Yesterday at Senator Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state confirmation hearings, Senator Barbara Boxer of California made a strong case for the importance of making women’s issues a central element of United States foreign policy. Boxer showed photographs of Afghan women and schoolgirls who were burned in acid attacks by the Taliban. She also mentioned the work of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in bringing attention to the violent crimes against women in Afghanistan and to the plight of sex slaves in Cambodia. Boxer said that the awareness-building work of Kristof and others is essential because “no women or girl should ever have to live in fear of persecution for being female.”
Senator Clinton agreed wholeheartedly with Boxer, stating that “Women’s issues are central to our foreign policy, not adjunct or auxiliary.” (By the way, thanks to UN Dispatch and the New York Times for their excellent live-blogging throughout the hearings). Clinton went a step further, saying that as secretary of state, she would work “to persuade more governments that we cannot have a free, prosperous, peaceful, progressive world if women are treated in such a discriminatory and violent way.”
We could not agree more, and I am sure that it was only a matter of oversight that the two did not discuss eastern Congo, where women and girls have long been the targets of conscience-shocking brutality and sexual violence. The United Nations has called Congo the “most dangerous place in the world to be a woman,” and Nicholas Kristof himself recently called Congo the “rape capital of the world.”
Enough has launched the RAISE Hope for Congo campaign with the goal of raising awareness about the epidemic of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls in eastern Congo, and with the ultimate goal of protecting and empowering these women and girls and putting an end to the culture of impunity that has allowed gender-based violence in Congo to continue unabated. We hope that you will join us in urging your elected officials to get serious about ending the conflict in Congo and protecting Congo’s women and girls. You can start by signing this petition to President-elect Obama today.