The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the deadliest conflicts since World War II and has seen unprecedented levels of sexual violence against women. In the DRC, it is estimated that forty-eight rapes take place every hour.
We as consumers may unwittingly be contributing to these atrocities because the conflict in the DRC is fuelled and funded by an illegal trade in minerals. These minerals are found in products we purchase and use every day, particularly in our electronic devices (cell phone, anyone?).
On March 8, in recognition of International Women’s Day, the United Nations will shine a spotlight on the issue. In Canada, the Conflict Minerals Act, which would make it possible for Canadians to choose products without conflict minerals, has had first reading in Parliament (Private Member’s Bill C-486). And the Just Minerals Campaign launched by the Canadian Fair Trade Network is underway to raise awareness and encourage active support of the bill.
What can we do? We can sign an on-line petition to stop conflict minerals and then help spread the campaign via social media. We can contact our MPs and government leaders to let them know we want legislation to ensure Canadian products are conflict-free. We can contact the companies whose products we purchase to tell them that conflict-free sourcing of materials is important to us. We can inform ourselves and use our purchasing power to make responsible choices. A ranking of the world’s largest electronics companies is available at http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/companyrankings providing information on actions each tech company is (or is not) taking to ensure a clean minerals trade. Find out how your favourites rank and then take steps accordingly.
On International Women’s Day let’s all do something to help stop the violence.
– Ruth Buckinger, Sackville, NB
Member of TAG (Tantramar Association of Grandmothers/others)
and GRAN (Grandmothers Advocacy Network)