With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, many of us are probably gearing up for some intense Black Friday deals. While stocking up on Red Bull and coffee to survive the night, however, be conscious of what you’re buying. Major companies such as Nintendo, Canon, and HTC are indirectly supporting armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and by passively buying their products you become part of the problem.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is famous for its mineral-filled mines, particularly tungsten, tin, gold, and tantalum. When armed conflict re-ignited in 2009, rebel groups throughout the region seized control of these mines. In order to make a profit, these rebel groups commit a number of human rights abuses, such as child soldiering, forced labor, and gender based violence (resulting in mass rape and genital mutilation). The minerals that are extracted under these abhorrent conditions are then sold to major technology corporations, which use them to fuel gaming systems, cell phones, computers, and everything in between. Because these conflict minerals are so cheap (as the rebel mines don’t have to pay their workers), corporations won’t stop using them unless someone makes them. That’s where you come in.

As consumers, we have far more power than we realize; without us, companies go bankrupt. If we, as a united front, demand action to be taken then there will be change. Some companies, such as Apple, have already heeded their customers’ demands and have invested in conflict-free mines in the DRC, thus helping to support their economy as well as helping to put an end to the gross human rights atrocities in the region. We can use the power of the purse to our advantage; we can shape the world, and we can save lives.

I’m not suggesting a complete boycott of all goods from companies that aren’t making strides to ensure that their modes of production are conflict free (despite my passion for this issue, I have a deep-seeded love for the Pokemon franchise that isn’t just going to go away overnight). I’m just advocating for greater awareness and greater transparency. Don’t be afraid to make some noise, to stand up for what you believe in. Contact some of the biggest offenders, whether it be directly through letters or phone calls or indirectly through your buying habits this holiday season, and let them know that this is something that you’re passionate about. Alone we cannot make much of a difference, but together, we’re unstoppable.

So as you’re starting your holiday shopping over the next couple of weeks, keep in mind the price that some people are paying to fuel that shiny new laptop or tablet. After all, are rape and slavery really in the holiday spirit?

For a more comprehensive list of how your favorite electronic company stacks up against others in terms of conflict mineral usage, check out RAISE Hope for Congo’s evaluations at: http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/companyrankings

For more information about how we can work together to make UD a conflict free campus, visit: https://www.facebook.com/ConflictFreeAtUd

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Chelsey Anne Rodowicz

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