In Conversation with Noëlla Coursaris Musunka

There is no recipe for success – but if we had to write one, Noëlla Coursaris Musunka should be given the chance to author it. Now a model and philanthropist, Noëlla turned an early-life personal struggle into a strong foundation for a life of purpose: she is an advocate for human rights, with a focus on education and empowerment of girls and young women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through her non-profit organisation Malaika. The NGO has a long-term vision, seeking to effect generational change and give young women a framework to become agents of their lives and future. Keep scrolling to read our interview with Noëlla.

Please tell us a bit about your not-for-profit, Malaika.

We founded Malaika in 2007 in Kalebuka, Democratic Republic of Congo – the same region of the country where I was born. We started out with only three classrooms and now have 346 girls who attend our school and over 5,000 young people and adults who attend sports, literacy, computer education, sewing and other vocational classes at our community centre. We focus on empowering our students as many girls in the village would otherwise never receive an education. We also have a student health centre and 19 wells, providing clean water for over 35,000 people. 85% of the money we raise goes directly to funding the programs. We have grown a dedicated team of local staff and an international family of volunteers. Over these past thirteen years we’ve helped transform Kalebuka into a hub for community and learning that we are confident will have a long-term impact on this community and embolden future female leaders and innovators.

Like you, we believe in the power of women connecting together to make positive change. What are you most excited for this year?

I’m excited to see women carry more influence and utilise their leadership abilities to make a difference. At Malaika, we’re building next month two new classrooms in our school so our intake of students each year can grow. I am especially excited that this year we are launching a brand called Mama Ya Mapendo “Mothers with Love”. This has developed out of an entrepreneurship program we run at our community center where we teach women to read, write and also sew. They have been making iPad covers, bags, and other accessories, which they will soon be selling in retail outlets in Congo.

Who are your role models?

Nelson Mandela remains an inspiration for me, mainly because of the strength of his message for peace, not just in his country of South Africa but internationally.  He also believed in the importance of education and how without it we could never foster the change and progressive transformation we seek, at any level. My mom is another role model of mine.  She selflessly sent me to live abroad in the wake of her husband dying because she couldn’t provide me with opportunities to achieve an education in the DRC and I was the only child. She also contributes her time to Malaika and is an example of someone who puts others first to give them their best chance to succeed.

Can you tell us about your style influences or icons?

I love fashion and wearing different items of clothing that reflect my personality, style, and also my values. I am thrilled by the way fashion is moving towards ever-increasing sustainability. I don’t have particular style icons as I’m inspired by the variety in style I see globally through my travels and time spent in the industry.  Fearlessness and boldness are universal fashion traits though how they are translated in different parts of the world is inspiring to see.

Can you tell us about your personal style and how it reflects your values?

I love to wear African prints and enjoy the way African culture is expressed through fashion. I love to wear clothing that makes a powerful statement and allows me to feel comfortable with who I am. I believe in the impact a woman can have when she says what she thinks and navigates the world with an open heart and I always aim to have that reflected in my style, whether that’s by wearing flowy fabrics in bold colors or a suit in warm tones.

We love seeing you wearing HURR pieces to fabulous and important events. What do you love about renting?

I love the variety! HURR has the most amazing options and I feel empowered when I wear pieces from your collections. Sustainability is an ongoing priority for the fashion industry and renting is something that allows me to wear different outfits without buying individual pieces that are only worn once. Also, as a mother, wife, philanthropist, and founder of Malaika, my schedule is crazy and knowing that I will always find the right outfit through HURR makes it simpler for me to wear clothes I love whilst doing the work I love.

Noella’s HURR Edit:

Follow Noëlla here.