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.