Sunday, January 27, 2013

Unconditional support for Atlanta Million Woman Walk for Congo

I saw a great quote on Twitter, that read: "I always wondered why somebody doesn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody." The quote, which is attributed to Lily Tomlin, in my opinion is a call to service. It is a call for people of goodwill to step up to the plate to make a difference in the world. A war has raged on in the Democratic Republic of Congo for decades and many people wonder why somebody hasn't done something about it. A small group of women have realized that they can do something about it. They are organizing a walk in Atlanta, Georgia for the women of DR Congo.

The DR Congo is located in central Africa and it's the second largest country in the continent. With a population of 71 million, DR Congo has for decades been embroiled in a bloody armed conflict, that claimed about five million lives between 1994 and 2003. The conflict has been described in gruesome terms, including the "deadliest conflict in African history". [Source] Despite peace accords and United Nations Peacekeeping forces on the ground, war continues mainly in the east of the country - with devastating effects on the civilian population, especially women and children. For more than 10 years, the UN has been engaged in DR Congo. At one point, the biggest UN Peacekeeping mission with almost 20,000 personnel was in the country, but the mission has little to show for its presence in terms of peace.

Since May 2012, about 800,000 people in DR Congo have been displaced. [Source]

Women and children bear the brunt of the war. Rape is used as a weapon of war and many actors in the conflict have been accused of using children as soldiers - a practice, that is classified by the International Labour Organization as one of the worst forms of child labour.

Objectives of the Atlanta walk

The Atlanta Million Woman Walk for Congo has four simple objectives: to call attention to the war in the DR Congo, to urge the U.S. to hold its allies accountable for their role in destabilizing the Congo, to call on world leaders and U.S. Congress to commit to ending the war, and to stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable civilian population affected by the war.

How you can help

The organizers of the walk have my unconditional support. My support is driven by the fact that I have a mother, four sisters, a wife and a daughter. I won't wish what is happening to women and girls in DR Congo on any of them. I completely support the Atlanta Million Woman Walk for Congo and the campaign to raise money to support women and children affected by the war. I hope the walk draws more attention to a war, that is relatively forgotten - and even unknown to some people. Open a newspaper or turn on your international news TV channel any day, chances are you will hear or read about armed conflicts and rapes around the world - but you will probably not hear a thing about DR Congo - despite the fact that 48 women are raped every hour in the central African country and 12 percent of its women have been raped at least once. [Source]

Women are reportedly brutally raped multiple times, sometimes with sticks, guns and even bayonets. This, in my view, is unacceptable.

The good news is, that you can do something to help. If you are in Atlanta, I encourage you to join the walk for Congo scheduled to take place on Saturday 23 March 2013. Everyone is welcomed. The walk starts at 10 A.M. at Georgia World Congress Centre in downtown Atlanta.

If you can't make it to the walk, you can make a donation, that will go a long way to help affected women and children. Funds raised will be used to provide shelter for displaced women and their children, to set up means of livelihood, such as helping them start up petty businesses, provide medical supplies to local hospitals and provide food, clothing and basic necessities to women and their children caught in the crossfire.

The goal of the fundraising campaign is to raise 10,000 dollars in 14 days. As of the time of writing, the fundraising campaign has 13 days to go. Chip in what you have to offer. Every amount will be helpful.

To my fellow bloggers, I encourage you to throw your weight behind the Atlanta Million Walk for Congo.

Spread the word on the streets of Atlanta and on social media. Share information about the walk on Facebook and tweet about it. I'm on twitter and will tweet about the Atlanta Walk for Congo using the hashtag #ATL4Congo. Join the campaign in any possible way. The women of Congo would be grateful.

*Photo of rape victim, DR Congo: TheGuardian.

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