Neema Namadamu

Sometimes you meet a real-life hero and something shifts inside you.

They inspire you to do more. To be more. To have confidence and courage in your own path.

Such a woman is Neema Namadamu.

Because if Neema could do even a handful of the dozens of amazing things she has accomplished—so can we. And as we head into the holiday season, I want you to know more about her.

As she says, “I’m not interested in making a little noise—I’m looking to CHANGE THE PARADIGM”.

Born in a remote tribal region of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, she entered the world in a place where women are treated as second-class citizens. Into a conflict-ravaged country the UN labels “the worst place on earth to be a woman”. 

When very young, she contracted polio—which left her with a physical disability. While her village considered her a “lost cause”, her mother pushed her forward, confident she could be so much more. Her parents sent her to school—a stunning rarity at a time when few girls were educated (you can read more of her personal history here).

I first experienced Neema in Emmy award-winning filmmaker Paul Freedman’s eye-opening new documentary “Merci Congo”—a fascinating foray into the war in the Congo. He follows Neema going about her daily life, teaching women in her Media Training Center.

The film tracks the women’s reverent faces as she teaches them simply how to open the computer. Shows their building excitement as they start accessing the internet. We witness their body language as they realize they can connect to life beyond their village —and we watch Neema give the next generation of women the tools to change the face of the Congo.

When the film was over, the room was abuzz. And when Neema took the stage to join a panel of the documentary’s influencers, every one of the 350 audience members jumped to their feet in wild applause.

Because we knew we were witnessing a force of nature. A woman standing tall and strong amidst gargantuan obstacles, while still projecting humility and grace.

She more than held her own on an illustrious panel including the CEO of Intel and the US Special Envoy to the region. While each had an impressive grasp of the issues, Neema was the one we were breathless to hear. We admired her courage.

So yes, Neema Namadamu is my hero. She is my sister. She is my inspiration.

Perhaps she will be yours.

I’ll let you know in this space when the film has a broader release date. In the meantime, if you decide for your holiday gifting you’d love to see a woman exploring the world on a laptop, here’s your opportunity.

And the next time you say to yourself “Who am I to _______________(insert your biggest dream)?”, channel yourself some Neema Namadamu.

I know I will.

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1 Comment

  • Very inspirational. Can understand the impact. We all have opportunities to make a difference for others; some big, others small. And why not seize your opportunity?
    Thank you Rochelle for sharing.

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