Secretary of State Clinton’s visit last week to the Democratic Republic of Congo brought the conflict there to the attention of the US media – at least to the attention of the media that weren’t too busy talking about death panels. Five million people have died in that war – more than in any conflict since WWII – and one million are displaced.
This year’s offensive by the Congolese Army, with UN support, has led to a spike in rapes and other atrocities – and, for the most part, the recent perpetrators are members of the Army. The stories are stomach-turning. Many survivors are shunned by their families and have no where to turn. Bad, bad, bad.
And here’s where the cellphones fit in. The chaos is motivated, in part, by an illegal trade in minerals. Tantalum, tin and tungsten are used in the consumer electronics industry. They keep our cell phones vibrating and our laptops charging. Tracing the sources of the raw materials in electronics is virtually impossible for consumers and difficult for companies, so it’s hard to tell if your phone or your computer is contributing to one of the worst wars in history.
This shit pretty much makes me want to stomp on my cell phone and cry, then go on a screaming rant about how everything comes from somewhere, everything has a cost, and who the hell do we think we are anyway, getting all the good stuff while someone else pays the price? It makes me ashamed to be typing this on a computer*.
Fortunately for me**, I found the Enough Foundation before I started stomping. This human rights organization is advocating for more traceability and accountability in the consumer electronics industry. They have a bill in the Senate right now. Plus, they have a rockin’ contest on YouTube for PSAs about the issue.
Other good places to give seem to be Heal Africa and Women for Women International. Heal Africa is a Congolese-led health care organization. I’m much less skeptical about international aid when it’s actually led by the people it aims to help.You can watch a really cheesy music video and read about Clinton’s visit on their Web site.
Women for Women is a fairly transparent organization, and they put a feminist slant on the whole sponsorship model. You’re not sponsoring a child, you’re sponsoring a sister – a woman who is rebuilding her community after war. Thaz cool. I don’t like condescending sponsorship, but solidarity’s good.
Onward and upward,
P.S. Here’s my favorite Enough video. Poetry+activism=thebest.
**And for all my friends who are tired of me telling them about slavery in their Hershey’s bars, etc. and who surely don’t want me starting giving them hell about the laptops they need to finish their novels.