
On International Women’s Day, as we celebrate the achievements of women and raise awareness of ongoing injustices against women, Iman’s success story is poignant, especially in light of the causes she fights for.
"Iman has been a fierce advocate for the rights of women and children in Africa and around the world. Her own experience as a refugee and a mother has deepened her commitment to contributing to a world where violence against women and girls is one day a thing of the past," notes Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast.
Iman is a Global Ambassador for Keep a Child Alive, raising awareness and funds to help African families affected by HIV/AIDS.
She was instrumental in the campaign against blood diamonds, terminating her contract with diamond giant DeBeers in protest over the diamond industry’s abuses in Africa.
Iman is speaking up for the Congo as well, helping the Enough Project’s “Raise Hope for Congo” campaign spread the word about the new blood diamonds: “conflict minerals” from the Congo.
As Iman and John discuss in the video, the deadliest war in the world is raging in the Congo right now. Over five million people have died, but that’s just part of the horror.
John Prendergast talks to Iman in her New York City office. (Photo: Robert Padavick/Enough)
Congo is the world’s most dangerous place for women and girls. Armed groups are using mass rape as a tactic of war as they compete to control Congo’s lucrative mineral wealth: tin, tantalum, tungsten (the “three Ts”) and gold.
Why are these minerals so coveted?
Cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and other devices wouldn’t work them. Armed groups make an estimated $150 million yearly from the conflict minerals trade. It’s a simple supply and demand equation, and it’s fueling the worst violence since the Holocaust.
The good news is, we have the power to help end it.
We as consumers must speak up and demand that the top electronics companies produce conflict-free products. By removing conflict minerals from the equation in Congo, we remove the fuel from the fire.
Last week, I traveled to the University of Richmond (UR) to perform my spoken word poetry and hip-hop on the Congo. Getting people like these students thinking about how Congo is part of them is proof positive that the movement we’re building for Congo is on the right track, and we must continue spreading the word. Read More »
The Lord’s Resistance Army continues to pose a severe threat to civilians in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since the LRA began attacking civilians on Congolese soil in September of 2008 through the end of 2009, it has killed approximately 1,800 civilians.
A new report released by Global Witness details the challenges posed by resource-fueled conflicts to the United Nation’s peace efforts around the world, dedicating a hard-hitting segment to Congo. Read More »
It has now been more than 100 hours since a team of young U.S. activists, inspired to help stop the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, descended on the Oklahoma City office of Senator Tom Coburn (R) to demand that he lift his hold on a bill aimed at neutralizing the LRA fighters and rebuilding communities long terrorized by the insurgency. Read More »
If you’ve read Adam Hochschild’s eye-opening and masterful King Leopold’s Ghost, you’ll probably have the same reaction I had when an advance copy of his newest article, “Blood and Treasure,” came across my desk: Stop multitasking and dedicate full attention to Hochschild’s piece. Read More »
Next Monday, March 8, will mark International Women's Day. It’s a global day during which women and men around the world join together to highlight the accomplishments of women, as well as call for their political, economic, and social empowerment. But we think that a day is just not enough to celebrate the accomplishments of women in Congo and around the world, as well as advocate for their empowerment. Join us for events all month long. Read More »
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is not an obvious candidate to be Africa's turnaround story of the coming decade. This is a country that has been pillaged by outsiders for more than a century, cursed by its extraordinary natural resource base to unparalleled levels of death and destruction. With a seemingly intractable war in the east, one of the worst corruption-fighting records in the world, and some of the highest rates of sexual violence ever recorded, Congo does not, understandably, lend itself well to optimistic prognoses. But sometimes a situation deteriorates so badly that it catalyzes transformative responses. And things can actually change, no matter how entrenched the troubles. That opportunity for real progress is exactly what I found on my recent visit to Congo.
Congo's conflict, the world's deadliest since World War II, is not really a war -- it's a business based on violent extortion. There are numerous armed groups and commercial actors -- Congolese, Rwandan, and Ugandan -- that have positioned themselves for the spoils of a deliberately lawless, accountability-free, unstable, highly profitable mafia-style economy. Millions of dollars are made monthly in illegal taxation of mining operations, smuggling of minerals, and extortion rackets run by mafia bosses based primarily in Kinshasa, Kigali, and Kampala. The spoils are tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold, minerals that go into laptops, cell phones, MP3 players, and jewelry stores in the West. Armed groups use terrifying tactics such as mass rape and village burning to intimidate civilians into providing cheap labor for this elaborate extortion racket.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is not an obvious candidate to be Africa's turnaround story of the coming decade. But sometimes a situation deteriorates so badly that it catalyzes transformative responses. Read More »