By Ségolène Muderhwa
My name is Ségolène Muderhwa, and I am from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ironically, one of the poorest and most “underdeveloped” countries in the world has proven to be one of the world’s richest in mineral resources, and it is propitiously situated (the DRC covers most of central Africa). These advantages could provide the key to the creation and proliferation of industries essential to my country’s emergence as a global presence. Such enterprise development could subsequently lead to a decrease in some of the most important issues hindering Congo’s progress: high unemployment rates and a high rate of brain drain.
From a young age, I knew that my country faced many challenges. Likewise, I also knew that we had the potential to address them. As I grew older, and the end of my high school education drew near, I made it my mission to stop complaining about DRC’s problems and instead to become proactive in fixing them.
In order to achieve my goals, I knew I would need to learn how to solve problems on a large scale effectively and efficiently. This realization led me to pursue a degree in industrial engineering. If I wanted to be the best, I would need to learn from the best. Ultimately, I was accepted into Georgia Tech’s No. 1-ranked industrial engineering program. Matriculating to a highly competitive Institute with a strong emphasis on technology, the learning curve I faced was steep. Nevertheless, I pushed myself harder than ever before to make the most out of my time at a school I had painstakingly worked to attend. My experience at Tech — from group projects to extracurricular activities — always led me to ask myself, “Ségolène, comment peux-tu optimiser ca?” (“Ségolène, how can you optimize this?”)
When I remember the knowledge gap I had to bridge on my own, I think of the millions of kids back home who are not fortunate enough to receive the education I did. Education is not free in Congo, and there is considerable variance in education quality from school to school.
Consequently, four years ago, I co-founded a non-profit organization called Soeur, lève- toi (Sister, rise up). We aim to ameliorate the conditions of underprivileged girls in Congo through increased education, as well as to provide social support to orphans and abandoned children. One of the organization’s core priorities is the Malaba — or “future” in the Congolese Tshiluba language — scholarship project, which I currently direct.
The scholarship is based on meritocracy. Candidates have to pass a math, French, and general knowledge test, as well as give a small presentation about themselves and their goals. We select the recipient based on these criteria, along with her past academic history. The scholarship covers all school-related fees, ranging from tuition and uniforms to daily lunches and transportation costs.
Many of the orphans we support have been through emotional and sometimes physical hardships, which can cause low self-esteem. Through Malaba, we want not only to finance the girls’ basic education but also to work with them so their confidence recovers as they succeed academically and relationally.
With Malaba, we want to focus on the quality of education that these girls will receive, as it is the only way to make a real impact for their future. Currently, the main roadblock is the lack of sustainable financial resources to fund the program. We can only sustain and expand the Malaba scholarship project by receiving as much support and advice as possible. As a famous African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Ségolène Muderhwa graduated from Georgia Tech with a BSIE in 2017 and a master's in analytics in 2018. For more information on or to support Soeur, lève-toi, visit the organization’s website: http://soeurlevetoi.org or reach out by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering