My first visit to the Congo was in February 2011 with V-Day founder Eve Ensler, whose organization created the City of Joy. I had made a commitment to Eve to green the City of Joy, and needed to see first-hand what was possible.
Thankfully, it is a place that forever touched my life.
While I was first in the Congo, I laughed, sang, and danced with hundreds of women — all of whom had been raped at the hands of armed factions in the region — as we celebrated the opening of the City of Joy. Later, the memory of their joy in the face of such pain would bring me to tears.
We visited with other survivors who were finding ways to restart their lives, including those in the Green Momma’s all-female cooperative farm. Global Green sponsored 20 goats following that visit.
So, we are helping turn their pain into power. Solar power, in fact.
Next week, I will be joined by three amazing volunteers donating their time to help Global Green install the solar system for the City of Joy sanctuary. We will also work with a local electrician to help improve his capacity and experience to install future solar systems.
Our efforts are to benefit the women and girls in the City of Joy who are there to reclaim their lives and recover emotionally and physically from rapes and other atrocities at the hands of armed factions battling over conflict minerals — rare earth minerals mined in the region for use in making our cell phones and electronics. Our efforts will provide some small amount salve to the wounds afflicted in great part by our own addiction to electronics.
With the solar donation, we are providing a renewable source of power that will enable the women to reduce their dependency on diesel generators and the unreliable grid and give them a home that is healthier and more secure. Global Green’s solar system donation — the first phase of our partnership with the City of Joy — was made possible by an outpouring of generosity that included donations of solar panels from the SunPower Foundation; inverters from Solartechnik Stiens; batteries from Trojan Battery Company; and grants from the 11th Hour Project and the COINS Foundation. And, of course, our amazing volunteers.
You can help Global Green deliver LED solar lights so individuals have a personal light for reading and safety, or water backpacks to help women of the Congo safely carry drinking water without relying on contaminated containers they carry on their heads (which can soften their spines). Please consider sponsoring an LED light for $25, or a water backpack for $10.
We won’t stop there. Our next phase will include raising $10,000 for the purchase and installation of a complete drinking water filtration system for a well in their village, so that women will have access to clean water in the City of Joy. You can make a donation to make this vision a reality.
Back home in the United States, I decided we needed to do more. Global Green sponsored legislation in California and supported rules at the federal level to reduce the amount of conflict minerals in our new electronics — so the armed factions can no longer profit and destroy the lives of women and girls in the Congo.
Right now, our California legislation — SB 1427, which was authored by Senator Kevin de Leon — is stuck as a result of opposition to the bill from the electronics industry. The bill is one part of the larger solution to the conflict in the Congo. It would also reduce what the State of California spends on electronic goods by creating a preference for lower priced, refurbished cell phones and computers. The environment would also benefit, and so would Californians who want to return old electronics and get a little money back through services such as EcoATM or eBay’s Instant Sale.
You can also get educated and engaged in your community. Inspired by my first visit to the City of Joy, I gave a talk at TEDxWomen in which I shared my experiences and called for a nation of citizen entrepreneurs — people who take a responsibility for their corner of the world.
To me, the City of Joy is a reminder. A reminder that we are all connected, and what we do here at home has an impact on the environment as well as other lives across the planet.
And whatever you do, we thank you for doing something today to help improve those lives, and reduce the impact we are creating back here at home.