Nicola who is the oldest daughter of a friend of mrs maytrees, has been over the past couple of weeks, helping to organise an exhibition at London's Conway Hall about the plight of women in the Congo a country which she had visited as a journalist a couple of years back. Nicola's mother asked us to attend the exhibition which we did yesterday.
In fact Nicola's mother and father gave me a book "Blood River" by Tim Butcher a former Telegraph reporter I believe, a year or so ago as a birthday present. The front cover note on my edition of the book reading "The Terrifying Journey Through the World's Most Dangerous Country", I felt after finishing the book was sadly not an exaggeration. The note has since been altered to read "A journey to Africa's Broken Heart."
Conway Hall is in the same London square as the old Holborn College of Law Languages and Commerce which college has long since been absorbed into what is now called Westminster University. Seeing the old boarded up college building almost opposite the Conway Hall caused me to reflect that about 90% of its students in its pre-university days seemed to be from Africa with sadly a London University External degree failure rate of not much under 90% as I recall - but I digress...
The exhibition was fascinating although on Saturday, male visitors were vastly out numbered by the ladies. The exhibition centre piece in my view anyway, was a brief film introducing a male doctor (gynacologist) from the Congo who had originally fled for his life from the tragic violence there. I think that his name is Dr Denis Mukwege although apologies if I have mis-remembered.
The descriptions of the raping of so many women perhaps as part of a military campaign to subdue the population were horrifying. The difficulties experienced by the women and the many children both the offspring of the raped women and the other children are appalling. There seems to have been an overwhelming lack of local support for many who were violated and their consequential offspring but I suppose poverty and dreadful fear and traditional attitude to unmarried mothers, coupled with grave deprivation of education, do not help. Many men and boys too were simply slaughtered.
One could not help feeling despondent at on the one hand seeing photographs of the lush and verdant landscape yet on the other learning that food production is so poor that the United Nations are having to ship in food supplies to assist the starving population. Yet what is being done will surely begin to bear fruit both literally and metaphorically as money being raised is I understand assisting local women to acquire some land for agriculture and farming - I hope so but wonder why meanwhile there is so little publicity about the hideous sufferings in such a potentially fruitful country.
Ultimately though I wonder how much outsiders can do as the wars in the Middle East and Afganistan are sadly illustrating.