This post by Sylvie Maunga Mbanga originally appeared today on NBC’s Production Blog.
The Congolese conflict is considered the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and the deadliest since World War II. Since 1998, more than six million people have died as a result of this war. Over two million people have been forced to flee their homes, and some 400,000 Congolese have sought refuge in neighboring countries. Hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been kidnapped, raped, and tortured.
The atrocious way that sexual violence is used in Congo is often indescribable. Women and even children are being attacked by multiple men, often in public and in front of their husbands, kids, and neighbors. After the rape, the perpetrator sometimes fires his gun into the woman’s vagina.
The purpose is not just to abuse women, but also to destroy the Congolese community, and to traumatize and humiliate people. Armed groups use rape to force civilians to leave mining areas so they can exploit the illicit but lucrative trade in minerals. Specifically, armed groups are profiting from the mineral "coltan" (or tantalum), as well as gold and tin, which each of us rely on daily to power our electronic devises. The DR Congo is rich with mineral deposits, but it’s the armed groups, not the Congolese people, who benefit from this wealth.
We all have a responsibility to act, in every way we can.
During my experience working with survivors of sexual violence in eastern Congo as a coordinator for the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, I lived and breathed the suffering of women. One woman told me that all in the same day she was raped in front of her husband and kids, impregnated, and infected with HIV. How is it possible?
Please click here to read the full post.
Sylvie Maunga Mbanga, a trained lawyer, dedicated her career to working with local Congolese organizations to fight sexual violence against women in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She currently lives in Washington, D.C., and continues to be a fierce advocate for women in Congo through the Enough Project’s RAISE Hope for Congo. campaign.
Photo: Women gather for a town hall meeting at a camp for displaced people in eastern Congo. (Enough/Sarina Virk)