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Congolese nun receives high U.N. honor

Sister Angelique Namaika

Sister Angelique Namaika

(GIN) — A Roman Catholic nun, who rides a bicycle deep into the bush in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo to help female victims of war, is to receive a top U.N. award for her courageous work.

Sister Angelique Namaika is familiar, pedaling down dirt roads to visit the women and to run a center she first called Maman Bongissa in the village of Dungu. The center trains displaced women and girls in basic income-generating activities they can use to improve their lives.

From 2003, when she arrived in Dungu to help vulnerable women, to 2008, the flood of internally displaced persons (IDPs) had become overwhelming. The Lord’s Resistance Army, a militant group fighting an insurgent war for autonomy in the region, had been, according to human rights groups, stealing children to become child soldiers, burning homes and raping women.

“The need of IDP women was huge,” she recalls. “They had lived through terrible things in the bush.”

Maman Bongissa became Dynamic Women for Peace, offering training, microcredit and health care for children. Since 2003,Sister Namaika’s organization has provided support to around 2000 people, most of them displaced women and girls.

To support her work, she said, “I also have an oven at home; I bake breads every day, which I sell. The money from the bread helped me to organize other activities for the women.”

Forty-six-year-old Sister Angélique will receive the Nansen Refugee Award and the Nansen Medal, named for Norwegian scientist and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen, at a ceremony in Geneva on Sept. 30. Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam will perform.

“If I manage to help only one woman to rediscover life,” she told the UN committee, “I will consider I have succeeded.”


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