On March 5th, Enough’s Raise Hope for Congo campaign partnered with the touring photo exhibit “Congo/Women” for an event on Capitol Hill. The exhibit highlights the daily lives of women in the eastern Democratic of the Congo, a country that is often described as the most dangerous place to be a woman or girl. The exhibit was powerful, and while the photos and essays depict human grief and suffering, they are also full of humanity, demonstrating the incredible bravery of Congolese women in the face of unbelievable atrocities.
The event was well attended and featured two Congolese experts: Dr. Roger Luhiriri, a physician at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, eastern Congo, and Sylvie Maunga Mbanga , a human rights lawyer. Both speakers described the devastating effects of rape and sexual violence—routinely used as weapons of war—on Congolese society. Enough’s John Prendergast discussed how people here in the U.S. can take action and be a part of finding solutions to end the violence in Congo. Prendergast explained the broader context of violence against women in Congo and asserted that one of the key drivers of the ongoing conflict is the battle over vast reserves of minerals found in many electronic products, from cell phones to laptops. He also encouraged members of Congress to join the soon-to-be-formed Congressional African Great Lakes Caucus to be chaired by Congressman Brad Miller and Congressman Ed Royce. This group will focus on the conflict in Congo and other pressing situations in the Great Lakes region.
Stephen Lewis, former United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, gave a powerful speech about the failure of the U.N. to adequately respond to the violence against women in Congo by making the conflict in Congo—the deadliest war in the world since World War II—a priority on the international agenda. The event also included remarks from the event’s co-hosts Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Betty McCollum. Congressman Donald Payne delivered concluding remarks and pledged his continued support in working with his Congressional partners to end the conflict in Congo.
Molly Browning contributed to this post.