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    Posted February 14, 2013 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Women: Share your stories of change

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    Neema Namadamu: A Story of Courage,Determination and Strength


    "I live in Eastern Congo, labeled as one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. I belong to a marginalized tribe and I am crippled from polio. But none of these things characterize me. I have a vision for my country that compels me, and its destiny is driving me. It's big, maybe improbable, but not impossible. For I have learned that making the impossible possible simply requires a different set of rules. And I'm all about changing the rules. In fact, I believe in miracles!"
    -Neema Namadamu


    Human rights activist, founder of Maman Shujaa of Congo, Go Network, ACOLDEMHA, Department head for Ministry of Education, WOMAN. Neema Namadamu, an exemplary character and the perfect embodiment of courage and strength. I feel so honored and privileged to be given this opportunity to do a written interview with this amazing woman. This iReport is my way of showing support for her vision. I stand with her advocacy to eradicate oppression of women not only in Congo, but in the whole world. To all the women who are suffering in silence, "Be a voice, not an echo."


    -What is it like growing up in war-torn Congo?
    NN: I wasn't actually born in war-torn Congo. I was born around 1969 in a very remote area in Eastern Congo called the High Plateau of Itombwe, in South Kivu province. I was actually the 4th child born to my parents, but the 1st one that lived. At the age of two years, I somehow contracted Polio. And since my mom hadn’t delivered my father a male child, or even healthy children, my father married a second wife. In our culture, a woman hasn't really consummated her marriage until she delivers a son. And whereas the birth of a son brings gifts of cows and other things in celebration, the birth of a girl comes without any fanfare. So now, after 6 or more years of marriage, and my dad's only child a polio-stricken girl, he decided to take a second wife.


    Of course this action was a cultural dis. My mom however, was cut from a different bolt of cloth and refused to wear any such disgrace, instead going to great lengths to support me and protect my opportunity to have a future. The love and respect my mom had for me developed a certain constitution within me. My physical disfigurement with its inherent limitations, wasn't cause for me to feel less than anyone else, but perhaps special. I got to wash in the house with heated water while the other children had to go to the cold river. My mom carried me on her back to and from school for 3 years, while the other children had to make their own way. During our walks, my mom was always affirming that every child is born with purpose, and that I was born with purpose. And though when in the 3rd grade I my mother had me go live with her brother in the city, so that I could live closer to schools and get the education she was determined I should have, her enveloping love has stayed with me always. That’s the Congo I grew up in.


    -You're a woman of accomplishment. Being differently-abled didn't deter you from pursuing your dreams and realizing your vision. What's the driving force behind it?
    NN: As I mentioned, my mom was special and the power of her love for me constituted me such that I know without a doubt that I wear this particular body for a reason. It doesn't characterize me; it simply distinguishes me. My handicap may add difficulty to my struggle- I may have to push harder, fight more fiercely- but because of my mother, it's a fierce love that is burning within me, enkindling me until I'm aflame with love for my sisters, my brothers, my beloved Congo; a love-flame that won't be tamed until we are all living in the good of the heritage God bequeathed us.


    -You became only the second girl from your tribe to get a university degree. I can just imagine the struggles you've been through to obtain quality education. Tell us about it.
    NN: My challenges stemmed from my physical disability. Congo is not a friendly place for persons with disabilities. My mother demanded that my father pay for it. My mother may have borne those battle scars for me.


    - How do you define Women Empowerment?
    NN: Equality with those who think you are less. Liberty to be who you were born to be and do what you're purposed to do. Empowerment comes from within. No one or nothing can make you powerful. Same with freedom; not everyone is free indeed. Me, I've always been free. One of the biggest decisions I ever made was marrying my husband. My freedom is the most important thing in my life. I had to determine if marrying this man was in any way going to limit my freedom. I will not sacrifice my freedom to be who I was born to be and do what I was born to do for anything in this world. My freedom is my true heritage from God and I will not do anything that would prevent me from enjoying to the fullest, this greatest gift of all gifts that God gave to me. Obviously my freedom is from the core of my being; it's the realm of my existence; it's my consciousness. Women Empowerment means coming into the mind where you are living in the realm of freedom that God intended for you. I am less than no one and am equal to everyone. Empowering women doesn't mean giving them position or money or rights; women don't need to be given rights; Rights are ours to exercise. We just need to exercise our rights. Everything I need I have or is coming to me, Why? Because my life puts a demand on it. I'm talking about Purpose. I'm talking about Destiny. I'm talking about fulfilling the reason for God giving me breath. I have freedom, rights, and power to do everything I was created to do. And I live out of that knowing with every breath I take.


    -How do you see yourself 5-10yrs from now?
    NN: I can't tell you that right now-it's my secret. Maybe you'll be surprised and maybe you won't. I won't be.


    -For a Neema Namadamu, what is the true essence of a woman?
    NN: Heart and Resilience. Regarding heart, a woman leads from it. She is for everyone else before she is for herself. Her answers come from there; her solutions are sourced there. Her heart leads and will continue to lead, and soon the world will be following. It may be leading quietly now, but soon it will be leading in all the glory of its divine essence.


    Regarding resilience, a woman can be thought of as less from the beginning of time, and still know the unequaled value of her love, of motherhood, her unequaled contribution of quiet wisdom and inner strength, and the power of her continuing in spite of all that is against her, her gender, her heritage and her inheritance. And she will rise, as the love that conquers all rises from within to overwhelm all the wrong that has been against her for way too long, with right. And when will that be? NOW. The time has come. Interesting that I have sent my answers to your interview questions on the early morning of Feb.14th, the highly anticipated day of Eve Ensler's One Billion Rising. I am out the door in 20 minutes to go spend this day with Eve who is here in Bukavu. We have entered. It has begun. The manifestation begins today!


    #1billionrising #vday

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