WHY IT'S ON ALL OF US?
As we scroll through Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, we may not think of the youth who spend hours a day, mining, for our viewing pleasure. That ends today!
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the most mineral rich nations on the globe, with untapped mineral reserves valued at 24 trillion US dollars. My parents fled the Congo in 1996 and after I was born we immigrated from Zambia to the United States. My parents had no choice but to leave the other place they called home because of war. Though the injustices that happen everyday in the Congo are not just issues of war, but of corruption and greed that has stifled the growth of the nation. It may not come as a surprise that the central African country is one of the poorest nations in Africa and maybe even the world, but how does this happen?
Many of us simply do not know that our phones and everyday technological devices are products of countless hours of work by tireless child laborers who mine precious minerals such as tin, tungsten, coltan, and gold--all of which are considered conflict minerals. Conflict minerals are natural resources that are extracted in a conflict zone and sold to perpetuate violence, research suggests that the access to these minerals prolong conflict. Soldiers and militias--funded by powerful governments such as the United States, France, Rwanda, and Belgium--guard these mines, terrorizing local towns and villages in order to silence people, often using rape as a weapon of war. Companies like Apple, Google, Motorola, and Samsung all use conflict minerals within their many devices. Despite this, some companies are aiming to ethically source their materials--such as Intel, the tech giant that has become committed to “conflict-free minerals.” Though we cannot stop here, more companies must be called out and held accountable!
These precious minerals that are mined everyday don’t just appear in our phones but in our jewelry as well! The bling you rock everyday, may have started out as a blood diamond. Blood diamonds are any diamonds that are mined in a conflict zone. Companies such as Tiffany & Co. and Zale both use blood diamonds in order to stock their shelves with the newest set of flashy rings, earrings, and bracelets that money can buy. It may come as a surprise that the Congolese youth and adults that work the mines everyday to support their families--some leaving school or not completing their formal education--make little over a dollar a day. This news should not just enrage you but call you to action.
You may be asking yourself:
Why is it that the Congolese people continue to get exploited?
Do they not deserve a piece of the cut?
What can I do today?
I have a simple four step process as to how you can get involved and help make the Congo a better place:
Educate yourself! : You can’t help influence change when you don’t understand the complexities of the issues you are fighting for! Search out the facts and listen to people, out information together in order to come to conclusions that are both thoughtful and knowledgeable.
Educate others! :Share this article with your friend, parent, or loved one who you think might benefit from knowing more about what is going on today in the Congo!
3. Support organizations DOING the work: Many people will claim to help people in rural areas, or one of Congo’s many villages or rural towns. I challenge you to seek out organizations that are actually DOING the work. Organizations like Panzi Foundation and the Congo Peace project. The Congo Peace Project is a charity organization that I run with a team of five youth to fight for educational and menstrual equity in the Congo, we are partnered with Panzi Hospital in Bukavu located within Congo’s eastern region, where they provide treatment for those suffering from sexual violence. If you are interested in learning more, follow both organizations on our social media and seek out other organizations that are work to put those most marginalized at the forefront of the fight for change!
4. Stay in the know! You can never know enough or even know too much about a subject. Continue to follow the news and see out ways that you can be involved in the fight for the Congolese people.
Notice my title says that it's on all of US. I mean specifically that it is on me, you, and the person that you are sitting next to, to speak up, for those in the Congo, those who do not have a voice of their own! We have the privilege of free speech and expression. Oftentimes, these are the most radical things that we can possess to start a revolution. The revolution starts now, the fight for systemic change in our global community all of us, it is truly on all of US--to speak UP!
The Congolese people deserve better. Congolese boys and girls deserve a brighter future, and today we are moving closer to that future, TOGETHER!