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Congolese Women Who Escaped Mines Featured In Miami Exhibit

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - They are some of the more than 40,000 women and children working in the dangerous mineral mines in The Democratic Republic of Congo.

"They would mine the copper and the cobalt in the mines and they die for this," said Kaleba Ngoie-Kasongo.

Ngoie-Kasongo is the Executive Director of the HEAR Congo Foundation and is the woman behind a new exhibit now open in Miami.

It tells the story and features the designs, fashions, and portraits of Congolese women who they've helped escape "Out of the Mines," the name of the exhibit.

Three hundred and forty-five women and girls, who've endured the worst and in some cases even been raped, have been rescued.

"If they get picked that day, they have to, unfortunately, provide sexual favors. Not only is it very dangerous it's also very toxic and they have their babies with them working there," said Ngoie-Kasango.

For all of that, Ngoie-Kaesong said they make about $2 or $3 for an entire day.

It's a trade being driven by us. The women mine for the cobalt, a mineral that is used in every lithium-ion battery in the world. It powers everything from our smartphones to laptops and electric cars.

"Just to be plain, the Congo will make you cry but it also will make you happy," said photographer Barry Harley.

Harley traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to capture the women of the mines in portraits with the goal to make them look almost regal, dignified in front of the very mines that cost them so much.

"It's the best and worst of everything, so you have the worst, their situation, and then you have the best, the human spirit," he said.

That human spirit is on display in the colorful creations showcasing the fashions and the jewelry the women designed.

HEAR Congo is helping to get the women back into school and teaching them new skills like sewing, and other ways to make money that would free them from the mines.

Everything, including the portraits of the women, is available for purchase and proceeds go back into the Congo to help the women "Out of the Mines."

The exhibit is on display every night from now until March 22nd at the Design Arts Concepts Studio located at 360 NE 75th Street. To purchase the work online you can go to

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