Noella Coursaris Musunka
Founder and CEO, Georges Malaika Foundation
Noella Coursaris Musunka is Founder and CEO of the Georges Malaika Foundation, a grassroots non-profit that empowers girls and their communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through a school, community centre, technical classes, wells and an agriculture programme all working together as an ecosystem impacting thousands of lives. As a model for leading fashion campaigns across the globe, Coursaris Musunka is a voice for the power of girls’ education worldwide. She was named one of the BBC’s 100 Most Influential & Inspirational Women of the Year in 2017, she was recognised at the 100 Years of Mandela celebration, and she was honoured as a Daughter of Greatness from the Muhammad Ali Centre.
Coursaris Musunka founded the Georges Malaika Foundation in 2007. Its programmes teach girls to question and engage and to evolve into progressive leaders who can positively affect their world. In addition to working with girls, Malaika provides opportunities for adults and youth in the community of Kalebuka to advance their education and training through traditional, technical and vocational programmes. Before Malaika, Kalebuka was isolated, with little to no access to clean, reliable water, electricity, or sanitation. Many children, particularly girls, did not attend school due to a lack of financial resources, and there were no opportunities for adults in the community to develop skills and opportunities for educational and economic advancement. Fifteen years later, through free, high-quality education and health initiatives, this has all changed.
Malaika’s programme helps the entire community understand gender equality and is actively changing community mindsets towards the roles of women in society. It all starts with education: an educated woman is more likely to give back to her community, to inspire others to attend school, and to cultivate a sense of independence among both her peers and the next generation.
Coursaris Musunka recognised that the girls at the Kalebuka school do not exist in a vacuum. Students aren’t able to learn if they are hungry and they can’t attend classes if they are sick or are infected by a water-borne illness. Therefore, she made sure the school supplies all students with two nutritious meals per day, gives regular health check-ups, and provides access to clean water for citizens of Kalebuka and surrounding villages. She works closely with the village chief and community members to stress the importance of a quality education for girls, and as a result Malaika School drop-out rates for early marriage and early pregnancy fall far below the rates in surrounding areas. She also recognises that education should be available to everyone, not just the young, and so Malaika opened a community centre in 2014 offering free literacy and vocational education, health classes, and sports programming to over 5,000 people in Kalebuka. Students from the community centre classes have been able to return to traditional school, enrol in university, and get better paid jobs as a result.
Malaika believes that this community-driven model can, and should, be adopted on the global stage. Later in 2022, the team will release its Malaika Model Toolkit, which will support other communities and organisations in replicating and adapting the Malaika model to their own context as Coursaris Musunka seeks to change educational outcomes in the DRC and throughout Africa and the world.
Coursaris Musunka has also shared her insights at the World Economic Forum in Davos and at Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, and MIT. She is an advisor at Concordia and an ambassador for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. She sits on the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network and the L'Oréal Fund for Women Endowment Fund Advisory Committee.