Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The world would be a better place if women were in charge…

That was one of my Mum’s regular sayings when news of some war or atrocity came through. My Mum was a Christian feminist though she’d have never used that description of herself. She remains the most generous person I’ve ever met. I used to be embarrassed delivering my Mum’s home made rice pudding to ill people in our neighbourhood. I’d hang my head and mumble “my Mum sent you this” but what more can you give another human being than love and something to help them recover?

So today when I saw this picture of a girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo I remembered her words.

This picture symbolises the exploitation of the young female by men driven by greed.

The DR Congo has the third-largest population and the second-largest land area in sub-Saharan Africa. Life expectancy is just 43 years.

National child mortality rate at 205 per 1,000 live births; infant mortality at 109 per 1,000 live births (much higher in the eastern part of the country.

Despite the abundance of raw materials, the country's formal economy has virtually collapsed in the past few decades due to mismanagement, conflict, and instability.

Women remain marginalised in the DRC.

Amnesty International has shown that there is a direct link between discrimination against women in general and the violence inflicted on women in times of war.

Originally used as a weapon of war by soldiers to humiliate the enemy, sexual and gender-based violence is also perpetrated by civilians. The reason is twofold: sexual and gender-based violence is shrouded in silence and the perpetrators are seldom tried because of the prevailing climate of impunity.

Widows and rape survivors fare worse than the rest of the female population.

Women are also underrepresented in leadership positions, while customary law is generally highly discriminatory against women.

The 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force - its largest mission anywhere - has so far failed to contain the self-inflicted calamities that periodically engulf Congo.

Much more must be done, and urgently too by the wealthier, stronger nations.

And as my Mum would say “put the women in charge”…