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Bradford to Bukavu: solidarity with women of DR Congo: International Women’s Action

September 29, 2010

Between October 14th and 17th October 2010, a Million Women Rise (MWR) delegation will be attending the Third International Action of the World March of Women in Bukavu (province of South Kivu) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is a global action, with the participation of women from 48 countries travelling to the DR Congo to express concrete solidarity with women from all over the world who are struggling against poverty and violence against women. One thousand women from the African Great Lakes region are expected to participate in the week of activities, and around 1500 people will take part in the Big March for Peace on the 17th October. The MWR delegation includes the UK Vice President of Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF), the founder of MWR, the Vice Chair of Rape Crisis (England & Wales), Congolese activists of Common Cause UK, the platform of Congolese women in the UK.

Main Aims of the Million Women Rise Delegation:

  1. Raise awareness and get more people involved in positive change for DR Congo.
  2. Identify concrete ways to support women in DR Congo.
  3. Get the commitment of politicians to UK trade and foreign policies having empowerment of women and justice for the people of DR Congo at their heart.

Why DR Congo?

Resource wars are ravaging the east of DR Congo, where an estimated 5.4 million people have been killed since 1996 (IRC, Crisis Watch). Armed groups from inside DR Congo and from neighbouring countries are fighting to control land rich in natural resources such as diamonds, gold, copper, uranium, tin, tungsten and coltan from which tantalum is derived. The ‘3T’s’ (tin, tungsten and tantalum) are found in everything on the British high street from mobile phones, laptop computers, and iPods to light bulbs. 80% of the tantalum used in mobile phones comes from DR Congo. These minerals are also traded every day on the London Metals Exchange.

The UK Government has failed to put forward to the UN Sanctions Committee   multinational companies who have been reported for breaking OECD guidelines by buying minerals produced in very harsh conditions and making payments to armed groups who control mineral areas and commit grave human rights abuses, including sexual violence against women, forced labour and child labour in the DR Congo.

We don’t want our light bulbs, laptops, mobile phones and iphones to fund the rape of women in DR Congo, to be the cause of human right abuses and force people to flee their homes and become refugees?

Why women?

The eastern part of DR Congo has been labelled the rape capital of the world, with 250,000 cases of reported rapes and an estimated 1 million unreported cases. Up to two thirds of girls and women between the ages of ten and thirty have been raped since 1996.

Sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war, intimidation, humiliation, displacement, exile and control including rape with extreme violence with penetration of sharp objects, amputation of limbs, decapitation, and live burials of women. The perpetrators are occupying forces from neighbouring countries, local militias, government soldiers, UN Peace Keepers, Police and civilians. There is no justice system on the ground even though DR Congo is signed up to international laws to protect women and children.

Christine is a rape counsellor and human rights activist. In July 2007 Christine was accompanying a group of women rape survivors from Masisi territory to Goma for medical care. She left the road at one point and heard someone moaning softly. Parting the vegetation, she recounted to Amnesty International:

I saw a girl tied up by her hands and feet. I started to untie her. Soldiers who had pushed a piece of wood into her had raped her. She was telling me that she was going to be married on Saturday and had just returned from receiving marriage instructions. I freed her and started to carry her back to the road. Then a group of CNDP soldiers came out from the trees. They beat me and I let the girl fall to the ground. Then four of them then took turns to rape me, in front of the other women I was with. When they stopped, I was bleeding heavily and my arm and leg were badly swollen. We were about to leave to get help when we saw that the girl had died. We buried her there. My clothes were stained with blood, but we walked to a health centre. Then we continued to Goma, where I spent two weeks in hospital.

Christine continues to work with rape survivors; she runs a small refuge from which she provides basic medical care, counselling and advice to the women.

Amnesty International report September 2008, ‘War on Women and Children in North Kivu, DR Congo’.http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR62/005/2008/en/f23caedf-8e4a-11dd-8e5e-43ea85d15a69/afr620052008en.html

What you can do:

a) Make a donation to support Congolese women from the UK and from within DR Congo to attend the international action. Cheques payable to Centre Resolution Conflicts (CRC) and posted to CRC, All Saints Church, Bradford BD5 0NG, mark them ‘DR Congo women’ and if you include contact details we will be able to send you a report.

b) Organise a meeting and ask Kongosi, Jane and the CRC-Bradford to come and speak.

c) Get involved; join Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and support the Million Women Rise marches in Manchester on 10.10.10 and London on 5th March 2011.

d) Write to your MP – we have a useful letter to your MP we can send you. (Draft_letter_to_MPs_or_UK_government1)

Don’t hesitate to contact Kongosi and Jane at

Janewriteme@yahoo.co.uk or phone 07931934422

The World March of Women is an international feminist action movement connecting grass-roots groups and organisations working to eliminate the root causes of poverty and violence against women. http://www.marchemondiale.org/

Million Women Rise is a coalition of individual women and representatives from the women’s voluntary and community sector who have come together to organise an annual national demonstration against male violence that coincides with International Women’s Day. http://www.millionwomenrise.com/

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is an international NGO and the oldest peace organisation in the UK. It was founded in 1915 when 1,300 women met to protest against a war in Europe. It has launched African Women’s decade 2010-2020. http://www.ukwilpf.org.uk/

Kongosi Mussanzi is a Congolese activist who has had to flee DRC because of her human rights work including speaking out about the rape of women. She is one of the founders of the Centre Resolution Conflicts in Dr Congo. She currently works with refugees in Bradford and continues to campaign for peace and justice both in DRC and globally. www.cr-conflict.org

Jane Gregory is a Co-ordinator of Bradford Rape Crisis & Sexual Abuse Survivors Service and Vice Chair of Rape Crisis (England & Wales). http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/

Both Kongosi and Jane are involved in Bradford Immigration & Asylum Support & Advice Network’s (BIASAN) weekly Women’s Club. Email: biasan@bigfoot.com

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