Before I was crowned a princess and recognized as an unsung hero by the Kings and Queens of the Makoni kingdom of Zimbabwe and BBC Africa for my work empowering young women, I knew what it was to be an outcast. As a young teenager in Cameroon, life was difficult. I became pregnant at the age of thirteen and was shunned by the community for being an unwed mother. The verbal abuse continued throughout the pregnancy and was extended to my son after his birth. With every insult, my self-worth was slowly chipped away. Having a child as a teen and out of wedlock in my culture is taboo, but not as bad as the names I earned. Every time I heard people call me or my son names, it reinforced my feelings of insecurity and shame. I was at war with myself.
The community may not have been very understanding, but my family was another thing altogether. They recognized the importance of forgiveness and were able to reach down into the trash can, pick up all the broken parts, and piece me back together. I was sent away to school. Determined, I worked hard and was placed at the British College of Professional Management where I eventually earned a scholarship to study at Antioch University in Ohio. From there, I applied to study nursing in New Jersey College and, years later, am still a nurse in , New York U.S.A.
While nursing has been a great career for me, it’s not what I feel I was put here to do. For that, I have a plan and am working doggedly to make it a reality. Back in my early days as a nursing assistant, I started keeping a journal. What began as a simple way of dealing with my feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth quickly turned into a healing process as I filled two to three journals a week. I noticed my journals were becoming a journey, not just a simple destination. They were thick and ripe with feelings. Whenever I was down and read from my journals I felt like an angel was talking to me. My own words became an inspiration to me. I was reminded of how important it is to believe in myself and remember that we are all created unique and special. The journals began to have such an impact on me that I wondered whether they could help others. I decided to publish the contents as a book series entitled False Labels, which encourages readers not to be defined by what others think of them. I made a pact to share my story because I believe only shared experiences can help others. Publishing my writing was a way of reaching out to so many who are stuck in darkness and be a point of light for them. I wish there had been stories like these when I was growing up.
The feedback I got from my writing assured me I was not alone and encouraged me to think about how I could impact and empower more girls to have a strong inner voice. I decided to take my books one step further and launched False Labels Global Inc., a non-profit organization that primarily seeks to provide a platform where vulnerable girls and women around the world can be inspired and equipped through self-esteem-building workshops and empowerment conferences like the one I started last year in Cameroon. The conference brought together more than 600 participants. Travelling back and forth to Africa with my own funds, my goal is to support initiatives relating to access to food, clean water, sanitation, income generation and education, but the project closest to my heart is the work I do with young women.
Statistics show that the average school-going Cameroonian girl of menstruating age skips school for three to five days a month during her period. This impacts not only her self-esteem but also her academic performance. To empower girls to stay in school, I started the KujaPads Initiative to supply sanitary pads to vulnerable girls in two big orphanages and secondary schools in the North West region of Cameroon. In addition to supplying the pads, we also lectured on the importance of good menstrual hygiene management, self-esteem, and ending menstrual taboos.
Back in the United States after a recent trip home, I am planning diligently how I can amplify the work of my organization by launching a female-run business that manufactures and distributes low-priced, high-quality, and environmentally friendly sanitary pads in a country where they are normally quite expensive. The women-led enterprise, which will open its doors to the world in 2017, will have many benefits. Rural women will have a source of income through employment opportunities, and school absenteeism due to the lack of sanitary napkins will be a thing of the past. And there will be a boost in self-esteem and confidence of girls and women.
My country of birth is Cameroon, a country in West Africa, and often referred to as Africa in miniature for its rich geographical and cultural diversity and its warm people. Natural features include deserts, rainforests, mountains and savannas. Cameroon have very rich and educated women, yet there are still those who live below the poverty line. And that is where I come in with:
My Two –prong approach and theory to changing as follows:
I will ensure that more women and girls feel empowered and dare to break all the shackles of marginalization and low self-esteem that pushes them to sit on the sidelines of life and live in a world where their vision must inspire them, equip them, and ultimately create a unique atmosphere for them, that will unlock their full 'feminine' potential.
I hope to rewrite the story of the women and girls of today and those of generations to come, laying special emphasis on revolutionizing the sanitary pad industry, ending menstrual taboos and stigmas giving women and girls the esteem they so deserve .
Life has a divine purpose and meaning and I am blessed to have found mine. By the grace of God and my own personal determination, I am going to achieve what I have set out to do and help girls reach their maximum potential.