A young girl is wounded. You pass by in your car, you see that her gash is pretty deep. She is bleeding, and she needs medical help. She cries and tells you she wants her mommy, but her mommy’s back at home, while she’s come out to play in the park. So you grab her, calling her mommy while on the way to the ER. You spend a few minutes waiting until the girl’s mommy comes, you are thanked, you shrug an ‘it’s nothing’ and you’re on your way.
Sounds pretty normal – this is just about the reality where you live, right?
Now Picture this.
A young girl is wounded. But everywhere around her, instead of people like you, are more like her. Wounded, hurt, bleeding and in pain. There’s no one to take her to the ER. Heck, there isn’t even an ER for miles. So she suffers silently. Her wound stops bleeding, but becomes a sickly yellow instead. She watches it silently, though the pain eats her from within. She’s not alone. There are so many around her suffering disease and injuries. They haven’t a means to heal: because there isn’t a hospital, there isn’t a doctor, there aren’t facilities they can access. A war rages on around them, the threat of war rape hangs heavily above their heads, even as some of them are still reeling under the aftermath of rape, themselves.
That’s the reality in much of DR Congo.
Hurts doesn’t it? It hurt me, too. And that’s why I joined Channel Initiative, on its flagship project: Build Hope. When I took up an internship to work as a blogger on women in the DR Congo, two years ago, I had no idea how much I would learn, and how it would change my life. My work wasn’t very great – all I was doing was to work as a blogger. I would use news articles as research and write pieces each week. But as I began, I realized how huge it was: for people like me, each post I wrote on the situation challenging women in the DR Congo was like a dose of literacy. That was when truth hit me hard. The world didn’t know enough about the country and the destruction that it was encumbered by. The world, I learned, didn’t know that 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.
The world, I learned, didn’t know that Congolese men have been killed because they refused to indulge in rape. Men have bitten bullets to avoid raping their own women. The situation that women face in Congo is much more than merely a part of “war culture”.
The world, I learned, by standing by, ignorantly watching and going on with its own life, was committing a grave crime of complicity by simply doing nothing.
My time working on the stories of women in the DR Congo showed me a world where women were forced into subservience to a man and could not work whatsoever; a world where women were forced to give up school because her society ordained otherwise; a world where women bore stigmas for life, for being victims of sexual violence. I learned the brutal truth: that where women would be in charge of making peace, the bodies of women would be battlegrounds where war would be waged ceaselessly, devoid of all compunction. I learned that men are terribly affected by sexual violence, too. I learned, that we were foolish and myopic in thinking that the situation would resolve itself, and that such few of us were actually willing to help.
I wanted to turn what I learned, into action.
And that is why I joined the Channel Initiative, which has a very simple goal for Build Hope, its flagship project. With the aim of building a health-clinic in a rural village of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and starting to tackle the health issues facing women in particular in this community, CI just wants to Build Hope for a people that are otherwise ignored and go without any help or even acknowledgement. These are the people that never make the news but are the ones that are in the most need. We do one thing - respond to their desperate and unaddressed needs.
Most of you may already know of the amazing work that Dr. Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital are doing for the women and children of the DR Congo.
We hope to scale the vision of the Panzi Hospital into this rural village, and in so doing, holistically improve the health and quality of life for the people there. It is an open secret that what the DR Congo needs now is peace. Rural health is our platform to help with this. We dream a simple dream: that a health clinic in Kilungutwe will not only drastically reduce maternal and child mortality rates, but will also change the outcomes for rape victims, wives who contract HIV/AIDS, provide job and training opportunities, and most importantly - will show this community that they are treasured, valuable, and worthy of a great life by letting them live theirs with dignity. Would you like to join me? Here’s some places you can find us.
Follow Build Hope on Twitter: @BuildHopeDRC
Find us on Facebook as: http://www.facebook.com/buildhopedrc
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donate to our cause at http://www.medstartr.com/projects/114-building-health-and-hope-in-congo