Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rape Epidemic in Congo

Many past weekends ago, the NYTimes had a gruesome article detailing the extension of military rapes to the everyday society in the Congo. The article is horrific and describes attacks on women, but worse young girls. The issues it raises about the status of women around the world, the role of relief work and how ignorant our society is about what happens in other countries are important. The most striking image, however, wasn't about women as much as the horror of war in general. When UN troops realized they were not powerless to prevent these attacks on the innocent, they started parking a little outside a village, turning on their lights and staying there all night. One account said that hundreds of people would curl up in the light's orbits until morning came.

I've collected a list of charities that work with that specific region in the Congo in the hopes that people will donate, or if they can't keep it in mind when they can.

I usually mention Heifer International in my comments about charity because I love how they value the local economy (Local Charity), enable people to end their own poverty and encourage those who benefit to then act to relieve hunger themselves amongst their neighbors. Yet, while these are worthy goals, Heifer does not operate in the Congo or in any areas this unstable for good reasons: you cannot feed people and help them build their lives amid constant warfare and practical matters demand that you don't build a house on sand. On the other hand, immediate help is needed and their are a number of organizations who do provide similar support geared towards the Congo that surmount these problems. By providing women the means to recuperate in a safe environment and a way to sustain their families, you can minimize some of the stigma associated with rape and restore dignity to women who have been destroyed.


1) Charity Navigator's list of American charities working in the Congo Charity Navigator is a neat resource because it keeps track of how much aid actually goes to these countries. Though don't necessarily rule out a charity if they have a lower percentage of profits; some, like Heifer, have necessarily high costs associated with their programs, mainly because their workers train people for many years so have a deeper community involvement and overhead.

2) Hope International These people provide aid to the Congo in the form of micro-economic loans, another way of offering a way to improve one's conditions while also maintaining personal dignity. My only concern is that as a Christian organization, they only hire Christians and have a significant worship component to their everyday activities. Looking at their success stories, they emphasize how those who benefit from their actions donate to the church. Thus, I wonder what their relationship is to non-Christians and whether this emphasis constrains the work they do?

3) The IRC The IRC is a crisis response team and seems to work primarily as a medical force, thus they provide immediate help to anyone who needs it. But they also then help transition from war to peacetime, providing people with the tools to rebuild. What I also like about them is their depth of involvement (they stay in countries for a decade), allowing them to evaluate and clearly distinguish the issues that create and maintain conflict. This also helps insure that they give people support they can use, rather than what think tanks (and bloggers) far away from the conflict think they need.

4) Women for Women This organization works with women on a "holistic" level, empowering women in their community by providing immediate and long-term assistance and working to provide women a strong and visible role in their local communities. They emphasize their work with women, but don't mention how the men in the community perceive these women. Part of the point of the NYTimes article was that the Congo is enacting a deep seated repression of women through rape and abuse, thus it seems like the approach has to be multi-faceted to enable women to successfully change their culture. Their website doesn't really address how they go about this.

5) Malterser International This is the charity featured in the NYTimes article, though I have no other information on how reliable they are. As an international (i.e. non-American) organization, Charity Navigator does not evaluate them. Their primary thrust appears to be medical aid, mainly through standing hospitals. Thus, a worthwhile organization, but not as multi-pronged of an approach as I like.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Thank you for doing this! I'm researching some of them right now.