US should take a stand to protect women globally

I’ve got to admit: For me, being a girl is pretty awesome.

Let’s face it: Our clothes are better, we don’t grow creepy beards and we can order fruity drinks without being judged. And I’m the type of girl to embrace all there is to being a girl. When a new Barbie came out, I got it. I was the ballerina-toting, pink-wearing girl in elementary school. As many of my friends know, I’m pretty pleased with my XX chromosome status.

That’s why it hits me hard when I realize that not everyone enjoys their girlhood like I do.

This week in class, my political science teacher mentioned how rape is a tool for power in the war-ridden Democratic Republic of the Congo. A little confused, I Googled “Congo rape” to see what he was talking about.

In The Daily Beast’s article “Congo Rape Crisis: Study Reveals Shocking New Numbers,” it’s reported that every five minutes, four women are raped. It happens everywhere and with anyone so often, and it’s done as a weapon of war.

First of all, no weapon of war is ever appropriate, in my mind. But the fact that women’s bodies are used as a tool for war is purely gross. There are 1,095 ways to get the point across that you have power, or that you’re in war. I don’t know what all of them are, but many of them, if not all of them, have to be better and more effective than degrading women.

Second of all, though rape is horrible when it happens to anyone, it’s especially terrifying in the Congo because of the lack of support system. Here, we have counselors and rape crisis hotlines, and though our help system isn’t perfect, it works. In the Congo, they don’t have that. A woman raped is one that’s scorned by the community and her family. Plus, it’s hard to get medical attention for sexually transmitted diseases there.

I wish that we could wave a magic wand and wipe all of the awfulness and sexual inequality in the African country. However, because this is the real world, and not Tolu’s Fantasyland, that’s not quite possible. Still, there are a couple of things that can be done.

First, the Congo has to elect better leaders and create a more democratic way of elections. In The Daily Beast article, Tony Gambino, former mission director in the Congo for the United States Agency for International Development, pointed out that “democratic elections and sexual violence are closely connected,” and that “the people have not been front and center for way too long.” I wholeheartedly agree with this. Not every sensitive issue can be solved with politics, but in this case, it could.

Second, we, as the United States, should do all we can to help out the girls in the Congo. I know, we hear “awareness” and “donate” so many times in our life, but we shouldn’t dismiss the power that we have to help out. Congo Now!, an organization dedicated to putting Congo back on the world’s agenda, is a great place to start. And of course, there’s UNICEF and other groups dedicated to making life better for countries in need. Being a girl is all about cute kitten heels and being able to ride a bike sitting down, but it’s also about having confidence and undying strength. It’s an awesome gender to be, and we should do all we can do to make sure all girls feel that way.

_Tolu is a junior in Media._