Neema Namadamu (DR Congo)
Founder, Maman-Shuja: Hero Women Rising

“Transformation is natural. It is part of being human. Theater can cross language barriers through signs, to show what’s inside of you…to show the world how you do things. When you are doing theatre, you are in prayer, you express yourself freely, without pretending or imitating. Educated or not, you become yourself. For traumatized and abused women, theater is like a medicine. Together, we are stronger. This is the main message Theatre of Transformation Academy takes forward.”

Neema Namadamu is a visionary game-changer. Women Thrive Worldwide named her as 1 of 14 Fierce Women’s Rights Advocates To Watch In 2014. In a Huffington Post article, peace activist John Dear said, “She ranks with Leymah Gbowee, the Nobel laureate from Liberia and Mairead Maguire, the Nobel laureate from Belfast — two of our greatest living peacemakers.”

Crippled from polio, she is the first woman with disability from her ethnic group to earn a university degree, going on to serve in Parliament for South Kivu province, and then as Chief Advisor to DRC’s Minister of Gender and Family. Upon leaving government service, Neema founded an NGO to support disabled female-victims of violence in East Congo.

In 2012, Neema founded Synergy of Congolese Women’s Associations (SAFECO), a forum to foster collaboration among women-led NGOs to work their Peace, Rights, and Development agenda.

On behalf of the Maman Shujaa members, Neema generated a petition that garnered over 100,000 signatures that resulted in an audience at the White House, and helped spur the appointment of a U.S. Special Envoy to DRC.

Neema has become the face representing Women’s Transformative Leadership in Africa, as depicted on the cover of MasterCard Foundation’s recently sponsored study.  In 2013 Neema was awarded “Architect of Peace and Civil Society Activist” in the Great Lakes Region. In October 2014 she was honored by South African-based Celebrating Excellence in Organizations as “Africa’s Most Influential Woman for 2014”, in the Welfare and Civil Society category.

In December 2014 Neema was given the Outstanding Women Leadership Award by the World CSR Congress for “Outstanding women professionals who have the vision, flair, acumen and professionalism to demonstrate excellent leadership and management skills in an organization, making changes and achieving results.”

In 2015, Neema has been honored with the Inspirational Woman Leader award by the World Women Leadership Congress & Awards (WWLCA) 2015 in Mumbai, India, among SALT Magazine’s 100 Most Inspiring Women, and featured in the Unsung Heroes in the Face of Evil Exhibition in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Says Neema, “Impact is not measured by whether or not you are amassing followers, but whether or not you are inspiring leadership. We don’t want a world of leaders and followers, but leaders only – all of us together leading this world into the good of all that’s possible.”