YOU Can Help End Conflict in Africa

I’m sure I’ve said it on this blog before, but volunteering with JGI has really given me the opportunity to learn about a lot of new things. Last week, we launched a campaign on this blog to raise awareness about the current conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). DRC is rich in many of the minerals that are used in our everyday electronics—including cell phones, laptops, and tablets—and these conflict minerals are fueling a horrendously violent civil war in much the same way that more commonly known “blood diamonds” fuel conflict elsewhere.

I had heard of coltan before and even heard about how it had become a conflict mineral, but it was through this JGI campaign that I really started to learn more about the devastating effects of the conflict to which it contributes. I mean, we’re talking about five million deaths here. Five. Million. It boggles the mind. When I saw that figure, it was like someone slugged me in the stomach. How could my darling laptop—the tool that I use for hours on end to write like a fiend—be contributing to that?

Quite frankly, learning more about this conflict also made me feel a bit helpless. I love my laptop—and I hate that it could have contributed to this conflict, but even more than that, I hated that it felt like there was nothing that I could do about it.

But there is! There are things that we can all do.

The easiest step that you can take is to sign JGI Canada’s petition to support the Conflict Minerals Act (bill C-486), which would require Canadian companies using materials mined in DRC to disclose whether armed groups may have profited from mineral mining or processing (essentially giving Canadians the opportunity to shop for “conflict-free” goods).

Go ahead and click on that link now to sign.

You did? You’re back? Great! Why not tweet about the petition now or share it on your Facebook page? Spreading the word is another simple way to help us build momentum for the campaign. (While you’re at it, you can connect with us on Twitter and Facebook to find out more about the campaign and other activities, too.)

By signing the petition and sharing it, YOU just brought DRC a step closer to peace. There’s even more that you (yes, YOU) can do. You can mobilize your community. JGI Canada has created a guide about how to become a Community Mobilizer, which is free to download. The guide includes a poster that you can use to spread the word at your school or elsewhere in your own neighbourhood. You can also collect signatures for the petition—and if you collect more than 500 signatures, you’ll receive a personal THANK-YOU from Dr. Goodall!

We’re just getting warmed up. You have the power to do even more!

You can reach out to influential people in your community to help build public support for the campaign—and get more signatures for the petition. Every community is different, so you’d have to do your homework to figure out who the best people in your community might be, but you could start with a local politician or prominent business owner who has already demonstrated some interest in the need for conflict-free products. You could also engage your local media (newspapers, radio stations, neighbourhood magazines, or even prominent bloggers) to spread the word to a wider audience, all while encouraging people to sign the JGI petition. (If you do reach out to the media and someone would like to speak to a representative from JGI, please contact us at beth@janegoodall.ca—and please refer to page 8 of the Community Mobilizer guide for more details.)

Are you a people person who would rather talk to others, you know, in person? Perfect! Then why not host an awareness event of your own or set up a booth at an existing community event? Doing so would give you the chance to chat with your fellow community members directly, and you can also encourage people to sign the JGI petition on the spot (either by having a laptop with internet access at your booth or printing the paper copies available in the Community Mobilizer guide).

I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling particularly helpless anymore. In fact, I have some important e-mails to send…some posters to print…some journalists to engage…And I hope that you’ll do the same.

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