Over the last three months, I have watched my Congo sisters grow bolder by connecting with each other—and anyone who will listen—by sharing their experiences of violence and 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 Despite cramped quarters and outdated technology, these hero women are using the World Pulse platform to organize, to strategize, to share their messages with the world.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.
Most recently Namadamu, an award-winning World Pulse citizen journalist, launched an unprecedented campaign, which calls upon the women of the White House to help appoint a special presidential envoy to DRC in order to end the growing violence and help begin peace negotiations between warring factions.
“Women in Congo are 134 times more likely to be raped than women in the US. Our bodies are used as weapons between one faction or another. My own daughter was not spared being beaten,” says Namadamu. “We’re asking President Obama, and the women leaders of the U.S., to take a stand with the women of Congo for peace and against violence and immediately appoint a presidential envoy to Congo.”
This week, Namadamu will attend the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There she will amplify the pleas of her sisters and present a petition — 100,000 signatures and growing—asking for help from the U.S. government. If one woman with a laptop in the Congo can create this groundswell of support, surely our president can lend his voice to those efforts.
Larsen is the founder and CEO of World Pulse, an action media network powered by women from 190 countries.