Friday, 23 March 2012

RAISE HOPE for Congo

This year, the Gen Art Fashion show (which took place a few weeks ago at NYFW) chose to benefit the Enough Project’s RaiseHope for Congo’ campaign, which included models sporting specially designed Congo t-shirts:

‘The BEST thing that happened on a catwalk all week.’ Sarah Hall of The Huffington Post

The star studded show was hosted by actor and fellow activist Emmanuelle Chriqui (star of hit TV series Entourage) who has been an advocate for Congo for many years now.

The humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo – which is also Africa’s largest nation – is regarded as the deadliest since World War II, and has devastatingly claimed close to 6 million lives. Armed groups are competing for control over mines in Eastern Congo (where conflict minerals, funding these barbarians, are sourced and used to produce many electronics such as smartphones, which end up in the hands of a none-the-wiser me and you), and they are using rape and violence as a way to intimidate the local communities. Innocent women and children constantly find themselves at risk of the hands of attackers, and very little is being done to make a change. So many people are completely oblivious to the current situation... it’s both shocking and quite disturbing to me that atrocities such as this can be going on somewhere on the other side of our world that aren’t even blipping on our radars. SIX MILLION LIVES HAVE BEEN LOST. And some people haven’t even batted an eyelash. 

Just thinking about the possibility of my old iPhone having been produced using even a tiny scrap of these conflict minerals makes me sick to my stomach... I’ll think twice before I make my next purchase, and I’d like to think that others will too after discovering these horrifying facts. What I just can’t even begin to fathom, is how these corporate giants manage to live with themselves knowing exactly who and what they’re willingly throwing their money at in order to get their products manufactured and make as much profit as they possibly can, with no regard to the appalling process of how it transpires from the raw materials into consumers outstretched arms. It’s disgusting. 

What the Raise Hope For Congo campaign hopes to do is raise much needed awareness about the crisis, and aims to provide activists with the necessary tools to educate themselves and their communities about the conflict, the role of conflict minerals funding the conflict, and the effects of sexual violence as a weapon of war used against Congolese women and girls.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the fashion industry indentifies and dictates trends each season, and can be an extremely powerful catalyst in promoting social change, which is why collaboration events such as this are so important. Though it is evident that the link between the fashion world and human rights transcends the buzz of any of the major fashion weeks events: enough is now more than enough, and the time has come to bridge the gap between the suffering of innocent people and our role as western consumers. The power to pressure unethical companies to clean up their immoral supply chains, and not source from mines controlled by armed groups, rests firmly in our hands. In the words of (one of many wise men) Jack Black we can STICK IT TO THE MAN and be free-thinking culture jammers, and DEMAND conflict-free products. What we choose to do is up to us, for it is us alone who must live each day with the consequences of our actions.

You can help to bring about a wave of change by signing a petition from a Congolese activist who is asking Apple CEO Tim Cook to create conflict-free electronics using minerals from eastern Congo. Go on, give it a click. Do something different. Make a change.

In addition to the Gen Art fashion show, Emmanuelle Chriqui has also teamed up with recently turned jewellery designers Kate Bosworth and her stylist Cher Coulter, in an exclusive Giving Back collection for their company JewelMint. Emmanuelle’s chosen piece – the Mumbai bracelet – will be used to raise money for RAISE Hope for Congo, with a whopping 50% of the proceeds being donated by the pair. It’s a bargain at just under $30 on their website, along with a number of other celebrity endorsed pieces (all in aid of many other worthy causes, of course). Really worth checking out as there are some great vintage inspired numbers that are sure to never appear on a ‘what’s not hot this month’ list. And great colourful friendship bracelets that will make super awesome gifts for all your gals. 

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