Rising nearly 20,000 feet, Mt. Kilimanjaro, known as the “Mountain of Light,” is the highest freestanding mountain in the world. In order to reach the summit, climbers must walk 38,680 steps. Although climbing to the summit is not as treacherous as Mt. Everest, it is still considered very dangerous because of the high risk of elevation sickness, the extreme temperatures and severe winds.
Despite the danger, this March, a team of sixteen brave people will be climbing to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. They aren’t climbing for personal gain, to check off a bucket list item or to post amazing selfies onto Facebook (although I don't think we would blame them if they did!). No, they are climbing to BREAK THE SILENCE and to bring attention to and raise support for women who are suffering unbearable violence in war zones.
That is the percentage of women in the Congo who suffer from war time violence. If you were to walk around in the Dominican Republic of Congo, that would mean that nearly every single women you walked by or interacted with would have suffered from sexual violence. It is, without surprise, considered the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman.
It is possibly more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in conflicts today.
UN Force Commander Major General Patrick Cammaert
How are we so unaware that this is happening?
It is the silence on this issue and the thumbprint of one inspiring woman, Esperance, that inspired Belinda Bauman to found the organization called 1 Million Thumbprints. Belinda met Esperance while on a trip to the Dominican Republic of Congo. This woman had been through more in her lifetime than any of us could even imagine. After watching her husband die at the hands of rebels, she was violently raped and almost died. The mother of four was left as a widow and also the trauma of sexual violence. Despite facing something that could have destroyed her, she is living as a peacemaker in this dangerous war zone. In order to give her permission to share her story, she asked her pastor to write the words, “Tell my story,” and underneath the words, she stamped her thumbprint.
Belinda was moved so much through this encounter, that she felt the mandate to not just share Esperance’s story, but to share the stories of the thousands who had faced these atrocities. Yet, sharing their stories is only the beginning. 1 Million Thumbprints believes that many things need to be done in order to bring about change for these women. These involve emergency assistance for survivors, training women peace-keeping leaders in communities, providing economic and educational development opportunities, and advocacy on a global level.
We can’t turn away from these women. Although most of us are unable to physically travel to war zone areas like the Congo, we CAN be a part of the peace-making efforts in which 1 Million Thumbprints and women like Esperance are involved.
Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, act.
There are four simple ways you can get involved RIGHT NOW to help spread the work of 1 Million Thumbprints.
1. Visit the 1 Million Thumbprints website to read more about the violence facing women in war zones. They have a powerful blog that will break your heart but also inspire you and fire you up for change.
2. Add your own thumbprint. Your thumbprint is a sign to the UN and other government officials that people are desiring change. A movement of many has begun, and they need to take notice and do something about it.
3. Collect thumbprints. Once you have learned about what these women are facing, you will want to share this information with others. You can speak to your church, MOPS group, small groups or at conferences about wartime violence and collect the thumbprints of individuals in those places. Every thumbprint is another “signature” to enforce the fact that people do care and want something done.
4. Give something - ANYTHING. Every dollar counts in the efforts of organizations directly involved in building programs to help restore piece at the grassroots level in these war zones. 1 Million Thumbprints has partnered with World Relief, an organization that does just that. Give $1 dollar, $5 dollars, or more today here.
Envision a world where women are free from the fear of violence, oppression, and poverty caused by war
Will you be a part of bringing light to and change for one of the most difficult problems our world faces today? We at Deliberate Women encourage you to step out and make today the final day that you ignore the problem and be a part of the solution.
- Ginny Hannan / Outreach Coordinator for DW