GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo — During a month when many Congo advocates are joining together to counter the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporate interests standing in the way of peace in Congo, a team from Enough and the Raise Hope for Congo campaign headed out to the region to document the work of our partners on the ground.
Our trip is focused on highlighting the personal stories of individuals through in-depth profiles about their lives and the challenges they face being change-makers in eastern Congo.
The fear of change among the authorities and ruling powers in this region of the country is evident in every aspect of daily life—among those who hold the guns and those who hold political and economic power. But the civil society and citizens in Goma we've encountered are fighting not only to create change in their own immediate communities, but also knowing that they are part of a larger movement that is mobilizing to bring stability, accountability, and peace to the country.
We've witnessed how Fidel, Enough's field researcher, strives to educate his own children in this tough environment, while also searching for ways to awaken the society around him to challenge the status quo by instilling a philosophy of critical thinking. Petna, the co-founder of Yole Africa in Goma, provides a physical space for youth to freely express themselves through art, creating a sense of community in stark contrast to the chaotic and oppressive streets surrounding the compound. Denise, a young lawyer assisting survivors of sexual violence to press charges against their perpetrators, operates within a system where the true concept of justice is rarely served. Her personal faith and dedication to the ideal of a functioning legal system motivate her to continue struggling, trusting that even the many failed or under-served cases she works on will give both survivors and her community a sense of hope for something better. None of these individuals consider themselves heroes. Yet they choose to remain in eastern Congo, embodying the change and ideals they strive for by living their daily lives.
Like many of us who consider ourselves activists for peace in Congo, Fidel, Petna, and Denise realize that fundamental change will not happen overnight and will not come without confronting enormous hurdles along the way. As Denise told us, "We can't do it alone." By raising our individual and collective voices in solidarity with these inspired individuals we take another step toward peace.
We can't wait to share more about their lives and work with you in the coming months and hope that their stories inspire you as much as they have us.
Photo: Dancing in a village near Bukavu where one of the people profiled grew up (Enough/John Bagwell)