The Human Cost of Conflict Minerals

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In spring 2010, Run for Congo Women founder Lisa Shannon spent months in eastern Congo exploring the link between mining and the world's worst sexual violence.

The stories Lisa tells in the video below about survivors like Generose are all-too-common.

To learn more about conflict minerals and to find out how you can help end the deadliest war in the world, please visit our resources page.

Video transcript:

GENEROSE (Congolese rape survivor): I was in my house, preparing food for my husband, when the Interahamwe [militia] came in.

LISA SHANNON: If asked, most of us would say that name brand laptops, cell phones and other electronics come from places like Best Buy or Amazon.com. That they were made in China.

GENEROSE: I cried for help. They immediately killed my husband. They shot him.

LISA SHANNON: But that’s just part of the story. Follow your favorite gadget back to where it came from before it was an Ipod or a Blackberry, and you’d likely end up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

I did.

GENEROSE: They took a machete and cut off my leg.

LISA SHANNON: I stood on the edge of a mine, surrounded by men and boys digging for the valuable metals that would become smartphones and laptops.

GENEROSE: We had six children at home so the Interahamwe cut my leg into six pieces to give to the children to eat. But my son said "I can't eat a part of my mother." So they killed my child. He was eight years old.

LISA SHANNON: I met survivors like Generose. I listened to her story. I learned that there are hundreds of thousands of women in eastern Congo with similar stories.

Because the bits and pieces that keep our phones ringing and our laptops glowing are funding the deadliest conflict since World War II.

It all comes down to resources. Electronics wouldn’t function without certain minerals: tin, tantalum and tungsten, which we call the “Three Ts”, and gold.

Armed groups in eastern Congo control the mines and trading routes for these minerals, profiting to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

To enforce their local dominance of the mining sector, some of the armed groups use mass rape as a weapon of war, preying on women and girls like Generose.

I met Generose for the first time in 2007. But I already considered her a sister.

I’d been sponsoring her for two years through a project I’d started called the Run for Congo Women.

Through by Women for Women International, Run for Congo Women supports survivors of Congo’s war as they rebuild their lives.

Generose told me she had a new problem now. She’d gained weight since being sponsored. She was getting fat.

So we hatched a plan. In 2010 we’d run together with other survivors in Eastern Congo. In the heart of Congo’s ongoing war.

LISA SHANNON ON CAMERA: What you have proved today is that war cannot steal your power, that no violence can crush your spirit -- that they can even take your leg like they took Generose’s. But they cannot stop you from running for other Conoglese women; they cannot stop you from being compassionate and loving.

LISA SHANNON: As electronics consumers, we’re all a part of Congo’s Conflict Minerals war.

But we can be part of the solution. By demanding conflict free electronics we can stop warlords from profiting and finally help end the war that has plagued people like Generose and her sisters for far too long.

After so many years and so many lives lost, it’s time to say Enough.

Enough Project
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Phone: (202) 682-1611 • Fax: (202) 682-6140