Using homegrown Internet café, Congolese Women Influence US Foreign Policy
The 200+ women grassroots leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo who call themselves “Maman Shujaa,” which translates to ‘Hero Women’ in Swahili, have succeeded with their unprecedented campaign to pressure the US government to help end the escalating violence in their country.
Today US Secretary of State John Kerry announced the appointment of former US Senator Russ Feingold to help begin peace negotiations between warring factions in Africa’s Great Lakes Region.
After delivering a 100,000 signature strong petition to the White House in partnership with World Pulse, the Enough Project, and Change.org, encouraging the appointment of a US Special Envoy, the group, led by disability activist and community leader, Neema Namadamu, is pleased that President Obama has responded.
“We look forward to meeting with Mr. Feingold so that we can work together to bring an end to the abominable violence occurring in our country,” said Namadamu. “Our next step for Maman Shujaa is to work closely with women across the country to ensure that they have a voice at the table in the peace process.”
Last July, the Maman Shujaa founded an Internet café to teach women in their village to virtually share their on-the-ground stories and find support around the world through World Pulse. Armed with the power of a global sisterhood, Namadamu worked with World Pulse to start the online Change.org petition following the recent escalation of violence in the conflict that has torn her nation apart for over 16 years.
“Women in Congo are 134 times more likely to be raped than women in the U.S. Our bodies are used as weapons between one faction or another. My own daughter was not spared being beaten,” added Namadamu.
World Pulse has been instrumental in helping the Hero Women emerge from the shadows to organize a movement denouncing violence and demanding peace. “The world is taking notice and this underscores the power of women’s collective voices and technology to rapidly influence change,” said Jensine Larsen, World Pulse founder and CEO.
In conjunction with The Enough Project and Change.org, the World Pulse online platform enabled the Hero Women to organize and speak out, ultimately hand-delivering over 100,000 signatures to White House Security Council leaders in January and urging the appointment of a special presidential envoy for peace in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Actor and activist Robin Wright views the appointment as a giant step toward peace in the DRC. “Congo is well known for its violence and reputation as the ‘rape capital of the world,’" she said. “The appointment of Senator Feingold demonstrates to these courageous women that the United States recognizes and supports their leadership and is deeply committed to improving their lives.”
As the voices of the Hero Women of DRC grow louder, more international actors are also listening to them through World Pulse’s digital communication network. Newly appointed UN Special Envoy Mary Robinson and former president of Ireland has also sought input from the World Pulse network to engage women’s participation in current peace negotiations. “World Pulse is in a position to be a valuable communications conduit for us with grassroots women and partners across the region,” said Ms. Robinson.