Last semester at Champlain College was eye opening to say the least. Looking back at the unfoldment of events and people I had the pleasure of meeting while raising awareness about the harsh impacts of conflict minerals, I now see how clearly the efforts of the Vermont Ibutwa Initiative has inspired so many individuals to break the silence about sexual violence. The rape of women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo can not be ignored any longer. This negligence is a reflection of how a majority of society chooses to also stand idly by as the Earth is being absolutely depleted of finite resources while disadvantaged groups are being viciously hurt in the process. Big businesses have the leverage to integrate more socially and environmentally sustainable practices but it often takes public outcry for these initiatives to get implemented. This is where you and the conflict free movement comes in!
By helping consumers who have purchasing power realize what is happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we hoped that more people would start talking to representatives of companies to ask them about progress on their conflict mineral policy. As consumers grow concerned about the human cost of our beloved electronics, we hope supply chains will take effective measures to become free of abuse from rebel groups. Women and children in the DRC are the ones enduring wars over these precious minerals, however, this scenario does not have to continue in this disgraceful way. The choice to advocate for the conflict free movement is quite literally in our hands, considering that we can start campaigns at institutions we are affiliated with, share information online with hashtags like #GrowGardensNotGuns, #ConflictFreeSociety, #SupportLocal and #Renaissance so people can find out more information about Ibutwa’s mission or create any kind of art to further expose the ugly truth about conflict minerals. The fact that the minerals in our phones are connected to violence in the DRC also puts this harsh reality in our hands. The sooner we address the problem, beneficial measures can be taken to mitigate this bloody situation. If not now, when?
After starting a club in the hopes of reaching a larger audience about the conflict free movement, it became obvious that many consumers still do not feel as significant as they should within the globalized market place. This is primarily why the Cultivating Conscious Consumers club promoted a more compassionate approach to expand this consumer led movement. We wanted to empower individuals to activate their inner activist by breaking the silence about sexual violence to be a creative force for positive change! Talking about conflict minerals was never easy but being able to tell people that a local non profit organization was in town and appreciated any contributions was very helpful. Otherwise, we would just talk about a depressing issue without offering a way for people to get involved, which is just one reason out of many why we are so grateful for The Vermont Ibutwa Initiative.
Tabling with affirmations and lavender to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence brought the Champlain community closer together as well. This public intervention started the difficult conversations about rape culture and the importance of consent that need to be had on college campuses around the nation. Due to my volunteer efforts for Ibutwa, I was granted with opportunities to educate people at the Sustainability Student Leaders Symposium and New England Fair Trade conference over this past semester.
I shared informational resources and events with people so they can start successful conflict free campaigns at the various institutions they fund. It was an honor to share the knowledge I have gained about the conflict free movement during these emotional presentations that provided me with the time to explain the courageous mission of Ibutwa.
At Champlain College, multiple events were held where all of the donations went to The Vermont Ibutwa Initiative. One of the most successful gatherings was during the Guided Sound Meditation where Robin Hanbridge and Kirk Jones played beautiful music to restore a sense of peace among the group.
Participants were encouraged to contemplate the word ibutwa since it translates to renaissance throughout the sound bath, which was full of harmonious sounds from hand hammered tibetan singing bowls, three gongs, chimes, a didgeridoo and the highest vibrations of unconditional love!
Robin Hanbridge (local sound healer) & Cleophace Mukeba (the founder of the Vermont Ibutwa Initiative)
Environmental policy students also held a public deliberation on conflict minerals to raise awareness about the conflict free movement. Sexual violence is happening on college campuses too, so it is a part of many communities, whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
Fundraising for The Vermont Ibutwa Initiative has the ability to get these important conversations going in academic settings, which is beneficial for conflict free campaigns at institutions and people in the DRC who want more mines to become conflict free. Divesting from rebels is one of the best way to show the Congolese that foreign consumers are aware of the abuse and also want change.
Over the semester, a few hundred dollars and 2 sewing machines were donated to amplify the positive impacts that the Vermont Ibutwa Initiative has funded from the bottom up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The sewing machines will save the women, who chose to make clothes with the money they received from the micro finance program, priceless time. With more time in a day for women to focus on their healing, they will grow healthier and able to develop the sustainable livelihood that brings the financial security to eventually graduate from the assistance of The Vermont Ibutwa Initiative.
A friend, Ryan Malle, made this short video to spread the good word about Ibutwa. As college students, we feel so lucky to have the privilege to pursue higher education and want the same for the children who are often unable to pay for their educational fees. These children will one day be the ones managing the resources of the DRC, which is why we think it is so important for them to have an access to an education and the materials needed to be a student. Knowledge is power!
The P.A.U.S.E. (People Advocating & Uniting for Social Equity) club will continue partnering with the Vermont Ibutwa Initiative to raise awareness, as Samantha Segalas-Shaw (who created the informational graphics about conflict minerals for Ibutwa) & I study in New Zealand next semester. We hope to start a conflict free campaign while at the Auckland University of Technology. We will share with the blog how that goes!
Art by Samantha Segalas-Shaw
There are still Dance For Resilience (an event from the past) shirts and handmade with love necklaces from some of the women who chose jewelry making as a livelihood, in exchange for tax deductible donations to this 501 c3 non profit organization!
We have so much faith in this group of dedicated students as we worked together last semester and know they will continue to keep up the good work! Please contact the heads of the club at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with any questions or potential event collaborations. Any ideas are appreciated beyond words!
May you feel willing to recognize the people who have been taken advantage of due to greed. I hope you take this awareness and share it so effective action can be manifested to strengthen the conflict free movement. May your gifts, abilities and talents shine as you break the silence about the mistreatment of the divine feminine. Blessings to you and yours!