Journalist and activist Jimmie Briggs has devoted his career to giving a voice to the unheard. His book Innocence Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War, is a compilation of the stories of child soldiers from Uganda, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Columbia, and Sri Lanka, and his willingness to travel the world in order to liberate their narratives earned him the appointment of Goodwill Ambassador and Special Envoy for Children and Armed Conflict at the U.N.
Briggs appeared on the human rights panel at the Campus Progress National Conference on July 8, and announced the expansion of his activist efforts to include the victims of sexual violence. Briggs was joined on the panel by Enough’s own Candice Knezevic, the Raise Hope for Congo Campaign Manager, and both Knezevic and Briggs highlighted the use of rape as weapon of war in eastern Congo, the most dangerous place in the world to be a women.
Briggs’s Man Up campaign, which is set to coincide with the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, will bring over 200 men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 years to South Africa in the hopes of educating and empowering them to become the driving force for preventative action against gender based violence. In a recent interview with Tonic media, Briggs expressed his confidence in the youth of this generation to change the existing conditions of GBV, "We can plant the seeds, then water the seeds, with young people around the world," he said, "and I believe their efforts will take root." Briggs noted that while most campaigns are reactive, Man Up is aimed at building a constituency of young people who will work together to prevent GBV. Brigg’s focus on GBV and the women of the Congo is partly inspired by his own daughter. His latest book, to be released in 2010, is The Wars Women Fight, written as a series of letters addressed to his daughter. When he discussed the book with Tonic, Briggs reflected on his decision to illuminate the horrors faced by women around the world:
“I’d like to believe that if I didn’t have a daughter I would still care about this issue, that I would bring compassion and passion and energy and obsession… but I don’t know. Maybe I’d be like most men and see this as a women’s issue. But the reality is I do have a daughter, I’ve spent time with women around the world, I’ve cried with women around the world who’ve endured horrible atrocities. And those two realities in particular have led me to this place.”
The conflict in the Congo has claimed the lives of more than 5.4 million people. In eastern Congo, women and girls bear the brunt of this crisis as sexual violence is used as weapon of war, destroying families and communities. The Raise Hope for Congo campaign welcomes Briggs’s initiative to employ young men in the fight against sexual violence. Check back for more updates on the Man Up campaign and look out for The War’s Women Fight in 2010.
(Photo: Briggs, second from right, at the Raise Hope for Congo speakers tour event at the University of San Diego. Briggs is joined by Candice Knezevic, Enough Co-founder John Prendergast, actress Emmanuelle Chriqui, activist Lisa Shannon, and former USD STAND President Summer Buckley.)