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Saving Women in Congo

A young American dropped everything to help the women of Congo. We hear her story.

Lisa Shannon (front row, third from left), founder of Run for Congo Women, with friends. (Credit: Raymond Kalume)

Lisa Shanon had a good job and a boyfriend in Oregon. Then, she gave it all up and put on her running shoes.

Today, she organizes runs around the country to help the women of Congo—a place she calls the worst place on earth to be a woman. They are raped and tortured daily. Children are dying by the thousands.

Lisa has raised millions of dollars, inspired a global grass roots effort, and testified before Congress. Now, she’s telling the stories of her “sisters” in a new book.


Lisa Shannon, founder of Run for Congo Women, which has helped sponsor more than 1,400 women in Congo. Her new book is “A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman.” You can read an excerpt.

David Sullivan, policy manager, Enough, an advocacy group that focuses on issues of genocide and crimes against humanity.

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  • j

    The terror described sounds like an alarm about how humanity is being upset by these powers and I think it would help to consider it in that perspective rather than introducing a divisiveness by only considering the terror against a specific gender

  • http://www.iamdark.com Jeanette Michelle

    What exactly is the government doing about this situation in the Congo? What is the UN doing about this? I hear about this often and I can’t understand why other countries are not getting involved to stop this madness!

  • Michael Carmody

    Tom usually balanced the two hours, with he first being serious pressing issues, the second being lighter, cultural, etc… Things are terrible in the Congo, but why do we near the grisly details of killing torture and rape. An important issue, but let’s get some balance please

  • Jim

    i salute lisa’s effort. this issue is long, long overdue for national attention. every person in this world should have a chance to live peacefully.

  • Tatiana

    Hi Jane,

    Would you please ask Lisa if there are any plans to expand the runs into other countries so that more people around the world can participate? There’s been a big boom in running as a sport in Brazil where I now live and I think a project like this would be very well received here.


  • g

    I would like to sign up to sponsor a woman in Congo.
    How much of the $27/month does the woman actually get and how far would it cover her expenses and what else can I do to help?

  • http://www.iamdark.com Jeanette Michelle

    Let’s get some balance? Are you out of your mind? This is a serious issue that need to be discussed, which people like you does not acknowledge! People need to be aware and maybe, just maybe something will happen! These people are being tormented! It’s amazing how we were so eager to invade Irag, but we don’t want to talk about the degredation of the people in the Congo! Go back to the rock you crawled from underneath!

  • Steve

    Margaret Mead said that “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

    Mother Teresa said “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

    These women speak to the power of what Lisa is doing and why she would literally leave everything and follow this passion. Keep up the great work, Lisa.

  • http://challenginglachesis.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Very powerful description of a very important topic. Thanks for this.

    Anyone who has not seen Hotel Rwanda needs to.

  • Dora Chan

    Thank you so much – people like you make the world turn.

  • Matthew

    Your guest mentioned that she did not know how to stop the violence, but the mineral deposites for which the militias are fighting are used to supply a growing Western demand. Does it not stand to reason that more people not buying a new i-phone every year would cut the demand for such materials? Yes, the militias are to blame and should be brought to justice. Yes, major Western mega-companies are to blame, but so are average people here. We, as global citizens (on point listeners), cannot expect anything to change without changing our own habits.

  • michael

    i give thanks to your guest and the work there doing over there and wish them luck

  • joyce dann

    Fantastic work, Lisa!! How can we sponsor a woman?

  • http://wburboston Susan

    The horror of traumatic fistula: the destruction of women and girls’ vaginas and rectums – sometimes permanent – from repeated gang rapes and destruction from insertion and other damage from weapons threatens to destroy the victims, their families and their communities. They are often left unable to bear childern and most often incontinent – unable to contol unrine and/or feces. These victims have the shame of the the smell from this trauma to the body that they fear will cause their husbands to shun them.

    There are courageous medical and counseling caregivers that have gotten provided help, but everyone in the world has to understand this horror and do everything possible to raise money to fund long-term care and rehabilitation for these girls and women and stop this unspeakable violence and destruction.

  • Anthony Adamczyk

    Response to Michael Carmody (“Tom usually balanced the two hours, with he first being serious pressing issues, the second being lighter, cultural, etc… Things are terrible in the Congo, but why do we near the grisly details of killing torture and rape. An important issue, but let’s get some balance please”)
    Seriously? Did the “grisly details” spoil your comfy brunch? Please have your wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter, mother listen to the program and then read your idiotic comment. If you still have the use of your arms, please write again!

  • Diane

    What is fundamentally wrong with the men in the Congo? Can they continue to blame colonization and the Europeans? To kill, rape and mutilate their own neighbors?! Ok, it’s understandable to be upset with their leadership (which is extremely corrupt)but their thinking is so flawed they don’t see another way to protest? Can these men (boys) ever be rehabilitated?

    Lisa, you are an amazing person and I thank you for brining this issue to the world.

  • Salamasina Sione

    Please send me information on how I can sponsor sisters in the Congo.

    Thank you, Lisa, for the work you are doing and the example you are living.

  • Neal Rauch

    Just a historical correction: We did NOT go to war with Germany to rescue Jews, as a caller indicated. The liberation of the death camps was incidental. There was fierce resistance from the U.S. to taking any direct actions to thwart the Holocaust (including bombing the tracks leading to the camps or the crematoria inside them).

    Otherwise, great show and admirable work by the guests.

  • http://onpointradio.org Rod Bowlin

    Great story.
    I am on my lunch break and did hear the story from the beginning.
    When I started listening your quest was talking about computer companies that would not corporate until a law was past.
    I will be in the market to buy a computer. I would like to know which companies (if any) did agree to corporate with your quest before it became law?

  • http://DearHillaryCampaignfortheCongo LaurieGagne

    Hi Jane,

    I’m so inspired by Lisa–in Vermont, we’ve started the Dear Hillary Campaign for the Congo.We applaud what Clinton is doing, but think she could do more. On Oct. 26, her birithday, Dear Hillary chapters all over the country will show Lisa Jackson’s film, The Greatest Silence, and mail birthday postcards to Clinton with a plea that she make this a foreign policy priority. E.g. she could put pressure on Rwanda and Uganda to end the smuggling of conflict minerals.

  • Christina Angell

    The issue of rape in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is discussed in a paper by two researches at a hospital in South Kivu entitled “Rape With Extreme Violence: The New Pathology in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo.” The situation is such that the researches coined their own shorthand term: REV (rape with extreme violence). This 2009 paper can be found on plosmedicine.org and by searching for “rev Congo.”

    The program today could not possibly have been specific about what these researchers describe. Understandably, it had to be spoken about in generalities. The anecdote about the mother’s leg being chopped up and fed to the children was horrible enough; this kind of brutality is linked to sexual violence in ways that I found to be more shocking than anything I’ve ever heard of in the history of crimes against humanity.

    I commend Jane’s guests for their work on this issue.

  • jeffe

    Neal Rauch is correct. The US did not go to war to rescue Jew or anyone else for that matter. We went to war because Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on the US. The ugly truth is that the US kept countless Jewish refuges from immigrating here during the war.

    Listening to Lisa Shanon tell these stories of unbelievable horrors was hard to do. I was also taken by her wonderful sense of humanity. Something that is in short supply these days. One thing that really is interesting about today’s shows is how they both frame intolerance, ignorance and in the case of the Congo evil.

    I see BUR has shut down the comments on the show Fiery Rhetoric on American Islam. What I find interesting is how in both shows the common thread is the demonetization if the other.

  • Ann

    What amazing work Lisa has elected to do. Both guests, Lisa and David, were terrifically articulate and brought a compelling gravitas to the subject and to ideas for solutions. Thank you for airing this show. Great courage all around. We can all take lessons from Lisa’s example, even if we apply the lessons within the context of what is possible for us to accomplish. Every individual effort that is done within the scale of “the do-able” will help. Thank you.

  • GlobalGramma

    To: g,
    Sponsored women receive $5 cash each month, $5 each month is set aside that she receives as seed money to start a small business. The rest of the $27 goes to educational programs for her, including a group with other women who share similar experiences. That group provides her with a network of support and the opportunity to begin her emotional healing. The goal of the educational program is to give the woman tools necessary to become economically self-sufficient. Women receive literacy training if necessary, vocational training, training in how to run a small business, and human rights training.

    It is a good program. It isn’t ideal, there are still unmet needs (the needs of these women is too great to be covered by $27/month), but it is a beginning, and gives these women critical support at a critical time, and there is little to nothing else out there offering them anything at all. It means the world to these women, and many of them have told Lisa directly when she has visited Congo, “My child is alive because of you [translation: because you sponsored me].”

    To sponsor or donate: go to http://www.runforcongowomen.org, click on SPONSOR, and choose Democratic Republic of Congo as your 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of country.

    To follow Lisa’s blog: http://www.athousandsisters.com/blog (if you go back through January, she has some amazing on-the-ground blogs from Congo.)

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