Congo is the site of one of the world’s most deadly conflicts since the end of the Second World War. I read and learned about plenty of terrible stories- spawning from burning people alive to the horrors of cannibalistic tendencies.
Sexual violence in Congo goes back to the beginnings of the conflict itself, having started out in 1998. Women have had to suffer the horrors of gang rapes, torture, sexual slavery, sexual abuse and harassment. Armed groups began functioning like organized crime cartels and demanded control through the use of force, for mineral deposits in Congo. Women were targeted as rape was adopted as the preferred weapon to exercise control.
Reading about the horrors in Congo in newspapers and watching news reports on television and the internet, I felt the need to do something, anything, to help the women of Congo. Fortunately, I stumbled upon The Women in War Zones project. The prime goal of WIWZ is to provide a platform for the women of Congo to speak out. The charity is essentially dedicated to telling personal stories of women in areas of conflict, in order to promote women’s human rights and health, prevent war crimes and achieve victory over the abuse of women living in war zones.
Congo has been widely dubbed the “rape capital of the world,” and a highly publicized study by Thomson Reuters, this year, has named it the second worst place on earth to be a woman, behind only Afghanistan. The precise reason for Congo’s spot in the list is the horrific record of crimes against women in the region, following the war. The writing is on the wall- rape has been used as a weapon, a tactic that has only impaired thousands of lives in the region. It is no wonder, really, that Congo made the list on second spot.
The harsh ground reality in Congo shows the world that for most women, the price of womanhood comes brutally. The state remains a cadaver in the aftermath of a horrible war, with many of its women having been born when the state was in shambles. Consequently, much of their younger years remained in a shabby state, as abuse, violence and crimes were perpetrated by several members of the militia. These women wear the scars of those crimes even today.
For many women, the onslaught of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or the FDLR, spelt doom. Villages were looted, burned down and attacked. Women were raped, men were killed, young girls were kidnapped and raped for months at an end. Women have oftentimes been targets of the armed militia during the conflicts in Congo. The UN has officially confirmed that over 8000 women were raped in 2009. Women cannot stop going to the fields, or going to get water- they have to feed their families, and consequently wind up being subject to horrible sexual violence on their way to and fro.
Women have no education, no respect, no freedom and no peace. They are treated as second-class citizens, and kept away from participating in politics and in active social living with the threat of rape hanging over their heads. Here’s the ground reality. No wonder, really, that Congo has been ranked as one of the five worst places in the world to be a woman.
Women in War Zones helps rehabilitate these women, by telling the world their stories, by offering to be their voice, by seeking to educate them and empower them, one woman at a time