African Women Voices
This story originally appeared at worldpulse.com as part of World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.
My vision used to be something far out in the future, especially when considering how far I was from the reality I pictured. I was always looking ahead, as at a horizon that stays off in the distance no matter how much I pick up the pace. But I have begun to realize something, and that is: my future is available to me now. In fact, OUR future is available to all of us now. Congo’s future is now.
My vision has been to realize a New Congo, one in which its people live in all the richness that is inherent in this vast landscape. I was born in a very remote village of South Kivu Province in Eastern Congo. And I remember those early years of community, when each family in their heart, was part of every family around them. We lived and worked together and in support of one another, as if we were all close relatives. Due to the richness of the land and our relationship to one another, we wanted for nothing. And as the virus of racial separation injected by our colonizers began to infect even our remote setting, as a community we still lived above that ideology.
But after the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide fled to my province in ‘94, bringing their utter hatred of my ethnicity and demand of our annihilation, a very different world was presented. I was immediately whisked off to university in another country for safety. And when I was able to return a few years later, it seemed that with such vehement racial hatred having crossed our border, every tribe now saw itself as separate from another. Division had arisen and the family tie of our nation was broken.
I love and have always loved my country so much, and experiencing this breakdown was tragic. I had always been outspoken, even always in front of a microphone. Since the 11th grade I had been doing a weekly radio program to sensitize our community to the plight of the handicapped. As a young college student and as only the second female of my tribe to ever go to college, I was sought out to participate in conferences all over the Great Lakes Region in support of women’s rights. And it would grieve me so much, that even there I continually had to stand for the right of the women of my tribe to be included in the whole.
I was always fighting; fighting for women to be included, for the handicapped to be included, for my tribe to be included, for my country to come together as one. And I really had no idea how desperate I had become inside. It was my daily grind. I would lace every interaction with a message of inclusion, equality, and togetherness. But really, I had no platform. I was not a politician; I was not a Personality; my NGO was never supported; I was always in motion among the fabric of our society, but didn’t have a base, and really, didn’t have a solid message. But over the course of the last year, a change has come over me.
My adult daughter had been indiscriminately beaten by some soldiers. I wrestled with my reaction as vengeance was endeavoring to take control. But in the midst of the struggle, as I was attempting to see through the fog of emotion, a new mind opened to me, and I began seeing things from an entirely new vantage point; from a perspective that held all the answers; a consciousness that was the answer. Love flooded my being as forgiveness filled my heart.
Over the coming days, I suddenly realized I was living in the good of that land I had always been fighting for. My suffering, my striving, my anxiety was finished. I’d been liberated from that delusional prison-mind that had kept us separate from one another, competing with one another, stepping on one another to get over the wall. I now had a new song to sing; actually, I’ve joined a Hallelujah chorus, and in harmony we’re raising our voices with all our might, and as One singing that New-World anthem: “free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!”
Breaking free of that old mind, I found I had entered a new mind. In fact, I had entered the new Congo I had always envisioned. I discovered it had been inside me all along, and all I had to do was release it and it would manifest all around me.
And it has begun. In July, we initiated a World Pulse funded project in Bukavu, where we were inviting our sisters together every day to discuss the future that we held within us; this future that was desperately seeking release. Within two months we had 120 women activists, and we began activating our future. We began speaking into and Announcing the world that we had already entered, in mind; putting a demand on the Congo we hold in our hearts to manifest all around us.
The new Congo is emerging. A new world is emerging, as each of us give it release. And how loudly the living words spoken by our late brother, Martin Luther King, are ringing in our ears: “Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!”
Neema Namadamu is responsible for the Maman Shujaa Media Training Center in Bukavu, DR Congo to train educated women in basic computer literacy, while providing exposure to the global online community. She is now raising money to buy second-hand laptops for Congolese women. You can help her through the Alliance for the Earth’s website, write Mama Shujaa in the Dedication box.