Maman Shujaa: Hero Women of the Congo
“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…., 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.” — World Pulse CEO Jensine Larsen from an article published in the Huffington Post.
How it all Began
Neema tells the story: “I had been working on behalf of women’s rights and rights for people with disabilities all my life – even hosting a weekly radio program – but having practically no impact. I was always involved in conferences for women and had become somewhat known for my participation in that domain. I served in parliament for my province and then as chief advisor to my country’s Minister of Gender and Family. But it wasn’t until early 2011 when I started blogging on World Pulse that it seemed my voice could make a difference. Whenever I would write I would get comments from all over the world. It was as if someone had handed me some kind of special microphone, and now everyone could hear me. It was enlivening! People were being touched, encouraged, and inspired. It was incredibly energizing and it made me want to share more, and the more I opened up, the more surprised I was about what was coming out of me. It was strengthening me, giving me hope, and so I wanted to give this same opportunity to all of my Congolese sisters.”
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 computer skills 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. 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. All of a sudden, World Pulse was able to boast of hosting the greatest volume of grassroots journalists reporting in Congo.
Hero Women Petition for Peace in Congo
On November 29, 2012 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 insisted that the women of Congo have a seat at the table negotiating their future.
Their petition, received over 100,000 signatures, including leading women activists around the world, like Eve Ensler of V-Day and One Billion Rising, and Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Liberia. In January 2013 they got an invitation to the White House to meet with President Obama’s National Security Council, which eventuated in the appointment of U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold to DRC and the Great Lakes Region.
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.
The Maman Shujaa intention has evolved to include a holistic objective to heal their hearts, their land, and their nation. Their initiatives are intended to create a shift in Congo that will eventuate in 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.”
“I don’t want to make a little noise—I want to change the paradigm!” ~ 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