Humans of JCU: Esther Ngemba


Esther Ngemba

Esther Ngemba speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in 2019

Sophia Giallanza, Campus Editor

Esther Ngemba, a current senior at JCU, spoke at the “Unlocking the Future” event in New York City this weekend as a representative for Jesuit Refugee Service ahead of the United Nations General Assembly. 

Ngemba, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, fled to Uganda with her family as war refugees before immigrating to Cleveland in 2011. Since then, Esther has participated in a plethora of refugee activism. This includes, but is not limited to, increasing the number of refugees the United States is willing to take, receiving funding for refugee education and providing a welcoming and safe atmosphere for those in need. 

Ngemba shared that she began her career as an activist in 2016 when she originally got involved with Jesuit Refugee Service. From there, she had the opportunity to speak at numerous conferences across the country. When Ngemba was in high school, she lobbied bills at Capitol Hill with Jesuit Refugee Service for Advocacy Day. While in D.C., she lobbied to increase the number of refugees allowed in the U.S. during the Trump administration and to remove the ban for Muslims and Syrian refugees (instated by Donald Trump in 2017). 

In March 2019, Ngemba spoke at the United Nations Commission on the State of Women at their featured event, “None is Left Behind.” At the conference, Ngemba focused primarily on the state of refugee girls and the barriers they face to gain access to education. 

This past weekend on September 19th, 2022, Ngemba traveled to New York City to speak on the issue of education in emergencies. On her panel, she highlights young people’s experiences living in emergency settings and stresses the importance of providing inclusive, safe spaces. This includes calling for increased government accountability and financing. 

As for her long term goals for speaking at these panels, Ngemba’s plans include “getting commitments from global leaders in terms of receiving funding for education for refugee children across the globe.”

When asked what she plans on pursuing after graduation, Ngemba is still unsure. As a full-time student and activist, she has much to accomplish in the near future. Ngemba stressed that, as of right now, her goal is, “advocating for education for refugee children especially those in emergency areas.”