Maman Shujaa: Hero Women of the Congo
“We have had enough. We call upon our global sisterhood to take action. We will not be quiet until REAL Peace is upon us.” Sign the petition here
The Maman Shujaa Vision for a New Congo
The Maman Shujaa are a women’s movement for Peace in Congo, and for Rights for women, indigenous peoples, communities, and nature. The Maman Shujaa comprise a movement of women in Eastern DRC who are standing up in the worst place in the world to be a woman (according to the United Nations), and saying: “Enough. We are tired of only being caste as casualties of war. We are the womb of this nation, and we demand the insanity stop.” And we are not only saying it in every conversation on the street, but saying it loud and with force online to our worldwide sisterhood.
In July of 2012, Neema started a Media Training Center for Women, which over a matter of months became an internationally recognized voice for Peace in East Congo. Beginning with 10 women in a rented space in a Cyber Café, an empowerment movement was born through connecting Congolese women to their global sisterhood on the worldwide web. They were taught basic digital and internet literacy and registered as members of World Pulse’s online forum. They were taught a curriculum for writing their stories about living in a region the UN calls the worst place in the world to be a woman or girl, and joined to World Pulse’s national campaign to end violence against women. In a few months time, these women who named themselves the Maman Shujaa of Congo (Hero Women of Congo), had Posted hundreds of stories online. As a result, World Pulse was able to boast of hosting the greatest volume of grassroots journalist reporting in Congo. World Pulse packaged the Maman Shujaa stories and solutions and presented them to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.
On December 11th, World Pulse CEO Jensine Larsen stated in an article published in the Huffington Post:
“The untapped leadership potential of the women in the Congo to lead peace and development is staggering. We must support this emerging vocal uprising. If there is to be any hope for the future of the Congo, the world must wake up and listen to these women who have broken through suffocating radio silence to have discovered not only their voices but the means of transmission. After listening to their solutions, we must invest hard resources and back them all the way. Only with this level of partnership are we capable of securing the “miracle solution” the grassroots Hero Women—and many other brave women of the Congo—are kicking and screaming for.”
Hero Women Petition for Peace in Congo
On November 29th, the Maman Shujaa published a petition on Change.org, urging their counterparts in the White House — Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, and Michelle Obama — to take action and ask President Obama for the immediate appointment of a special presidential envoy to work with the African Union and United Nations. In the petition, the Maman Shujaa insists that the women of Congo have a seat at the negotiating table.
Their petition, now with over 100,000 signatures, continues to gain momentum and is being supported by leading women activists around the world, including Eve Ensler of V-Day and One Billion Rising, and Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Liberia. Ms. Gbowee sent a “Solidarity Statement” in which she says:
“If the international community is sincerely working for sustained peace in the DR Congo, it is time to “Trust Women”. I believe that trusting Congolese women will secure the future of that great nation. I, Leymah Roberta Gbowee, stand firm with the women of the DR Congo.”
A Movement is Born
From this small beginning of gathering a couple hundred women together in a local cyber café to tell their stories and support one another – not only for Peace in Congo, but for a whole new paradigm – a movement has been born. Yes, it’s a women’s movement, but it is more about women being moved; moved to demand Peace now, Rights now, CHANGE now. It has become the catalyst for what the Maman Shujaa are not embarrassed to call, a National Action Plan.
The development of their intention has evolved to include a holistic objective to heal their hearts, their land, and their nation. Through the initiatives they are envisioning, a shift in Congo will eventuate a new model for “Developed Nation” status in this world; one which prioritizes human and especially women’s rights, PWD rights, indigenous people’s rights, community’s rights, rights of nature, “and the right to a future for our nation.”
A Revolutionary Act
Neema started what became the Maman Shujaa movement a few days after government soldiers indiscriminately beat her 25-year-old daughter within a block of their home in June 2012. Neema had been reporting on World Pulse’s online forum in a program they run annually called “Voices of Our Future,” in which World Pulse trains 30 women around the world to find their “voice” and become grassroots leaders in their regions for change. Within hours of the incident with her daughter, Neema posted an article that revealed a metamorphosis of her entire perspective. It is that radical change that has given rise to the movement. You can read that article here: CONGO: A REVOLUTIONIST MIND.
Maman Shujaa means “Hero Women” in Swahili. They are from Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Led by Neema Namadamu, this group of grassroots Women leaders is speaking out through WorldPulse, a global media and communication network.
From their media center, Maman Shujaa is sharing their stories of healing and transformation with the world. In their words: “We have had enough. We call upon our global sisterhood to take action. We will not be quiet until REAL Peace is upon us.”
Their call out includes the designation of a Special Presidential Envoy to work with the African Union and the United Nations to construct a peace process that confronts the current crisis brought on by the recent siege of Goma by M23 rebels, and the political and economic issues that are the root cause of this war. Furthermore, Maman Shujaa demand to have a voice in this process by way of holding a seat at the negotiating table.
“I don’t want to make a little noise—I want to change the paradigm!” ~ Neema Namadamu. Learn more about Neema Namadamu.
- Maman Shujaa Media Center
- Girl Ambassador Program (in Partnership with Global Network of Women Peacebuilders)
Connect with Mamn Shujaa – Hero Women of the Congo on Facebook