Every time you spend a dollar, you're investing money in your future. Your money goes to work in the world, but all too often it goes to support institutions and corporations that perpetuate injustice, pollute the environment and destroy communities--much without your knowledge. Despite that truth, we can change that. We can use our economic power to push for socially and environmentally responsible businesses; and put our global society on a more sustainable path.
Though it has become common knowledge that the diamond trade has caused decades of bloodshed and oppression, many consumers still continue to seek diamond products without truly knowing the ramifications of their purchase. At this very moment Zimbabwe is under incredible scrutiny for disregarding foreign policies and knowingly allowing blood diamonds from their diamond fields to flood the international diamond market, which will be purchased by the unassuming diamond consumer. Like many others that have purchased diamonds, I was horrified by the truths I discovered behind the diamond industry which is why I founded The Greener Diamond. The Greener Diamond's mission is to help educate consumers about the roles they play when purchasing conflict natural resources, such as diamonds. We aim to offer solutions and help rebuild mining communities in Africa that have suffered due to the diamond trade.
Diamond mines were established in the Kono region of Sierra Leone in the 1930's. However, local workers have never received the benefits of these luxury items. In fact, the diamond trade has since led to corruption, conflicts and has furthered poverty in the community. Civil Wars began in the 1990's when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) seized the diamond fields. Like with many other rebel groups, the RUF implemented forced labor practices so they could exchange valuable natural resources for weapons and cash in order to fund their terrorist acts. Forced recruitment of children also took place to fight in wars and work in the diamond fields because of their size and ability to be easily manipulated.
Although the last 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone has "officially" ended, the source of the problem is far from over. Tens of thousands of women, children and infants are being raped and tortured by rebels who are still known to be using conflict diamonds as funding. All the while thousands continue to die from the lack of basic necessities, poor living conditions, and continued rebel attacks. Sierra Leone produces approximately $70 to $250 million in gems annually, despite this, the district of Kono is devastated and one of the poorest in the world. Today Kono is in desperate need for redevelopment.
In August, The Greener Diamond initiative joined by Johnny Littlefield from ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and acclaimed child rights activist and Liberian civil war survivor Kimmie Weeks will be headed to Kono to help plant rice fields, so that its young people can work, while also supplying much needed food to the community. Subsequently, these acts can help to save the lives of hundreds, possibly thousands of starving civilians. Life expectancy in this area is only 34 years old, less than half of the population can read, and maternal mortality rates are the highest in the world--this initiative hopes to begin changing some of those statistics.
Change will only come through action motivated by the sincere understanding of the impact of our decisions. I encourage you to investigate for yourself and make an informed decision before you make your next diamond purchase. To learn more about the Greener Diamond and alternatives to conflict resources. Please visit: http://www.thegreenerdiamond.org
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