The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a country located in Central Africa. It has an abundance of mineral resources. In fact, the country is widely considered to be the richest country in the world in terms of natural resources.
The untapped deposits of DRC’s raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US $24 trillion. It has 70% of the world’s coltan, a third of its cobalt, more than 30% of its diamond reserves, and a tenth of its copper.
But despite this vast mineral wealth, its economy has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. Its citizens are among the poorest people on earth; the Congolese people are consistently assigned the lowest, or near lowest, nominal GDP (gross domestic product) per capita in the world. Wars led by brutal rebel movements have become synonymous with the DRC.
Because the DRC is a fortunate country in terms of resources, questions arise around the country’s contradicting position, such as the total chaos and impoverishment the country is experiencing. In the eastern part of the country, constant war and violence have caused huge damaged to the human population.
Since 2004, when the Kivu Armed Conflict began between the military of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, violence has continued in the eastern part of the country to this day. Due to the strategic location of the eastern part with neighboring countries, rebels take advantage, exploiting the resources of the country. Rebels smuggle minerals across the border into Uganda and Rwanda, where they are exported to Europe, North America and Asia. Often the rebels use children and women as a cheap labor source.
Children are enlisted into the rebel movement. Those who resist are either burned alive or decapitated along with their family. It is a nightmarish scene for many children, especially for the girls who are kept uneducated. When they grow up, they do not have access to any source of income; having to depend on their husbands, the unfortunate ones can fall into the hands of rebels, who rape and abandon them. Some observers who have visited the Kivu area, have commented on how difficult life is for many young girls.
With the support of the photographer Meredith Hutchison, the IRC invited some of the girls from eastern DRC to come together and explore their possibilities and cultivate essential skills. The girls, creating visions for their own futures, directed photo shoots based on those visions.
The aim of the project is to tell the girls that they can become what they want to become, if they are determined. Through the project, the IRC will provide support to empower them, to help them become future global leaders.
“We asked every girl to sketch a scene illustrating herself achieving a central goal. Then we re-created the scene and captured it in photographs,” photography director Hutchison said.
A 16-year-old girl identified as Joviale, shared her dream of becoming an architect in the photo shoot: “I am intelligent, cool, courageous, and I am driven. I want to be an architect and I want to be a mother. In this photograph I am already a popular woman known across the continent for having designed amazing monuments and buildings. I research, I innovate with my work, and I am dedicated to being the best in my field.”
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