“90% of our girls live in places with no telephone network, no electricity, no radio/TV signals, no accessible roads; the list is long.”
There is a line that exists in Cameroon. On one side I stand where, because of my parent’s encouragement and support, I have graduated from University with a Masters degree; on the other side are thousands of young girls who drop out of school because either their families do not believe in educating girls, they are forced into early marriages, are raped (by strangers, relatives or close family friends), or they cannot afford the school fees. Isolated by poverty, circumstance, and/or lack of education, not even the NGOs reach these girls in fear of direct attacks on their staff or due to the isolation and rough terrain of these areas (lack of mobile service, long treks to villages with no roads, sleeping on floors, and crossing rivers by foot).
What is the issue you are trying to solve?In Cameroon, especially in the rural communities, schooling is not a girl thing. Even if girls go to school, most drop out early – their futures disrupted and destroyed –due to extreme poverty, pregnancy as a result of rape or incest, early marriage, reproductive health issues, STIs, and so on.
I think back when, in spite of a difficult financial situation, my parents saw me and my siblings through school and I know that if it were not for their commitment, I would probably be one of those village girls who would be married with at least 6 children and still counting, infected with disease or even dead because of some health related problems that poverty prevented them from addressing.
I want to stand in the gap for these girls and break the cycle of poverty and lack of knowledge. With education and information on how to take care for themselves, they will progress and become leaders in their communities and in the country.
What is your solution?Locked away from the rest of Cameroon, about 90% of our girls live in places with no telephone network, no electricity, no radio/TV signals, no accessible roads; the list is long. They are not even exposed to the world of NGOs because many organizations are in fear of direct attacks on their staff.
It is for all of these reasons that we launched "Girls Lead" clubs in schools in early September to educate, mentor, and empower young girls in topics they know little or nothing about, such as sex education, menstrual hygiene, the importance of education, and ICT. We knew that paying the school fees and giving them school supplies to stay in school was not enough. We teach them to value education, and inspire them to stay in school and graduate to become leaders by sharing stories of successful women.
We want to serve as role models to these girls and also match them with mentors in Cameroon and around the world. Through these "Girls’ Lead" clubs, the girls have a chance to be empowered and to advance in life.
In what way will the lives of specific individuals be improved because of your work?The cycle of poverty will be broken in a long run. More girls will stay in school and reach the top of the educational ladder. Pregnancy and STI infection rates of rural girls will definitely reduce.
Impact Goal:To reach 50 girls in 20 schools in first year; total 1,000 girls. Target is 200 schools in subsequent years. Currently we are reaching 102 girls in 2 schools and are financially supporting 85 girls so they can stay in school.