April 12, 2009

Clothing With a Cause

For my service project for my upcoming Bat Mitzvah, I chose to work to help the people of Darfur and am using this post to talk about it and hopefully convince you to help as well.

"Genocide" is a sickening word. I think it's safe to say that few people like hearing it. The big red dictionary on this desk defines it as "The systematic, planned annihilation of a racial, political, or cultural group," and though this is true, the aftermath and emotions and torture go way beyond a 12-word sentence. What took place in Rwanda wasn't recognized as a genocide until it was over, arguably because no one wanted to believe that after numerous other genocides there was still one happening. Millions of people being murdered is not something we can ignore because "it's just how politics work" or "people will learn eventually." How many more genocides will it take until people DO "learn eventually," I wonder.

For years there has been tension between the African farmers and Arabic nomads in the southern region of Sudan due to the unfortunate combination of little water and lots of mouths to feed. The Africans felt the Arab government were treating them cruelly and attacked. In response, the Arab government decided to end riots by sponsoring the Janjaweed militia. Entire villages are destroyed in a single night, and the responsible ones run out with the landscape in flames behind them. They go for the young and vulnerable women and girls once the stronger males are gone and can't help protect the others, and even then there is an entire process that comes before murdering them.

To the very religious in Sudan, it is considered a crime to murder a virgin. So, the people in the Janjaweed militia force young girls into marriage, rape them as early as 2 minutes after the ceremony, and kill them right afterwords. No quick and painless deaths, there is humiliation and embarrassment and torture to come beforehand.

Pain is inflicted not only in the terms of being a victim, but seeing those you love as victims as well. Being forced to watch your mom raped or your dad killed, your daughter taken away or your son starve, your brother slaughtered or your sister forced into marriage for doing nothing except existing.

What about when the genocide is over? Then we'll have done our work, right? A genocide can't be ignored even after it ends, because those that were affected by it once will be affected by it for the rest of their lives. It's a big mess to clean up, and it will continue for years afterwards. Emotional and physical wounds need healing, and it sure doesn't take a couple months or even a couple years.

Well, no one person can change the world, so why even bother? There are already lots of people in this protest, what difference would it make if another person came? This type of attitude is too common and untrue. We are told we learn about history so we don't repeat it, but even now in the 21st century, after numerous other genocides, approximately 4 million of innocent citizens have been killed for no reason in Darfur.

For my project, I've decided to combine my passion for clothes with helping the victims in Darfur. For the next month or so, I'm putting up around 10 items of clothing or accessories- some brand new and some vintage- every week on eBay and every cent made will go towards STAND, a division of the Genocide Intervention Network. All of these are things I would wear myself; I'm not just trying to get rid of clothes I don't like so I'm not putting in anything other than the time it takes to operate an eBay store. Some of these don't fit, some I could just imagine some awesome bloggers rocking way better than me. A few organizations give the money directly to the people, which has good intentions, but more often than not these people are stolen from and end up having to buy their own medicine and food once again. The money stolen goes to the people killing them. I chose STAND because they use the money to pressure rich and powerful governments into doing something about the genocide. To learn more about STAND, click here.
These are a few items already up and a few that will be going up soon. I will be posting the items on sale here as well as at another blog I started, Clothing With a Cause, which will be linked to from here and the eBay item pages. CWAC will have more detailed photos than the ones on eBay and those that I post here. To see all the items currently listed, visit it here. I'll also update it every so often with how much money has been raised so we can see how far we've gotten and how much further we can go.

How are you supposed to know that all profits will be going to STAND? Well, to be frank, you don't. But if it makes any difference, I can assure you it will. If you can put your trust in that I wouldn't spend 2 hours writing an 8 paragraph post just to con people into giving me money, you're awesome. I feel my needs are satiated and I'm pretty well-off, the least I can do is try to help those that aren't as fortunate.
I'm not asking for donations, either. You're getting an item of clothing or an accessory in exchange for your money. You benefit, and so do the people of Darfur. I benefit by being happy to know I could help a few people at once and get a little more room in my closet.

Important links:
Clothing With a Cause
The eBay store
STAND

I am extremely thankful to those that read this whole thing and to those that bid on any of the items. If anyone wants to spread the word about CWAC, no need to email me because any exposure for the project is helpful. Just comment with a link when it's up and I will give you an internet chocolate bar and hug. And and and, thanks to Mary, who has been extremely wonderful in helping me learn more about Darfur and giving information about different organizations to look into (she actually volunteers for STAND, but was fair and provided truthful info about other places as well.) Not only is she a fantastic writer and dresser, but Mary has lots of hugely helpful posts about Darfur, the STAND program, and more history on genocides which are great to check out if you want to learn more.

Feel free to ask questions and I'll get back super quick. No question is stupid or ignorant! Since a number of wealthy governments don't want to spend time or money on Darfur, they don't educate the people around them about it. I don't necessarily believe that design will change the world, but this might help a bit.
Thanks guys!
xx