It's a country the size of all of western Europe, with enormous mineral riches that enable the artifacts of modern life, from mobile phones and tablets to circuit boards and solar panels. It is also, by many accounts, the worst place to be a woman.
By Tami Hultman as published by our top partner allAfrica
Last month Bineta Diop – named by Time magazine as one of the world's most influential women – responded to appeals from local women and visited the conflict-ravaged eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She almost didn't make it out.
While she was in the town of Goma with an eight-person delegation, it was captured by the rebel group M23 – the most recent of a string of militias and armies that have fractured the society and economy of the area for more than a decade. Five million people have died, with millions more displaced. All sides in the on-going conflict have used sexual violence as a weapon.
"DRC is called the capital of rape," Diop says. "We went in solidarity for our sisters to say, 'You are not alone'. And we went to understand how they see the issues and what we can do to help."
The concept of solidarity missions is one that Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), the organization Diop founded, has pursued for many years. It is part of a strategy to implement the principles of United Nations Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000. The office of the UN Special Advisor on Gender says: "The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security."
The current peace talks on eastern Congo in the Ugandan capital Kampala seem, to many, a mockery of those ideals.
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