World Pulse

The Day Women of the Congo Seized Control of the Internet

Jensine Larsen
Posted December 3, 2012 from United States

The day the rebels seized the large town of Goma, threatening to ignite more bloodshed and misery in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, I couldn’t stop pacing and shaking. Although I have no relatives there, my sisters are in the path of advancing rebels.

My sisters, who have become like family, are 200+ grassroots women leaders who have been using their own homegrown Internet café to report out about life in their war-torn region. For the past two weeks, they have been flooding the wires with their signals of distress. “Please pray for us,” they cried. “Enough is enough.”

Enough is enough. For the past 16 years, DRC has been called the most dangerous place in the world for women, and the UN has crudely dubbed it the “rape capital of the world.” A deadly cauldron of competing rebel groups and corrupt government forces fighting for power and control over natural resources has ravaged local communities, resulting in approximately 6 million dead. With the recent attack on Goma, the rebel group called M23 broke an uneasy peace agreement that had lasted for nearly six years—a move that resulted in over 140,000 fleeing the city. Worse, it was a move that could trigger a domino effect of brutal military retaliation with civilians caught in the crossfire. That is—if the world continues to look away.

Over the last three months, my understanding of this region, which has little to no communications infrastructure, has deepened. I have grown to know and love each woman who uses World Pulse—an online community platform for women around the world—to share her story. They are stories of the nightmare conditions faced every day, stories of the rape of natural resources, of the rape of hundreds of thousands of women. I have watched as my Congo sisters have grown bolder, connecting with each other—sharing intimacies, sharing visions for a way forward.

They call themselves “Maman Shujaa” or “Hero Women.” From Bukavu—just across Lake Kivu from Goma—they tease each other and fight over 12 computers that take ten minutes to load one page. “Two butts to one seat,” as their leader and trainer Neema Namadamu says. Despite cramped quarters and outdated technology, these hero women are using the World Pulse platform to organize, to strategize, to share their messages with the world. Recently, they started to dialogue with the women of Liberia who staged their own revolution and managed to elect a woman president. They are forming connections that have the potential to transform their homeland.

Still, their stories are serious and urgent, detailing the widespread pain of a culture where women are systematically degraded and violated, even in times of relative “peace.” For them, to have unchecked war flare up again is unthinkable. It is the last straw.

With nowhere else to turn, several of the Maman Shujaa have banded together—some of whom three months ago did not even have an email address—to use technology to launch a global call to world leaders to hear their cries. Through a Change.org petition they are urging women leaders in the White House—Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, and Michelle Obama, specifically—to take immediate action.

“We don’t want to point fingers; we want solutions,” they say. Specifically, they are asking for the immediate appointment of a special presidential envoy to work with the African Union and United Nations. And they insist that local women have a seat at the negotiating table.

“Only through a mediation of this level can we hope to establish resolution among the numerous states, rebel armies, and special interests who have long fueled this conflict and humanitarian crisis,” they have determined.

But the petition has become a catalyst for something much bigger. Now, as a result of their global and local networking, the Hero Women are at work developing a holistic National Action Plan, which they say is designed “to heal our hearts, our land and our country.” Their budding plan includes telecommunication networks, eco-tourism, improved roads, farm and ranch management, distributed solar systems, clean water and sanitation systems, health clinics, and educational infrastructure through emerging technologies.

“This is not only about sustainability but about regeneration,” says Neema Namadamu. “After all, we are the mothers of this great nation. And I believe in miracles!”

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.

Comments 6

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Leina
Dec 10, 2012
Dec 10, 2012

Thanks Jensine, for your huge support to my sisters in Congo!I share their pain not only as a fellow sister on World Pulse but also as one from a neighboring country.Is`nt it formidable how the power of women and technology can transform the destiny of a whole nation?

We as women are endowed with the natural wisdom it takes to bring peace to our homes,communities ,nations and even the world!We have just not been given the chance.However what humanity has denied us has been granted by technology.

The mind that bears the solution to the world`s most difficult problem might be hidden in a kitchen somewhere in Bukavu or Bamenda.Granting her access to technology is a smart way of getting that solution shared with the rest of the world.

My prayers go out for the women of Maman Shujaa and my sister Neema, their efforts shall yield fruits of peace and stability for our beloved Congo. With Love, Leina

Jensine Larsen
Dec 12, 2012
Dec 12, 2012

Thank you sister Leina for your comment. You are a fellow sister who is also changing the future of her nation! Keep going!

Usha K.C.
Dec 11, 2012
Dec 11, 2012

I always do applaud to my dear sister Neema for her devotion and courage for raising such voice. I pray for her and other Maman Shujaa of DRC congo. My love and support with u.

Jensine Larsen
Dec 12, 2012
Dec 12, 2012

and for you too our sister, for you are raising your voice with great courage. Your are continuing to change the future of our nation in your own way - and being an amazing mother! Much love,

Usha K.C.
Dec 12, 2012
Dec 12, 2012

Dear Jensine Thank you so much. It's always my great pleasure to have your loving words.

Jael
Jan 08, 2013
Jan 08, 2013

i want to applaud the good work of courage and determination demonstrated by the amazing women in Congo, Always remember that as a women God created you with unique virtues and compassion to save the world.,and am glad to note that within your neighbourhood, which is your world, you are doing just that..saving women and girls.. May God help you and with such drive and force ,if everyone will be a part of this great venture, then our land will be safe for the generations to come... Well done.....!

Jael