“Lisa Shannon read our report – and started a movement.” O, The Oprah Magazine
Campaign for a UN Convention on Violence Against Women
Violence Against Women (VAW), in some of its manifestations, is covered in a patchwork of treaties, resolutions, recommendations, declarations, and UN campaigns. But the fact is that there is no instrument that addresses VAW in an unambiguous, comprehensive, legally binding manner. The oppression of women through violence must be elevated in the eyes of international law as a class of crime in its own right, through a Convention on Violence Against Women. Lisa is presently in the exploratory phase of developing a coalition of women’s advocates, survivors, grassroots activists, and UN Member states to develop such a legal instrument. Stay tuned.
Run for Congo Women
Sprawled on the couch watching an Oprah segment, Lisa learned about the conflict in Congo, the deadliest war since World War II, and the world’s worst sexual violence. Yet she had never heard of it. And neither had almost anyone else. She decided to run 30 miles to raise funds for Congolese women through Women for Women International
O Magazine’s companion piece described a Congolese woman begging her attacker for her life. The attacker replied, “Even if I killed you, what would it matter? You’re not human. You’re like an animal. Even if I killed you, you would not be missed.” To Lisa, the world’s silence on Congo mirrored the perpetrators. It screamed that millions of Congolese are not missed, not worth our attention or effort. If she did nothing, she felt she would be echoing that statement.
Her initial goal was thirty miles and thirty one-year sponsorships for Congolese women through Women for Women International (WfWI) (Link). She ran, without a clue of what the effect might be, and managed raised eighty sponsorships ($28,000).
Those early efforts were blind hope. She had no fundraising, organizing, or public speaking experience. She abandoned her business and fiancé to volunteer full time for Congo. But every step and every bit of media coverage allowed her to talk about Congo. She was laying a foundation for a movement.
Eight years, a book, and several trips to Congo later, Run for Congo Women and Lisa’s media coverage have reached tens of millions of people with the story of Congo, while raising more than $15 million dollars, doubling the size of WfWI’s Congo program, and directly aiding more than 90,000 Congolese women and children. To read more about Run for Congo Women, visit Lisa’s Press page. To learn more about Run for Congo Women, visit www.runforcongowomen.org.
Congo Conflict Minerals’ 45,000 Penny Campaign
In May 2010, Lisa learned tech industry lobbyists were attempting to weaken proposed legislation on ‘conflict minerals’. Though conflict minerals are a primary financial driver of Congo’s violence, industry complained the legislation would be “burdensome”, even when their own experts at the time projected the costs to be less than 1ȼ per product.
Outraged, Lisa grabbed her Mom. They loaded up the car with 45,000 pennies representing Congo’s monthly conflict-related death toll. They drove down the West Coast to confront industry giants like of Apple, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel. Their offer: We’ll pay the extra penny. Congolese lives are worth it.
Hundreds joined them on Facebook, pouncing on tech company pages and those of every ready-to-cave Senator. Their pennies stood up against the ‘big bucks’ of retail, manufacturing, jewelry, and tech lobbies – and won. Conflict minerals accountability measures passed intact. To read more about the campaign, visit Lisa’s Press page. To learn more about what you can do about conflict minerals from the Congo, visit www.raisehopeforcongo.org
Lisa had been haunted for years by Somalia. But the policy experts she asked about working there flatly dismissed the idea with “Nobody goes to Mogadishu.” Then a veteran aid worker introduced Lisa to Fartun Adan, a Somali woman activist working with child soldiers.
The situation for women was dire. Mass gang rape was commonplace, as was sexual slavery and executions by stoning. Survivors had nowhere to turn.
Lisa asked Fartun to develop a vision for the first sexual violence crisis center in Mogadishu. With 30 pledges of $10 a month and handwritten notes of encouragement to give survivors, Lisa promised to raise $120,000 to fund the program’s first year and traveled to Mogadishu during a period of intense fighting to launch the program in July of 2011.
Lisa promoted the project and Fartun through major international media outlets. Their interviews focused global awareness on the scale and frequency that Somali women were being sexually attacked in camps housing those displaced by famine. Fartun, Lisa and Sister Somalia shifted the global conversation on rape in Somalia by generating one that had never even existed.
As Fartun helped more than 2000 women and girls rebuild their lives, she also worked relentlessly for long term societal changes, driving for new structures to protect and serve women and girls as Somalia began emerging from chaos and domination by al-Shabaab terrorists.
Major philanthropic foundations and international agencies such as the U.N. began partnering with Sister Somalia and Fartun’s organization, the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre. In only a year and a half, an expanded annual budget of a million dollars is in place. The program is now expanding beyond Mogadishu, to provide rural Somali women with resources after sexual attack.
Given the excellence of the Sister Somalia program and that it is fully vetted by its other international partners such as the U.N., full ownership of every aspect of the Sister Somalia program has been transferred to Fartun’s leadership through her Canadian non-profit, the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre. To read more about Sister Somalia, visit www.sistersomalia.org.
A Thousand Sisters
An outgrowth of Lisa’s first book, A Thousand Sisters, this online community is a hub for adult women and men aiming to advocate for Congo. They have engaged in all manner of online and in person actions for Congo, from virtual marches on Washington to Outcry for Congo, when Lisa, her mom Ann, and and handful of other “sisters” camped for a week in front of the State Department in 7-degree wind-chill, calling for a comprehensive Congo Plan Now. To check out the community on Facebook, or browse the website at www.athousandsisters.org.