Running for a Reason

5 JUNE 2010 
A woman is raped every two hours in the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and that's only one region. Continued political unrest in the country has created widespread civil war, and innocent women are falling victims to sexual violence everywhere. Approximately 1000 rape cases are reported each month, and many studies show that most women who are raped do not alert any authorities at all. According to United Nations representative Margot Wallstrom, the Congo is the "rape capital of the world."

This issue hasn't gone unnoticed, and folks are rallying for the cause. Actually, a lot of them are running for the cause. In 2006, Portland native Lisa Shannon began the Run for Congo Women program in partnership with the Women to Women International organization to sponsor women in their recovery from sex as a weapon of war. Since then, the program has raised more than $600,000 and sponsored 1,444 women. Lisa's story is really amazing, and I encourage you to read it here.

I also encourage you to get involved in the upcoming Run For Congo Women. I'm inspired by the women all over the world who are giving their time, dedication, funds and wholehearted efforts to conquer sexual violence in the Congo, so this month I'll be giving my legs to the cause... and I hope that you can provide me with a little fuel.

Runners have the option to walk or run 5K, or run 15K through Forest Park on Saturday, June 26th. I'm going for the big 15. I'll be running for the Global Kitchen organization, a Portland nonprofit aiming to eliminate women's poverty through the sharing of recipes. Please visit The Global Kitchen website to learn more about the organization, and donate to our upcoming run. 

Finally, I hope that you will open your eyes and ears to this pressing global issue. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own neighborhoods, and I plan on running around mine to achieve that goal. 

Thank you for reading. 

10 JUNE 2010
Especially concerning global issues, the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality is easy to slip into. When Lisa Shannon became aware of the rampant rape cases in the Congo, she didn't even realize that there was a war going on. Here is a Women for Women International film about how she created Run For Congo Women.

If it weren't for Lisa's media intake, she might not have ever known about these issues, or taken so many strides to combat them. That's effective journalism. Here's a few more recent reports about women in the Congo to be commended for affecting positive change...

Oakland Tribune, Words by Kristin Bender

Planet Green, Words by Rachel Cernansky

Next step in training: read A Thousand Sisters while recovering from runs.

16 JUNE 2010
There are only 10 days left until Portland's Run For Congo Women. That means 10 more days of endurance runs and sprints following the carb and protein packed breakfasts I've been concocting in my kitchen. I usually read the news and sip coffee while I eat. It seems as if every single day there is a new article posted about war in the Congo, specifically how the war is affecting women. 

The article I read this morning paints a graphic, horrifying picture of what life is really like for women in this area. It reveals that one man was shot by militiamen when he wouldn't rape his own daughter. Another woman was raped while 7 months pregnant. She lost her baby and was forced to become a sex slave to the men who held her captive. 

Here's the article:

Guardian Weekly, Anna Husarska

It's stories like these that make me realize how I take my own safety for granted. I also live in a place that enforces strict punishment for this kind of violence. In recognition of your own safety and human rights, please take some time to read the article, and maybe even consider donating to the cause. You can do so at The Global Kitchen website

19 JUNE 2010
In 1980, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, published the MacBride Report to establish standards about media coverage of third world issues. According to the report, members of Western countries create 3 out of 4 media outlets concerning problems in the developing world. The report argued that this trend ignores local attitudes and discredits the voices of the people from the featured communities.

Frank Bures of World Hum shrewdly reiterates UNESCO's findings about international media coverage in a more contemporary setting in his article "Suffering and Smiling: Vanity Fair Does Africa." And I have to give him props for not using phrases like "third world" and "developing" to describe African communities.

21 JUNE 2010
My main goal with "Running for a Reason" is education. Only when we realize the extent to which rape affects people in the Congo can we begin to combat the issue. Even if you can't run or donate or volunteer, you can read about what's happening. And I guarantee it will have an impact.

My grandfather has been reading this page, and since he's taken up researching the issues on his own. He just sent me Faith Karimi's CNN article "South African doctor invents female condoms with 'teeth' to fight rape."

The essence of the article: Doctors have actually created an "anti-rape" condom for women to wear. The condom has hooks inside that penetrate the attacker's penis, and they can only be removed by a medical professional, so by the end of the day the attacker is in a great deal of pain... and sitting in jail. 

The condom gives the woman wearing it instant retaliation against her attacker in a variety of ways. Genius concept, right?

Maybe not quite. The women wearing these condoms have to mentally and physically prepare themselves for rape by inserting it in the first place. Then, they have to engage in sex before their attackers can be caught. Many critics say that the condom will increase the fear and vulnerability that women have while wearing it. One even goes so far as to characterize this device as "enslavement." 

Is the new condom cutting edge? Cruel? Constraining? I'm curious about your thoughts. Please share. 

25 JUNE 2010

Photo courtesy of Simon's blog: Stop Conflict: DR Congo

Simon's blog posts are an assortment of reflections on writing his thesis on media coverage concerning violence in the Congo. I got stuck on this photo- the image sure speaks for itself. His words are pretty powerful, too. 

4 JULY 2010
Running is like laughter. It is contagious. It brews from within until it brims out of your body spontaneously. It takes your breath away and leaves you gasping. Sometimes it feels like sweet relief. 

I hope that the women we sponsor in the Congo experience sweet relief, and outrageous, uncontrollable, wild laughter. 

The Global Kitchen team has raised $600, and to able to sponsor two women we need to raise $100 more by July 10th, the last day to donate to the Run For Congo Women. The run might be over, but I'm still racing, apron included. I'll be sporting it during the next jaunt around Portland.

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