“We have had enough. We call upon our global sisterhood to take action. We will not be quiet until REAL Peace is upon us.”
On November 20, 2012, M23 rebels seized Goma, a major city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, reigniting a war that has ravaged the region for 16 years. Neema Namadamu and a group of grassroots women leaders who call themselves the Maman Shujaa ('Hero Women' in Swahili) are calling on you and US woman leaders Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, and Michelle Obama to take immediate action in solidarity with the women of the Congo.
I was born in a very remote village in South Kivu Province, eastern Congo. I belong to a marginalized tribe and I am crippled from Polio. But none of those things characterize me. I have a vision for my country—a new and peaceful Congo—that compels me, and its destiny is driving me.
War has ravaged my homeland for 16 years. Today, eastern Congo is labeled the worst place on earth to be a woman. We have been brutalized by our brothers who perpetrate violence on the bodies of their sisters, daughters, and mothers in the worst imaginable ways. A woman is 134 times more likely to be raped in my region than a woman in the United States. Several months ago, soldiers indiscriminately beat my own daughter.
Congo is home to the second largest rain forest in the world, behind Brazil, and 60% of all Africa’s forests. It has enough hydropower potential to power all of Africa. It has an estimated 24 trillion dollars of mineral wealth, far greater un-monetized wealth than any other nation in the world. But the mothers of its children live in poverty, in fear of being raped, daily losing their sons and husbands to endless wars. We are brutalized in unconscionable ways by monsters wearing military uniforms. We are tired of this. We have had enough.
We know that we can create peaceful, sustainable communities in Congo through a holistic new model that ends violence, poverty, and the destruction of nature altogether.
This July I set up a women’s internet café and media center and gathered grassroots women leaders across my region to discuss the future of our country. Within two months we had nearly 200 women activists reporting about life in war-torn DRC through the action media network World Pulse. We began speaking out—demanding the Congo we hold in our hearts to manifest all around us. As women, our solutions are inclusive, as they are rooted in family and community.
But last week rebels took hold of Goma, inflicting more horrors upon its women and children—even pregnant women—and threatened to advance to our area. The region has been destabilized by this deadly power play and 140,000 people have been displaced.
We as women must join together now because WE CAN. Even in remote Congo we have become connected to our global sisterhood. We who are One with the 35 million+ women of the DRC, who are One with the 3.5 billion+ women of the world, are standing for an end to all violence and aggression in Eastern DRC. We will not be quiet until real peace is upon us.
We, the grassroots women leaders of eastern DRC, call upon our female counterparts in the White House—our sisters Secretary Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Susan Rice, Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and First Lady Michelle Obama—to speak with your President on our behalf and ensure a true peace process begins in our homeland.
We ask for the immediate appointment of a special presidential envoy to work with the African Union and United Nations to forge a peace process that addresses both the immediate crisis and the underlying longer-term economic and political interests of the parties involved. 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.
And, it is essential that any action ensures Congolese women—who are uniquely positioned to act on behalf of family and community—have a voice in the peace process and a seat at the table.
STAND WITH US!
Neema Namadamu and the Maman Shujaa (‘Hero Women’) of the Democratic Republic of Congo