Blood in Our Mobile Phones

  If I asked you where on the planet is it more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier… could you tell me the answer – without googling it?  

If you can answer this question, congratulations – you are one of the few Americans who know about the plight of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Why here, why in Congo? That’s what I asked myself!  Then –  doing my research –  it became increasingly obvious that there was a correlation between the oppression of the Congolese women and the global demand for Coltan, Gold, Tin and Tungsten in Congo’s mineral mines?
As a smartphone consumer, it was horrifying to discover that the components of my Iphone and laptop were sourced right in the Congo, under much oppression, child labour and bloodshed. This is the ugly truth and one that is very inconvenient to all of us. The sacrifices that are made so we can swipe right,  hit Like and set our phones to “vibrate” are an intolerable form of genocide, while the rest of the world turns a blind eye.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is filled with stuff that everyone in the words wants. It is rich in minerals and yet it is one of the worst countries on earth to be a woman. 25 years ago I am told by a local, there was no word in Swahili for “rape.” Yet today, an average of 43 women are raped in the Congo each hour.  Rape is used as a tool to dehumanize the entire Congolese population and make them subservient to the rebel armies, who control the mineral mines, using women and children as slave labor.  

The violence in the DRC is closely related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  Now the Conflict continues with numerous rebel groups over the plentiful natural resources in the DRC.  This causes men to be murdered in front of their wives, who are raped and rounded up to work in minerals mines with the huge global craze for these components that make up the lithium battery in our iphones.

For the past 25 years, the congolese women only know the meaning of survival. They couldn’t grasp the concept of “hope” or “goals and ambitions”.  Even with America’s Dodd-Frank Act which put tight regulations on blood mines that use children and women for cheap labor, there are still more of these Mines than there are Conflict Free mines – and these minerals find their way into our phones, laptops, cars, jewelry, even your child’s shiny birthday balloon.

When I first found out about what these women and children go through I knew I couldn’t sit idly by.  After all i’m a consumer of a smartphone like most of us.There was too much at stake –  and I don’t want Congolese blood on my hands. I should think you don’t either.  I decided to talk whenever and wherever I can about the plight of the people caught in the Congo mineral conflict. I brought it up in my chemistry class, and my teacher didn’t know about the minerals. It’s just not grabbing the attention of the masses.

I reached out to Scott Fifer at Go Campaign, a local nonprofit that helps vulnerable children everywhere. Within a week, I was introduced to an incredible human being, A true super hero: Amani Matabaro, founder of Actions pour le Bien être de la Femme et de l’Enfant au Congo (ABFEC) and Action Kivu, which invests in the women, children and communities of Congo through vocational training and education, creating paths toward peace and prosperity y providing Women’s entrepreneurial programs and education assistance for children in the DRC.

The good news is you can make a change to make all mines conflict free and help women and children in the Eastern Congo. This can be done By volunteering and donating to organizations such as SAFECO which “contributes to a Congolese society where women, adolescent girls and women living with disabilities, live in peace with health care, education, clean water and equal rights. Also Informing your friends and family about the crisis in Congo is a vital step to be taken. I hope you will join me and this journey to make equal rights for women and children a #1 priority in Congo. Thank you.

I do not own any of the pictures used in this article.

Posted by Lily Larsen

I am a 17-year-old​ activist/arts advocate and have been participating in marches, protests and petitions since I was 5 years old. I serve on Mayor Garcetti's Youth Council for South LA. And have generated a petition to ban factory farming in California with over 55,000 signatures. I organize community events and get teens like me connected with social justice issues and activism all over LA.

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