Still I Rise will begin a new project: an educational centre for children exploited in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo, located in the southern region of Katanga. After a long period of work behind the scenes, the organisation has just received the ministerial authorisations to start operations.
Nicolò Govoni and Giovanni Volpe, respectively Executive Director and Nairobi Program Manager, are ready to travel to the Country, where they will meet stakeholders and partners to collaborate in the start-up of the project.
"The decision to begin operations in DRC was strikingly straightforward. The undeniable abuse of children's rights within these mining regions was startling. It was a call to action for us, to begin a new program, emulating our similar successful programs as seen in Greece and Syria; to provide a safe space for children, provide them with the education they deserve and support their families to thrive", says Sarah Evans, Programs Director at Still I Rise.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the richest and one of the poorest countries in the world, at the same time. Its natural resources are unparalleled: there are precious mineral deposits underground and the soil is covered by the world's second largest rainforest, which provides valuable timber. The country alone produces more than 3% of the copper and 50% of the cobalt sold in the world. Diamonds, coltan, gold and oil are also found in abundance in the territory. Yet of all this wealth, little remains in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The result is dramatic: the Country ranks 175th out of 189 countries in terms of human development index. Furthermore, 72% of people live in extreme poverty, on less than €1.50 a day, without access to essential services. As a result, the situation for children is catastrophic: 43% suffer from malnutrition, 3.5 million children of primary age are out of school and 86% of 10-year-olds cannot understand a primary text. The Katanga region, where most of the mining is concentrated, also has the highest child mortality rate in the world: 1 in 5 children dies before the age of 5.
Child labour is a well-known scourge: although the country has announced its intention to eliminate the use of children in mining by 2025, following an Amnesty International report, children continue to be exploited without any respect for their human rights. According to an estimate by UNICEF (2014), around 40,000 children are involved in cobalt mining. The work shifts are up to 12 hours a day, during which the children dig the rock with their bare hands, carrying bags of stones that are often heavier than they are. The pay varies from 1 to 2 euros per day, at the discretion of the traders who pay according to the weight and purity of the minerals extracted.
The many accounts of abuse, violence and exploitation experienced by Congolese refugee students enrolled in the Still I Rise International School in Nairobi, Kenya, led the organisation to focus on the situation of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It worked as a backwards path, leading from the symptom to the heart of the problem. Months and months of feasibility studies, contacts with stakeholders and in-depth research followed, until the ministerial paperwork was started and the Ministry of Justice gave the authorisation to operate.
Still I Rise will run an emergency intervention, based on a similar model already tested in Samos, Greece, and in the city of Ad Dana, North-West Syria. The educational centre will be built in an area where many of the mines are concentrated and where the conditions for child workers are alienating and unbearable.
In order to remove children from child labour, the organisation will implement strategies already tried and tested in other operations. These will include awareness-raising activities and distributing basic necessities to families, such as food parcels, clothes and hygiene kits, so that the children are no longer forced to work and can receive the education they deserve. Still I Rise is launching a fundraising campaign to cover the costs of starting the work and opening the centre: target €30,000. (Press release)