by Phoebe Jordan '15
Neema Namadamu is an advocate for women and peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her primary objective is using technology to give women a voice, particularly disabled women who cannot physically access many resources in their country. In her World Pulse program, for example, women are learning to tell their stories by using computers in a community of women who are working and learning with them. Once their stories are posted, thousands of other people in the network can see them and give them feedback. Neema stressed the importance of feedback and conversation in promoting change—when these women receive feedback and understand that there is value in their opinions, they learn to value themselves. Neema’s passion for her country is evident when she speaks; she does not want the Congo to be considered a “lost cause”, as many see it, but to be seen as an environment where women working together can foster change and peace.
As students in the 360° program, we were interested to ask Neema how her work could intersect with public health. Education was her biggest emphasis—if women can learn more about sexual and reproductive health through the Internet, for example, then they can promote healthy practices in their villages.
She herself was crippled from polio when she was a child, so she was adamant about the importance of public health and specially female doctors in developing countries. Something that I took away from our conversation was the importance of having cross-cultural advocates, and giving resources to those who are familiar with the customs and attitudes of their country so they can institute change in their own way.
In a time in the United States when many people question the value of women-only spaces, Neema showed us that they are still extremely important, particularly in countries like the Congo where women hold so little power. I found this gave even more weight to my time here at Bryn Mawr, because I feel that I've been given an opportunity to find my own voice in a place where my opinions are valued. When women find their voices, they can become advocates for change and peace.