Research the needs of the community you wish to help. It’s as easy as a google click but be sure to use reputable and reliable sources.
Share your knowledge. In the age of social media, I encourage everyone to share their journey and be true to what the process shows.
Stay humble. We are all a small part of a large planet helping one another and improving the society we live in together.
As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Véronique Ehamo, a Congolese-American political scientist pursuing her doctoral degree at Royal Holloway, University of London, specializing in politics, international relations, gender, and public policy. Véronique holds a master’s degree from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and is currently serving on the New York State Young Democrats Policy Committee. She has also contributed to global initiatives through her work with UN Women, The International Criminal Court, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, The International Peace Institute, Columbia University Middle Eastern South Asian and African Studies, and Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?
Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, New York, in Freeports culturally inclusive community certainly set the stage for a future career working with diverse groups of people.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
In the summer of 2012, as I was getting ready to start my freshman year of college in Manhattan, we were assigned Just Kids by Patti Smith. It takes place in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, New York, in the ’70s. This coming of age story captures New York at its artistic prime. For any literature lover, contemporary art, and a metropolitan love story, the suggested book and hotel is a voyage back in time. As a young girl from Long Island, Manhattan seemed worlds away; however, this reading drew me closer to picturing the life I may soon enter that fall.
You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?
I am currently completing my Ph.D. research, which dissects societal dynamics and their implication on the prevalence of rape as a weapon of war in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Such empirical field research in a war zone has yet to be done by a young woman of color, bringing a different perspective and illuminating additional narratives. Understanding the reasons for the failure of peacebuilding in the Congo is critical for developing current African affairs and international politics and security.
Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?
In 2017 I worked for the International Criminal Court (ICC), which investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. The public information and outreach section is composed of several units which are responsible for publicizing the activities of the Court, promoting a better understanding of its principles, cultivating a level of awareness and understanding of the Court appropriate to the stage of the Court’s activities, and maintaining a dialogue with the affected communities. The ICC’s trust fund for victims has assisted many women in the Congo, and through viewing their work and reading their testimonies, I knew I had to contribute in my way to my home country. Once given the opportunity, my Ph.D. research, along with all of my life’s work, has been, and will continue to be dedicated to the betterment of the lives of the forgotten women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Through my passion for working in international organizations, I conducted field research in Rio, Brasília, and São Paulo, Brazil. Before then, I never thought I’d get such an incredible opportunity. The UN Women consultancy workshop was based on developing a model for data tracking and measuring societal dynamics related to violence against women. This project prepared me for the larger project I’m working on now as a Ph.D. candidate.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I have contributed to global initiatives through my work with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (INCB), UN Women, The International Criminal Court, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Columbia University Middle Eastern South Asian and African Studies, and Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Given these are such large organizations, I can only hope that the projects I contributed to had an astounding impact down the line and reached their intended community.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Making a difference can be on a micro or macro level. Our level of impact ripples from one person to another, one community to another. So I encourage those who want to “Make a difference” not to be afraid to start “small scale. “ It’s often the everyday actions we take that have the most astounding impacts down the line.
Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.
- Reach out to someone who works in your intended field of interest. For example, many heads of organizations may be reached via LinkedIn.
- Research the needs of the community you wish to help. It’s as easy as a google click but be sure to use reputable and reliable sources.
- Remain hopeful. For every failed plan or unfavorable outcome, know that any effort made has an impact.
- Share your knowledge. In the age of social media, I encourage everyone to share their journey and be true to what the process shows.
- Stay humble. We are all a small part of a large planet helping one another and improving the society we live in together.
What are the values that drive your work?
My values are simply respect for human rights.
Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centered in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?
I believe it takes time to find one’s purpose. I’ve tried to stay close to what makes me happy, and when I leave this world, it will make it much better than when I first came in. In 1994 my birth year, the Rwandan genocide erupted, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and others displaced in neighboring Congo. This later led to an onset of wars and conflict in the region. Twenty-seven years later, wars continue; my only hope is that peace will one day find central Africa through my work.
In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!
My vision of the word I would like to see is one that has fulfilled all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. (1) No Poverty, (2) Zero Hunger, (3) Good Health and Well-being, (4) Quality Education, (5) Gender Equality, (6) Clean Water and Sanitation, (7) Affordable and Clean Energy, (8) Decent Work and Economic Growth, (9) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, (10) Reducing Inequality, (11) Sustainable Cities and Communities, (12) Responsible Consumption and Production, (13) Climate Action, (14) Life Below Water, (15) Life On Land, (16) Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, (17) Partnerships for the Goals.
We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?
Growing up, I’ve always been told, “Where much is given, much is required.” I would assure assistance to affected communities in central Africa from the ongoing humanitarian crisis and conflict with limitless resources. Many villages on the border of Lake Kivu lack access to hospitals and other forms of healthcare. This will be one of my main objectives.
I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness, and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?
Many areas need improvement in the educational sector; however, in terms of higher education, removing outrages tuition fees forcing millions of students into debt should be considered. The only way to give all students equal opportunities is by assuring that public colleges and universities are financially accessible.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Ever look back at history books and read stories of slavery, war, racial injustice and ever wonder, “why didn’t anyone say anything? If I were there, I would say something” Well, guess what? You are here amid history as it is taking place. When historians capture events that took place during our lifetime and future generations begin to read, you can proudly say I intervened; I incorporated to society’s betterment, I stood up for human rights. We can change the course of history.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I wish this question stated to have breakfast or lunch with any person who has passed or living. All my life, I wanted to meet Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Sadly this year, we lost a truly remarkable woman. HER story became history. As one of only eight females in a law school class of 500, Ruth Bader Ginsberg has inspired me to continue taking up spaces that were initially only intended for men.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
For more information on my work visit
www.veroniqueehamo.com or follow me on Instagram for all the latest updates.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!