Unlocking the Future for Congolese Women through Technology
Grassroots women are the root, the fabric, the quiet, loving, generational wisdom of family, community, and country. To empower them is simply to enable them. That is the secret, the key to unlock the future that's possible for Congo.
For twenty years I worked as an advocate for women’s empowerment, having no measurable impact. But once my voice broke through the sound barrier on World Pulse, my advocacy began to have immediate impact. Before I had ever posted an article, I posted a Need on Pulsewire and raised support for a widow’s conference in a remote part of our province that had never received outside support. I then joined a writing contest on World Pulse and as soon as I started posting, found I was not only being read, but heard. It was incredible to me. It was more that – it was enlivening! For so many years I had put my passionate voice behind the issues, but it was as if I had been operating in some kind of dead-zone. It was as if I had been dead and didn’t know it. But through World Pulse I had been resurrected!
It’s only been three short years now since I was introduced to World Pulse, but how my life and my life’s impact have changed. My dream has come true – I am making a difference for my Congolese sisters, including my handicapped and indigenous sisters. How? I introduce them to World Pulse. You can’t teach something you don’t know. My life was changed by discovering the power of using technology to share my voice online, so now I work hard to connect all my sisters to the internet, through World Pulse. I’m not special. I believe that if all women can get online, the whole world can change.
Women are always surprised once they come to a training. They are used to the system that’s been playing out here for the last twenty years; a training that’s not really about them, but about the NGO organizing it. It’s usually just a forum for the NGO to keep their operations and funding going. Everyone plays because everyone benefits for the day. The participants are paid to come, given lunch and a stipend for transportation. They talk about reconciliation or capacity building, but after two days of taking photos of everyone in their new t-shirts, the show is packed up and moved on. The Maman Shujaa trainings are different in that we are putting online-microphones in every participant’s hand. We’re teaching computer literacy and giving free online access all day every day. You can come as often as you like. If you’re the head of a NGO and you want to learn computers, you’ve got to come yourself. You need help with your story? You want to learn how to network online or how to respond to an Opportunity? We have at least four staff members in your midst all the time, six days a week.
My generation has a much tougher time than the young ones. It’s like the fact that there are very few women of my generation that know how to drive a car. Driving wasn’t acceptable for girls when we were growing up so the thought of driving a car never entered our mind. In the same way, the mature women leaders of 40 years and older are really entering new, maybe scary territory. But we know that no one can do it for us; we’ve got to learn it for ourselves. But together, we’re making our way. Hundreds of Congolese voices have burst through the sound barrier and onto the global stage of the World Pulse forum. And what wisdoms I have heard speaking into me as each heart takes the microphone and gives release to an utterance formed out of the profound depth of their experience. Young and old, the roots of these women have gone deep and wrapped around one another, gaining confidence in their harmony and power in their accord. From this once dark corner of the world they have grown to become the second largest Pulsewire body daily joining the universal chorus for peace and sanity, beaming with a resilient expectation as they march forward into a future of their design. Once muted, now radiant; once disregarded, now admired; once cast aside, now leading the way. And in just six weeks, we will begin adding new voices to the chorus from an isolated community in a remote area of our province.
We are becoming well known here at home, having posted a successful online petition for the appointment of a Special Peace Envoy to DRC, resulting in the appointment of U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold. We were selected by Global Network of Women Peacebuilders to host a UNSCR 1325 & 1820 Localization Workshop in Bukavu of Eastern DRC, for 92 government, Civil Society, religious, and other association leaders. This was a groundbreaking event that has led to many follow-up workshops in remote locations of our province. As well, the Girl Ambassadors Leadership Program was created to encourage, mentor, and establish a next generation of women leaders in Eastern Congo. These young ladies use theater to draw attention to the inequities and downright marginalization of the female gender in poignant, respectful ways, dramatizing UNSCR 1325 principles to educate, encourage and enlist community support for a revolutionary change in the way women and girls are treated and regarded in remote communities. We hosted the visit of Leymah Gbowee and the Nobel Women’s Initiative. We were invited to represent East Congo and speak on a panel at UN Special Envoy Mary Robinson’s Regional Conference on Women, Peace, Security, and Development, held in Bujumbura Burundi. We were sought out and flown to Seoul Korea to join in solidarity with South Korea’s Comfort Women of World War II. We’ve been sponsored to represent at the Global Summit to End Violence in Conflict in London, England.
Thanks to the internet and World Pulse’s easy-to-use online forum, the once muted voice of grassroots Congolese women has not only been amplified locally, but heard online around the world. Their wisdoms are being shared, their solutions are presented, and their impact is making a difference in their world, and the world of women across the globe.