There's always something new to be angry about. To be honest, there are times when I feel like throwing my hands in the air and giving up on humanity.
I've seen a lot of documentaries in the last year about the Iraq war, Afghanistan, torture, our broken health care system... all depressing issues having to do with the current state of American politics. All those issues have one thing in common, though: there is an apparent solution.
The HBO documentary I watched the other night was a different story altogether. As I watched The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, I was overcome by a feeling of helplessness, and hopelessness. The problem is evident; the solution, not so much.
Here's the situation:
- The Democratic Republic of Congo is a huge nation (about the size of Western Europe) in the central part of Africa.
- Congo has a vast wealth of resources: gold, diamonds, and 80% of the world's reserves of coltan (a mineral used in all cell phones and laptops).
- Despite the wealth, Congo is a destitute country. The nation has been ravaged by a civil war since 1994.
- The war makes it easy to loot Congo's resources: an estimated $1,000,000 in coltan is stolen across the border each day. The war is profitable, so the war continues.
- The most striking consequence of this war is rape. Soldiers from every side rape civilian women with impunity, mutilating them afterwards so they lose the use of bladder, uterus, and/or rectum.
- Due to societal conventions, women who have been raped are often shunned by their husbands and families, as though the rape were the fault of the victim.
This woman is Maria Namafu. She is 70 years old. As she was raped, the soldiers told her, "You're not too old for us." How does that not make you angry?
I first became aware of this situation a few weeks ago when Ann Curry did a story on NBC's Today show. It's easy to say to yourself, Oh, that sucks. But there's crappy stuff happening all over the world. What can I do about it?
Honestly, I don't really know what can be done about it. There are UN Peacekeepers, but the country is so huge that their efforts barely make a dent. There is a Congolese "Special Victims Unit"... of one officer in a ramshackle wooden hut. There is one hospital, the Panzi Hospital, for treating the victims of sexual violence... but most never make it there. There are vast resources in that country... but they are used to line the pockets of criminals instead of to save the women of Congo.
It's a shit situation.
The only thing I can think of is to raise awareness. So I guess that's what I'm trying to do. Watch the doc if you get HBO... if you don't, research the problem, and donate if you can to the Panzi Hospital or other nonprofits that try to help in the region. This is as good a place to start as any.
I'm not an activist by any stretch, and I'm certainly not a Congolese. But I'm a woman, and I'm a human being, and I'm a citizen of this planet. And those are my brothers and sisters. I'm not sure what can be done...we've just got to do something.