North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
The war in eastern Congo began in the early 1990s and has since encompassed two international wars—from 1996 to 1997 and 1998 to 2003. The country has also suffered from multiple invasions from neighboring countries, with combatants from numerous armed groups, both foreign and domestic.
While Congo has abundant natural resources, it is the world’s poorest country per capita, according to the United Nations. And despite hosting the largest and most expensive U.N. peacekeeping mission in the world, MONUSCO, with more than 20,000 personnel and an annual budget of $1.4 billion, the eastern part of the country is plagued by instability and militias continue to wreak havoc on the population.
The conflict in Congo is notorious for serious violations of human rights, including violence against women and the use of child soldiers. Militias use rape as a weapon of war, destroying communities by targeting women, the backbone of Congolese society.
As Major General Patrick Cammaert, former UN Deputy Force Commander stated, “It is more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier right now.”
In 2008, Exposing Hope expanded its work to the Congo. As celebrities brought significant funds and media coverage to Darfur, we decided to shift our focus to the underreported war in eastern DRC and the rampant sexual violence. Alissa visited North Kivu in early 2009 to document the situation of women and meet with several organizations as potential partners for Exposing Hope.
HIGHLIGHTING UNDER-REPORTED HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
Since 2009, Exposing Hope has held five photography exhibitions and four fundraising events in in San Francisco, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York, as well as, conducted several successful online fundraising campaigns. Alissa’s images have been seen in dozens of publications, her work featured by humanitarian agencies and a wide array of international and local organizations.
Through our partner in the North Kivu Province, HEAL Africa, we have built five safe-houses for survivors of sexual violence. These safe-houses not only provide refuge for over 2,300 women, they also offer counseling, support, small business training and micro-loans.
Through our partner in the South Kivu Province, Centre Kitumaini, we purchased two acres of land, giving over 100 women plots on which to farm, and provided soap-making training to 300 women.
In addition to working with HEAL Africa, Alissa’s work in the field has given her invaluable access to the women running the programs; many of whom have sought out Alissa’s assistance in planning projects and budgets. HEAL Africa and Exposing Hope maintain and transparent dialogue in both French and English to ensure that reporting is regular, clear and consistent with the standards expected. It has truly been a rewarding process both organizations.