hat do Bill Clinton
, Caroline Kennedy
, Anderson Cooper, Conrad N. Hilton
, various NPR stations across the country, Ms. Magazine
, The Washington Post
, and 60 Minutes
have in common? They’ve all featured the dynamic, grass-roots organization Women for Women International
within the past year. Sunday night, CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported in the CBS 60 Minutes
segment “War Against Women: The Use of Rape Against Women in the Congo Civil War.”
This grim piece revealed not only the systematic use of rape as a typical (!) weapon of terror against women and girls, but the crippled Congolese government’s inability to do anything to stop it. The impact on families and communities is as devastating and deadly as on the tortured rape victims who have little hope for their futures.
Enter Women for Women International, which provides “direct financial and emotional support” to women survivors of war. One survivor of the Congolese “rape epidemic” featured in the 60 Minutes
is composed of literal layers of devastation and despair—is now benefiting from WWI programs that teach life-changing skills such as how to read and write and run a business. The goal for every woman helped by WWI: economic self-sufficiency. The technique used: match willing sponsors who pay a $30 registration fee and then $27 a month to help a women survivor of war get the food and water and other basics she needs before she begins her training in life skills and then moves onto job skills and business management training. In short, WWI provides those who wish to help a simple, direct way to impact the lives of those in desperate need.
Since 1993, WWI has helped more than 120,000 women in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, Kosovo…. As one woman in Congo is quoted on the WWI site, “This program has dared me to hope of having a house, of living in peace, of reclaiming my dynamism, my dignity…. I would like to be someone of value again.” No wonder so many people are taking note of this organization’s accomplishments and the efforts of its founder, Iraqi-American author and activist Zainab Salbi. I’ve yet to read up on Ms. Salbi’s full story (her books alone are amazing), but I’m looking forward to learning more about her. Thank goodness for her and the WWI but they can’t do it all alone; now that 60 Minutes has featured this organization’s tremendous work among the most desperate in the Congo, maybe soon we’ll hear what the rest of the world plans to do to help.