My ordeal all began in 1994 when I lost my Dad at the age of seven. I was then single handedly catered for by my mother who had no specific job yet having four of us as children to bring up.
My mum was engaged in local peasant farming, cultivating only food crops which served as her only source of income to take care of all our basic needs as well as schooling. I and my siblings as kids had no choice but to assist our mother in cultivating food crops in her farms and helping to sell in the market in order to raise at least an amount of money that could albeit the payment of our fees and even health care.
The painful truth is that I and my siblings were actually struggling to cater for ourselves as minors whereas our late father had left behind a seemingly rich estate but we were deprived of benefiting from anything that belonged to our father. Our father was polygamous having many children with different wives.
At his death, the eldest children had to oppress those of us who were young, claiming all the property in our father’s estate and living us to feign for ourselves. They even tagged me in particular as a bastard, often times I was told to go and look for my real father. My mother had four children a boy and three girls. She was being told by her step sons that she’s got just one child namely; the only son my mother had, and so three of us girls were not considered as humans. My story my life!
With such a mindset life was so miserable for me as I was often traumatized each time I reflected on the reality of my family. I felt like I would not have existed at all, interacting with my peers and other people in the society was a problem to me as I feared am not apt enough to mingle with others. I was really empty inside, yes I really felt so, but for my Mum, I lacked love and encouragement as a child within my society. I suffered psychological violence yet because of the consistency, encouragement and warmth of my mother I remained strong and determined to succeed. My life my story!
As such I grew up in terror and horror, depression and oppression though with anxiety, all of these played negatively in my mind and person as I grew developing low self esteem and feeling that I had no reason to exist at all. My mum attempted to get justice for herself and her children in the Law court to no avail due to opposing manipulative tendencies. But in all these, she was bent to see us through school. She encouraged us to work hard with her in the fields for a brighter future. I and my two sisters as girls had to use a two wheel hand push truck to the farms to carry our mums farm produce such as yellow yams and sweet yams, which we will harvest after school and stay up late into the night washing these sweet yams and cooking for marketing the nest day by our poor but determined mother. During the holidays, we would spend all our time working on these farms and also carrying our produce on our heads and trekking long distances to the markets to make money in preparation for next school resumption.
We struggled like this until I got to the University where I enrolled to study Law at the age of 19. Just by going to the University, I was a point of reference for many other young girls within my vicinity and community. So many had the zeal to go to school and University which they had previously seen as a place meant for the rich. My story a shiny example!
During my first year in the University, I sued the administration of my late father’s estate in court for denying my siblings and I the right to share in our late father’s estate and got justice seven years after: We all as children of my late Dad legally recognized by the Law today own at least a portion of his property as per the judgment of the Supreme Court of Cameroon after several unsuccessful appeals by our opponent at the lower Courts.
Today, I, AZAH Jackline CHEY hold not only University certificates and diplomas but a Masters Degree in International Law (LLM). Being the jurist that I am, I do not want to practice as a Lawyer; I am passionately committed in advocating and empowering women and girls to realize their full potentials by nurturing their self esteem. I am never tired of volunteering in a service that improves a girl child’s moral and personality to attain quality education in spheres.
Having practiced and lived agriculture from childhood, I fervently wish to put it as a tool in the hands of women and that does not only guarantee food security but also enable them to meet up with their financial needs.
To realize this dream, I Co-Founded after volunteering in other organizations and later became the Coordinator of Bridgers Association Cameroon, a registered charity and nongovernmental organization having as mission to empower women and girls through advocacy and to attain gender equality. I am creating a positive impact in the lives of people through my organization in multi-dimensional and holistic approaches. I envisage myself and my organization as a solid bridge through which goals can be attained and putting smiles on the faces of other less privilege girls and women.
I have this great hubby to write poems, my first set of more than 50 poems are currently with a publishing house and soon to be published, it’s a talent am striving to develop into a life career.
For you out there, I wish I could ask for your trust and favour, while I am still young and inspiring, I think this is the time for me to embark on PhD studies but the challenge at this point is having a scholarship scheme that will enable me attain this goal.
Women in the absence of threat; assault and harassment will have self confidence and a focus in life. My childhood personally would have been beautiful and not cruel and portraying a bleak future as I thought and most importantly my performance in school would have been much more impressive. Girls in my community will enjoy love; equality and access to education which guarantees them a brighter future. Girls human rights respect would thrive and then a gender balance would blossom. To achieve this, I have establish an organization known as 'Bridgers Association Cameroon' with mission to empower women through advocacy to attain a gender balance. I intend to achieve all these by nurturing the esteem of girls/women to embrace leadership; Agriculture/Entrepreneurship; Encouraging Quality and Higher Education for the Girl child; educate them on WASH as well as let them know and fight for their Human Rights and citizenship. Getting girls involve in education is proving promising, but change can only be pushed up when every girl/woman gets involved and when men stand up for girls/women.