When is a run, not a run? When it’s a valuable opportunity to raise awareness of women’s empowerment where it is in dangerously short supply. That’s the principle behind Run Across Congo, a vehicle for shining light, attention and focus on the region.
I will be running on behalf of OTG, a community-based non-profit organisation. They may be small but their projects have a global reach – they certainly touched me!
We are taking an all women’s running team to Congo to support gender equality and women’s empowerment. The participants are runners, rather than athletes; they come from all over the area and are driven by their own motivations.
I was keen to support Fair Trade, go beyond the brand to address some of the issues that underpin the charity and make their work necessary. There’s more on this HERE.
This is an area in need of good news as much as a gesture. The region is recovering from a civil war that claimed over five million lives. The reported statistics – and ‘reported’ is the key word, here – for rape victims are around 70%, with many repeat victims.
If truth is the first casualty of war then in this conflict, women must be a pretty close second. War tactics and guerilla warfare techniques have reduced them to objects. Many, if not every mother, sister, daughter or wife has been the victim of sexual violence. It’s not easy for anyone – the average annual income is $400 p.a. and the majority of the population falls at or below the poverty level.
But it is the personal stories that are most illustrative of the impact of the conflict. Every single person has lost at least one close family member. Despite this – or perhaps because of this – these communities are showing obduracy and this resilience is driving a significant resurgence in the coffee farming sector. This can all be built upon. It may not be much but in a country that has nothing, it represents a something.
Our efforts are addressing three key priorities:
- Immediate medical care and reconstructive surgery for sexual violence victims
- Monthly support for the widowed families of murdered rangers in Virunga National Park and
- Gender Action Learning System (GALS), a community and family-focused scheme that develops the long-term business and family planning that retains sustainable farming practices and deliver reliable income.
We’re all self-funding; every dollar we raise directly supports the program work to ensure maximum impact. We all have individual campaigns and targets – check out mine HERE.
You can help
And you don’t have to run a step. Make your donations at runacrosscongo.org. We started raising funds last year and will continue up to, during and after the run. The program work will be ongoing for years. Once OTG starts a project, they remain committed to it for long-term development.
For me, I will keep running to the end. It’s not much, but as the proud people of the DRC will tell you, when you have nothing, a something is a great start.