World Pulse and the Maman Shujaa 'Hero Women' of Congo are pleased to announce the establishment of a new media center that opened in Bukavu on April 1st, providing a groundbreaking digital empowerment training hub to women in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. The Maman Shujaa have been gathering and organizing since July of last year. With the support of Open Square Charitable Fund at Schwab Charitable Fund, World Pulse helped this grassroots movement find a sustainable home, equipping Maman Shujaa founder Neema Namadamu to open the new center and lead a vocal uprising in the Congo.
Operating in a region better known for violent conflict than for digitally literate women change leaders, the Maman Shujaa are determined to air their bold vision for peace—uniting their communities, their nation, and the world in action. Women in Congo typically face steep barriers to access communications technology: poor infrastructure, prohibitive distance and cost of internet cafes, gender discrimination, competing demands on their time, lack of physical safety, and limited resources to help them navigate this new territory.
“Despite all these difficulties,” says Maman Shujaa member Aimerance, “I will fight and I will continue to fight for my rights and qualities belonging to a girl. Thanks to the Maman Shujaa Center, I hope for all women to know their rights and how to claim them.”
In addition to a safe space and vital digital literacy training, the center provides opportunities for women to support one another, connect, and source strength and positive solutions. There are many women who did not have an email account who now regularly crowd around computers at the Maman Shujaa center. Today they are confidently using World Pulse’s online platform to share their experiences and ideas with the world.
Since the center opened in April, over 100 women and male allies have been trained. This is an incredible start to our collective goal of bringing 750 women online within a year. In a very short time, this small group of women have already gained enough strength, momentum, and global support to prompt major shifts in Congo and beyond.
Congo can come into a new destiny as this future is born in each individual. And I don’t think it will happen slowly, but very quickly. Everyone is drawn to the light of a new day – it’s just natural. -Estherkintenge
The Maman Shujaa have shared their emerging National Action Plan with Mary Robinson, UN Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region and have been invited by Robinson to participate in the Regional Conference on Women, Peace, and Security in the Great Lakes Region. Earlier this month, Neema Namadamu spoke at the One Million Bones event on the U.S. National Mall in Washington, D.C., raising awareness of mass atrocities in DRC.
Maman Shujaa member Gisèle Balegamire Nabozi was one of four women appointed by the governor to ministerial positions last week. As the new Minister of Justice, Human rights, Public Relations and Civil Society, Gisele is now poised to represent the peace and social justice concerns of the Maman Shujaa in government.
Last year the Maman Shujaa started a Change.org petition calling for the US to appoint a special envoy to the Congo. By January, their heartfelt appeal had received over 100k signatures and garnered an invitation to join a coalition of likeminded organizations to meet with White House leaders. Yesterday, June 18, their efforts were rewarded when John Kerry announced the appointment of former US Senator Russ Feingold as special envoy to the Great Lakes region.
As the media center continues to unite and empower women in the Congo, propelling their movement forward, the Maman Shujaa keep setting their sights higher.
Keeping up this way, I’m confident we’ll create a durable state of peace wherever violence and war are present. -Maman Shujaa member