Women's History Month: Congolese Fashion Model Focuses On Aiding Women In Her Homeland
As NY1 celebrates women who are making a mark on the world, the series profiles a Congolese fashion model who devotes her time and energy, including her visits to the city, to save women and girls in her native country and raise awareness of a school she built to help transform a generation. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
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Noella Coursaris Musunka is no stranger to the paparazzi. The model, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a familiar face in the fashion world, but her heart and soul belongs to the girls and women in her native country.
The model uses her platform as a global celebrity to support a school she helped to build through her charity called The Georges Malaika Foundation. It is named after Musunka's father, Georges, and the Swahili word for "angel," malaika.
When Musunka was five years old, her father died and relatives sent her to Belgium and Switzerland to get an education. When she returned to the Congo to visit her mother more than a decade later, she was overwhelmed by the widespread poverty that she witnessed.
"It was shocking to see them not living in good condition, shocking to see so many children not going to school, children being pregnant at a young age. And I promised myself I will help my mother and my country," she says.
And help her country she did. As an activist, she appealed to her country's parliament in the wake of a devastating civil war to support her efforts to protect girls and women.
"Six million died, 100,000 women being raped. It’s very important to invest in women," Musunka says.
Her investment is reaping powerful dividends, thanks to her Georges Malaika Girls School, which educates 152 youngsters that Musunka calls "angels."
"Teaching them to read and write, teaching them to grow things, we teach the girls to brush their teeth, to wash their hands. We're teaching them to eat with a fork and a knife. So it’s beyond the school," she says.
The globe-trotting model visits New York often to remind her devoted fans that she is much more than just a pretty face — she's a woman on a mission to save girls at risk on the other side of the Atlantic.
For more information about the Georges Malaika Foundation, visit www.gmfafrica.org.