Imagine facing the immediate threat of torture and rape each day. That’s reality for many women in the Congo, and Linah Richer is committed to making a change.
Richer is the founder and president of F.A.C.E. (Feminist Activists Creating Equality). “After attending LeaderShape 2011 (an intensive self discovery national leadership conference),” she says, “I discovered my passion for women’s rights issues and wanted to raise awareness of the violence against women, the current attack on women’s reproductive rights, and the over-sexualization and scrutinization women are subjected to by not only the media but society as a whole.”
Richer’s desire to help other women is deeply rooted in her own experience: “After being a victim of date rape in high school, I was shown the ugly world of victim blaming but also became aware the prevalence date rape of young women as well as the commonness of other types of violence against women. On the contrary, my eyes were opened to wonderful for organizations like PAAR, who had personally helped me for almost a year after.” Now, Richer sees F.A.C.E. as her way to reach other women facing terrors and injustice of their own. “F.A.C.E is extremely important to me due to the fact that it represents a group of students on campus who are dedicated to raising awareness on issues like violence as well as supporting non-profits like PAAR, who do tremendous work with many women on our campus as well as the greater Pittsburgh community. “
Richer is off to a great start: F.A.C.E. was one of the Outstanding New Student Organization winners this year. “We were so pleased and honored to be nominated and selected as one of the Outstanding New Student Organizations! We hope to continue our work next year and be recognized by campus!”
Want to get involved? You can be a part of their Walk for Congo Women, beneftting Women for Women International, on Saturday, April 13th . “Dr. Bell originally introduced the idea to our organization because she and Miss Robyn Doyle, another community activist, are aware of the organization and have done previous work with Women for Women International,” says Richer. The walk is free for Chatham students, though a $5 donation is suggested. “We are planning on starting the morning off at 10 AM (I know early after Spring formal),” says Richer, “and are walking 2 miles around campus.” Unlike many benefit walks, this one encourages participants to interact and learn along the way. “During the walk we will have different interactive stations with volunteers from the Class of 2015, FACE, and Chatham’s Kony 2012 Action Group,” says Richer. “There is also the Congolese bottle tree exhibit on display on the campus quad created by the Artist Collective organization. We will end the walk at the African Art Gallery on campus with a closing ceremony.”
Taking part in the walk is not only an incredible way to raise awareness, but participants can be confident that their money will go to an organization already improving life in the Congo. “WfWI's program works with the women of the Congo through direct financial assistance, job skills training, rights awareness education, and trauma counseling. More than 31,000 Congolese women have participated and benefited from the program's expansion in 2004.”
Though the Walk for Congo Women is F.A.C.E.’s last major event of the semester, Richer says there are plenty of ways to get involved next semester: “On campus, we will be holding our own organization elections in September, so if anyone is interested in either participating in general membership or in running for an officer position please feel free to contact myself by email!” The rest of 2012 is sure to be packed with fabulous events and opportunities for activism. “Next fall we are kicking off a series of events with the Feminist Majority Foundation for the Get Out Her Vote campaign,” says Richer. “This campaign is aimed at increasing young women’s voter participation, which is especially important with the upcoming election. Statistics have show that women age 18-24 vote less than any other age group and we want to change this number in our communities as well as raise awareness of which candidates vote in favor of women’s rights!”
Whether F.A.C.E. is helping women in the Congo or registering young women to vote, Richer is pioneering a truly powerful presence on campus. "These are the issues that are constantly on my mind and what I am most passionate about," she says, "and I wanted to translate this into something I could bring on campus and share with others."
From Linah: "Registration begins at 9:15 am and the walk begins at 10:00 am on April 14th. Registration for this event will be located in the Jenny King Mellon Library's parking lot (on Chatham University's Campus), which is accessible through Murray Hill Avenue.
Registration fee for this event is $10 dollars for the public, $5 for non-Chatham students, and free for Chatham students with a suggested donation of $5. Walkers are encouraged to ask family members and friends for monetary sponsorship for this worthy cause. Any further donations for Women for Women International can be brought on the event day.
Any one interested in participating in the walk is encouraged to register early and pay the event fee online at http://walkforcongowomenchathamuniversity.eventbrite.com/.
For more information, please visit the Women for Women International's Congo Program website at http://www.runforcongowomen.org/"