The United Nations estimated that on 31 October, the global population reached 7 billion. So in such a packed out world, where’s the worst part we could be living in?
According to the UN’s Human Development Index, the answer is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has the lowest human development. This is measured by the average achievement in the three basic dimensions of a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living.
Once again, Norway takes first place, the UK slips down to 28th position and the United States are fourth.
The BBC reported that the DRC was among the few countries that had no census data for the past 25 years that could be included in the UN’s population estimates.
The UN claimed that: ‘the HDI of Sub-Saharan Africa as a region increased from 0.365 in 1980 to 0.463 today, placing Congo below the regional average. The HDI trends tell an important story both at the national and regional level and highlight the very large gaps in well-being and life chances that continue to divide our interconnected world.’
A woman’s place
War Child UK goes further to describe the country as commonly known as the worst place to be a woman, due to its high levels of rape and sexual violence.
Margot Wallstrom, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict said the Democratic Republic of Congo was the “rape capital of the world”.
The charity claims that over 200,000 women and girls have reported being raped, but the true figure is much higher. And according to them, the crime is underreported in the media because it has been going on for so many years and no longer becomes recognised as news.
A child soldier of the CNDP rebel group, now aged 23, told the BBC that soldiers often feel isolated and neglected by the authorities and often do not get paid. He added: “”After living for a long time in the forest, you don’t see women and so if one woman shows up then all of us, we profit.”
The BBC described it as a “complex war raging against women”. Women are the tragically unfortunate scapegoats of a deeply war-torn country.
When it comes to punishing the accused, Dr Lucy Kasereka of the Heal Africa Hospital told the BBC that there is no decent prison or legal system.
Is there a solution? Provincial Minister for Justice and Human Rights Francois Rucogoza suggested that if the DRC can rid itself of all the armed groups, rape will be a thing of the past. But considering these groups are not just armed but dangerous and judging by their attitudes towards human life, this is very easily said but much harder done.
“Kung Fu Grandma”
Sexual assault is also a major problem in remote parts of Africa. Attackers of women in the Korogocho slum in Nairobi have one force to reckon with: the all-fighting grandmas.
Jeong-One Park, a previous journalism student at Royal Holloway University, completed her final project in Nairobi to document the story of women aged between 50 – 80 who are the target of sexual violence. The main reason the women are vulnerable to attack isn’t because their age makes them an easy target. The reason is there’s an irrational, worryingly uneducated belief that sexual intercourse with a grandma will cure AIDs.
Park called her project “Kung Fu Grandma’. Ujamaa, a non-governmental organisation, helps to hold free violence prevention classes to communities in the area, run by an elderly Kenyan woman. The classes take place twice a week in a rundown community centre and teaches vulnerable women how to stand up against potential violators.
Park’s short film showed the women fiercely throwing punches and kung-fu kicks, shouting “No!” at their stand-in attackers.
Associated Press reported that the Gender Recovery Center at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital treated 2,357 victims of rape in 2009. Of the 1,118 victims, 223 of the women were aged over 60, which is almost 20 percent of the victims. However, national crime statistics are lower than the hospital’s numbers, because of the unreported cases.
Park’s documentary showed promising signs of the empowerment of women, but it’s yet to be seen whether it makes a huge difference to the crime rate. Also, what happens when the criminal is armed with a weapon that can easily sustain an elderly woman’s kick or punch?
Studies by the UN and UNESCO have shown that educating and empowering girls and women is crucial to slowing down population growth.
But it seems as though certain countries need to instill respect for women as an inherent value before this can really take effect.