Bukavu, D.R. Congo
“I am not interested in making a little noise, I want to change the paradigm.”
– Neema Namadamu
Neema is most often described as “a force of nature”. Born in a remote tribal region of the eastern DRC, she entered the world in a place where females are treated as second-class citizens, a place where the UN once deemed it “the worst place on earth to be a woman.” Not only a woman and an ethnic minority, Neema also contracted polio at age 2, leaving her permanently disabled. Despite these barriers, Neema overcame every obstacle while simultaneously working to improve the quality of life for others.
The second woman in her ethnic group to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree, Neema has worked as a parliamentary consultant, an advisor to the Minister of Gender and Family, a founder of an NGO to support disabled female-victims of violence, a founder of a community organization to support disabled seamstresses to sell their handmade products online, and in 2012, Neema founded Synergy of Congolese Women’s Associations (SAFECO), a forum to foster collaboration among women-led NGOs to work their Peace, Rights, and Development agenda. Neema also founded the Maman Shujaa (Hero Women) Center, providing computer literacy training and free internet to 150 women and girls per week, helping them communicate and share their stories globally. The latest of Neema’s accomplishments is the Girl Ambassadors Leadership program, a mentoring program for the next generation.