Welcome to VIBI’s blog! The Vermont Ibutwa Initiative team has created this space to invite community members and friends to explore and stay updated on all the new projects and endeavors that VIBI is working on to advance the lives of those affected by sexual gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
As a concerned global citizen: I am writing for those who have been robbed of their opportunities to share their stories. Major media outlets continue to ignore the genocide in the Congo, which has mainly been driven by capitalism. It is undeniable that since the dawn of colonization, Africa and the people living there have been taken advantage of by wealthier nations. Due to the modern demand for new and improved technologies, over the past two decades, more groups of people in Africa have been mining for rare Earth minerals. These mines are not safe for workers and the pay for this work is as minimal as possible. Since the war between the Hutus and Tutsis in the mid nineties, warfare has not stopped. As a matter of fact, it has worsened. Rebel militia groups are routinely taught from a young age to inflict psychological warfare upon the woman and children living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This crippling behavior prevents women from self organizing and gaining power to fight back. Beyond defending themselves, rape often results in the spread of HIV and other fatal diseases. It is hard to believe that on average, "48 women are raped every hour" (BBC). This estimate indicates that each day, about 1,125 females from all ages are raped either for the first time or again. Millions of people have died and been abused partially due to the flawed neoclassical economic model which doesn't consider the negative social and environmental impacts of our consumption. The time has come where this information has become widespread enough that the circumstances from the Congo are no longer confined there. Since people like myself create the demand for electronics, it is up to each consumer to claim some responsibility for how our purchases affect communities around the globe. Divesting from companies who chose not to consider where the minerals they are purchasing are sourced from is vital in shifting the demand toward a conflict free society. Corporations that are negligent to both people and the planet should not function with as much ease. Until policies are amended, individual purchasing power seems to be the best point of intervention in not supporting the murder, rape, and injustice that is prevalent in the Congo. Massive changes that are desperately needed takes all of us as conscious consumers to support conflict free minerals whenever possible.
One of the first actions you can take is donating to this dedicated non profit organization. By sharing some of your financial resources with those who are creating new and sustainable livelihoods as local economies in the Congo, even more projects that are environmentally and socially sound will have the ability to manifest. Bottom up financing has provided over a hundred women and children with medical services, emotional support, educational opportunities, as well as the means to cultivate community gardens. Farming sustainably is of utmost importance, especially in the Congo where countless ecosystems have been destroyed from the conflicts. Developed nations must stop pretending that exploited people and resources overseas do not exist, especially since we depend on them for our technologies. There is unseen blood on a vast and unsettling amount of our electronics, although this does not have to be the case. It is time to WAKE UP! It is no longer acceptable for over consumption to ravage the world's finite resources and spirits in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Planetary healing starts at the individual level, so by supporting the local operations in the Congo, we can provide women and children with the assistance they have been waiting for. Being and buying the change is one of the best ways to avoid supporting the corruption and violence in the Congo.
By Lily Mason
Meet the Founder:
Kyendamina Cleophace Mukeba (Cleophace) is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). When war started in 1996, he was forced to flee Congo and move into an extended, uncertain time in refugee status. Before residing in Zambia, he traveled through Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi. He spent 9 years in Zambia as refugee before being resettled in the US in August of 2005 with his family.
He is married and is the father of 4 beautiful children. In 2006 he was able to reintegrate into school and in 2012, he graduated from Saint Michael's College with a BA Cum Laude in Political Science. In 2015, he received an Environmental and Policy Law Degree from Vermont Law School.
In 2011, he created the Vermont Ibutwa Initiative, and in 2012 he traveled back to Congo, on behalf of the Vermont Ibutwa Initiative, on a fact finding mission to meet with people of South Kivu province. He learned about their realities and listened to both their needs and their hopes for the future.
Meet the Authors:
Mackenzie Breen is an undergraduate senior at Saint Michael’s College, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Global Studies. An interest in mental health through a global perspective, as well as exploring different cultures, has led her to begin the adventure of working with Ibutwa during her last semester of her undergraduate career. Deeply passionate about the work that Ibutwa is doing, she will be working closely with Cleophace Mukeba, the founder and executive director of Ibutwa, as well as other team members, in order to create public updates on the new projects Ibutwa is accomplishing and the goals that the organization is working towards.
Lily Mason is a third year environmental policy major and the outreach coordinator for the Eco-rep program at Champlain College. Through working with Sustain Champlain, she has become dedicated to raising awareness toward social and environmental injustices in order to encourage individuals to be the change they wish to see in the world. Through the provision of education about severe issues of this nature, she has been able to help her fellow students adopt the responsibility and recognition for the demands that they were unconsciously creating within the globalized market. Consumers often forget about the power they hold that comes along with having the privilege to purchase goods and services. Lily strongly desires to inspire communities to unify in the name of giving back to the environment and people that sustain us. Knowing that a majority of rare minerals are in the Congo, she dreams that the developed nations which rely on this area for their electronics help expand the conflict free mineral movement. Reminding folks to buy the change is essential to her, as it is the most effective behaviors for consumers who are not pursuing a career path of shifting policies to support a more ecologically equitable world. Two of her favorite quotes are “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" by Martin Luther King, Jr. and “Constant dripping hollows a stone”. As a global community, we must start paying the real cost for our goods and services. We must never forget that all people are equally unique and deserve proper compensation for their labor efforts, regardless of the socio-economic status they were born into. It's about time that the system had a rebirth, I dream of conflict free societies all throughout the world. We have the knowledge...all of the information is available, so from here; self organization, intention & dedication to this noble cause is needed to facilitate real change within the globalized market place. Power to the people!