Why We "Need" Cobalt And How That Makes Us Complicit In The Rapes Of Women And Girls Living In The Democratic Republic Of Congo (DRC)

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) approximately 1.80 million women and girls have been raped in their lifetime.

Rape Statistics in the DRC:

  • 48 females are raped every hour

  • Every hour 31 girls under 18 are raped

  • Every hour 4 girls under 10 are raped

  • 576 children raped everyday

  • Everyday 372 girls under 18 are raped

  • Everyday 48 girls under 10 are raped

  • 2, 604 children are raped every week.

The Netflix documentary City of Joy  takes us to a women’s recovery center in the eastern city of Bukavu called City Of Joy. A place where women and girls who have been literally destroyed by rape  (80% of which are gang rapes), sexual slavery, and/or the mutilation of their genitals and/or entire reproductive systems can find a home in which they are safe to spend the time it takes to begin putting themselves back together again.

One of the most tragic stories is about Jane, a young woman who survived the killing of her family and horrific rape. Jane is one of the very few women fortunate enough to receive the warmth, care and skills she needed to find her will to live (survivors stay for 6 months and facility only holds 90 women between the ages of 18 to 30 at a time).

Jane’s current happiness, her ambition and confidence in her ability to support himself, her belief in the possibility of a happy future and her commitment to help other survivors is witness to the power of programs like the City of Joy. 


Madeleine Gavin's Directorial debut gives us a look into the women living in the City of Joy center and the reluctant friendship between Congolese doctor, Dr. Denis Mukwege a 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Eve Ensler  the founder of V Day  and Tony Award winning playwright of The Vagina Monologues  and Christine Schuler Deschryver a Congolese human rights activist and the director of the center.

This film makes one thing very clear. These women and girls are having their lives, souls and bodies shattered because of greed.

“I think people are so surprised to find out how complicit we all are in these wars and in the rape because the fact of the matter is, every time a village gets ransacked, and every time a rape is used to get people to flee their villages, it’s so the village can be taken over because of the mines. And so we’re all part of this story, whether we know it or not.” - Eve Ensler

The endless demand for cobalt, copper, diamond, tantalum, tin, and gold has resulted in the growth of militia groups all fighting, raping and killing for personal gain. This is not an internal religious divide. This is not because of internal politics. This happens because of greed. Not just the greed of the men* on the ground but my greed too.

I, maybe like you, use my smartphone all day long. I/we use it to listen to music and podcasts, find the closest Zara, check my social media, watch movies, communicate with friends and loved ones, get business done, order dinner, shop and play games on almost constantly. Which means I’ve/we’ve got to charge it all the time.  

Which means I/we need cobalt. The value of which has skyrocketed since the invention of rechargeable batteries for things like iPhones and electric cars.

In 2012, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted former president Barack Obama’s Dodd-Frank Act  that required companies registered with the SEC to disclose the use of conflict minerals sourced from the DRC.

An Amnesty International 2016 Study concluded that most of the companies subject to the reporting requirements of Dodd-Frank continued to pay violent militia to obtain by any means the minerals needed to meet the world’s demand for the latest technology.

On February 17, 2017 Donald Trump drafted an executive order that suspended the Dodd-Frank Act rule entirely.

The power of The City of Joy is the wave effect and Schuler Deschryver has seen many of its graduates become the voice of a raped and terrorized generation.

“They have a mission: when they go back to their communities, it’s to spread the message and everything they learned at City of Joy. So now, we even have some women who are the chief of their village. Some of them are partners of V-Day to help recruit more women. Some are now directors of schools, and some of them, because they had communication classes, they’re at a local radio station. And they go and help the other girls … it’s amazing. It’s like we’ve created a whole network of women in solidarity. So it’s thrilling, and hopefully this will inspire people to wake up to not only what’s happening in the Congo, but also just to think about how we can create literal and metaphoric City of Joys everywhere.” - Schuler Deschryver

This is where I ask myself how I can be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Watching this video is a good place to start.

Article by VERVE Founder & CFO (Chief Feminist Operative) Anna Quick Palmer