Maman Shujaa founder Neema Namadamu with Girl Ambassadors. Photo courtesy of Maman Shujaa of Congo.
Maman Shujaa founder Neema Namadamu with Girl Ambassadors. Photo courtesy of Maman Shujaa of Congo.

Hero Women of the Congo Speak Out

In a country where outlets for women’s voices are scarce, the digitally empowered women of the Maman Shujaa Media Center are making themselves heard.

Within its first year, the Maman Shujaa Media Center in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo has established itself as a source of hope for women in a region devastated by civil war. The Maman Shujaa, or ‘Hero Women,’ as participants call themselves, walk, often for miles, to the center to take advantage of computer literacy training, connections, and opportunities.

They aren’t just learning how to use a mouse or load a webpage—they are discovering the power of their own voices. Every day, women from the Congo are logging onto World Pulse and making themselves heard through a process that spans languages and continents, engaging a growing pool of translators and francophone community members and volunteers. They are writing about violence against women, the environment, and their dreams for their country. The voices of the DRC’s grassroots women rising leaders, so often left out of local and global decision making, now have a platform to develop and express a unified vision.

Meet some of the Hero Women to learn how access to basic technology is transforming lives in the Congo. Read their stories and experience the beauty of this country’s potential from eyes of the women who are working to realize it.

POEM FOR THE LAND THAT SAW MY BIRTH

Solange Biheza

I keep so many memories of you. You saw me born, you made me grow up, you fed me, you taught me.

I am grateful for it; you are my fortress, I love you, I love you so,

Despite the many difficulties of the war that have bereaved you and made this place inhospitable, pushing the populations off the fields which have been uncultivated for so long.

No matter, I love you from the bottom of my heart.

This place was once the granary of the former Kivu and everything that can be of the DRC, which today is in the grip of several rebellions that have caused many atrocities and crimes against humanity, and women in particular.

Despite this, it is and will continue to remain the landmark of welcoming, hospitable and courteous people.

This hospitality is mainly embodied by the women, who despite their vulnerability, remain the motor driving the development of this country.

Many of those departed from here were affected by the difficulties that beat down on this place, this place that remains like a field of battle despite the peace efforts headed by the international community.

Nevertheless you remain my darling and my hope.

I love you and all my country and my people as a whole. I will never forget you.

English translation by community member JPCampbell0258.

 

SEEING SO FAR

Kika Sylvie Katchunga

You may have heard of the problems that our communities are faced with in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the Internet here that allows us to share our experiences.

Before I got connected online, I didn’t see far away; I only saw what was around me. But when I come here to the Maman Shujaa center, I find an Internet connection that lets me see more.

Here in the DRC access to the Internet is difficult for everyone, but even more so for women and young girls. The Internet used to be a place for men; finding a woman with Internet access was a rare case. But the Maman Shujaa center allows women to also connect to the Internet, and have the same abilities as men. My sisters, my mothers, there are beautiful things on the Internet. Since coming here, I’ve become another person. It has changed me so much, to be able to see so far.

With this online connection my voice can be heard by everyone and I can send my message to the world.

English translation by community member Pyrias. 

 

What the Internet Means to Me

PRINCESSE MULUZINYERE

I never had the chance to touch a computer until my 12th year of school. We were taught how to work one without seeing or touching one. I was lucky enough to attend university, but even there, the chances to use a computer were minimal, and it was too expensive to use one. To do my research, I had to be accompanied by another person. The only available connection was outside the university and the cost was a great burden on my very poor family. Since joining the Maman Shujaa center, I’ve seen a new world! I’ve learned all the possibilities of a computer and how to access the Internet.

Internet access has given me a chance to discover the thoughts and experiences of other people across the world. Thanks to the Internet, we’ve become editors! Thanks to this connection, our voices and dreams will become reality. Thanks to the Internet, all our voices are heard all over the world! Today, my voice is shared between 30 friends from different countries and regions of the world through my journal. We’ve learned how to explore this thriving community of World Pulse, where women’s voices are heard throughout the world and find comfort in all the other women of the world!

I’m very happy for this opportunity in the world of media. We envision that such initiative and support will one day spread through all of the Republic!

English translation by community member Pyrias.

 

THE HIDDEN BEAUTY OF THE CONGO

Neema Bijoux

Although the Democratic Republic of the Congo is considered the worst place in the world for women, it is also made beautiful by the power and the hidden skills that we have as women. Despite the injustice, violence, rape, and many other forms of discrimination against women, we are not discouraged. Women continue to fight so that one day we will have a country of law and justice.

Around me, the beauty of the DRC is its ecology, its climates, its rivers and lakes, its industries, and especially my community around me. This community has attitudes, aptitudes and skills, which are hidden because there is no place where this can express itself. My community can do anything, but we are not trained, informed, and educated. Our courage and potential remain hidden to the rest of the world.

What brings me the utmost joy is the satisfaction of my needs, like education, my rights, clothing, and especially the respect and participation in the life of my community.

Our village will be happy when we have peace and justice. I overcome the difficult times by setting my sights on my future. I know that failures strengthen and encourage our efforts, because we will not want to return to this chaos. So I do not get discouraged when I'm in the worst time because I know that it will pass, and with courage I will be able to be the person that I wish to be. Women are beauty that must be protected – the foundation and the springboard of the entire global community. 

English translation by community member JPCampbell0258.

 

AWAKING MY COMBATIVE SPIRIT

Benedicte Bulangalire

When I first came to the Maman Shujaa center, I was welcomed with joy. That really made an impression on me and gave me courage. At the center I have learned how to work with computers, something I had never managed to do, even when it was taught in school. The experience has changed my life.

Mama Neema from the Maman Shujaa Center told us there was a worldwide network called World Pulse. There, she said, the women of the entire world were connected and fought together for the promotion of women’s rights. This awoke a combative spirit in me, because my dream is that in the centuries to come, women will be able to enjoy their rights.

I was very happy to see so many women from all continents, countries, races, and tribes who had this initiative and strong desire to fight back tirelessly against all sorts of violence against women. Exchanging experiences with other women and reading, understanding, and commenting on what they write opens my mind and helps me find and propose solutions to modern women’s problems. When someone is open and shares their experiences with others, maybe one day their experiences will help another person in the same situation find a solution.

As an ambassador with the Maman Shujaa center, I publish two or three posts per month on subjects that are making headlines in our region and are relevant to the promotion of women’s rights in the world.

I have also learned how to connect to other websites, like Gmail and Facebook, where I have profiles that allow me to communicate with the entire world and to deepen my personal relationships. I still haven’t mastered working on the Internet, but I make progress every day. Sometimes using the Internet becomes difficult, but thankfully there is always a team who accompanies us in our center that helps us when we need it.

There are those who walk 8 or 10km on foot under a hot sun and in dust, or through rain and mud, just so they can get to the Maman Shujaa center.

I will always pray for the Maman Shujaa to expand into all countries, in particular the DRC and in all its villages: Lack of information is one of the main reasons for our lack of rights.

English translation by community member Pyrias.

Comment on this Editorial

Comments

Thank you, Kim, for sharing this huge triumph with us. Maman Shujaa Media Center is obviously a huge resource in providing the most powerful educational opportunities ever, the internet.

Yvette

Dear Kim,

This helps to bring the voices of women to the forefront. It is also a language bridge since many of us who do not speak/read french have the opportunity to understand our sisters' experiences in the Congo.

I look forward to seeing more opportunities to share our experiences and support one another.

Best wishes, Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

Kika,

Thanks for your message. Someday, when women are equal to men, the world will be better for everyone. My hope is that you can aspire to all that you are meant to be.

Best Wishes, Dick Matgen from San Francisco, in the USA