BUEA, CAMEROON - At the age of 22, she has done more than 22 positive things, held more than 22 leadership positions, and touched more than 22 lives. This amazing 22 year old has more than 22 esteemed admirers, and she speaks more eloquently than an average 22 year old. If wisdom was truly counted from the grey hair of old age as an African belief holds, then this young woman would surely be considered abnormal for being so wise in her youthful black hair.
Nkiri Comfort Daru is the 22 year old who was recently awarded the Moremi Fellowship of the 25 most outstanding female African leaders between 19 - 25 years old for 2013, by the Moremi Initiative or Women’s leadership in Africa (MILEAD 2013). As she packs her bags, set to fly to Ghana for the first MILEAD three week residential summer institute built for July 12 through August 2nd 2013she is filled with excitement for being among the privileged class of young female African leaders.
She thinks she is a square peg in a square hole.
“I think the Moremi program is only going to perfect my leadership skills,” she says. “I have been a leader and an activist ever since I was a kid.”
The MILEAD Fellows Program is a long-term leadership development program designed to identify, develop and promote emerging young African Women leaders to attain and thrive in leadership in their community and Africa as a whole. The program targets dynamic young women interested in developing transformational leadership skills that help them address issues facing women and girls across communities in Africa. The MILEAD Program equips Fellows with the world class knowledge, skills, values and networks they need to succeed as 21st century women leaders.
Daru is the only Cameroonian, amongst 24 other African girls who was selected for this program. It was due to her already exhibited leadership and activist skills.
Daru started by being the Senior School Prefect in her primary school. She says she remembers that whenever a top official came visiting her school, she was always called upon to present an address to the visitor.
“I was usually scared of doing this, but I always did it courageously,” she says. “The officials of my school saw something special in me.”
Daru who is a Masters Student in Anthropology in the University of Buea - Cameroon, is currently holding the position of the Deputy Coordinator of the Center for entrepreneurship, research, and innovation at the University Institute of the Dioceses of Buea.
She is passionate about entrepreneurship and thinks every Cameroonian should strive to make use of the many entrepreneurial opportunities.
“I made my first 100,000frs ($200) CFA out of a 10,000frs ($20) that my father dashed me when I passed my Advanced Level Certificate into University,” she says with a smile.
Daru says when her father dashed her 10,000 frs, her mother being an entrepreneur, took her to the market and bought different kinds of jewelry which she sold from house to house, office to office. In less than one month, she made 100,000 frs cash in hand, irrespective her expenses for transportation etc.
She is a motivational speaker, a gift which many – even her colleagues in the office, identify in her. She has inspired people at gathering after gathering that she has been called upon to present a motivational speech.
As a young girl, she has been:
- The Director of and Later President of Junior Chamber International (JCI) University of Buea Leadership Academy in 2012 and 2013
- Corporate Personnel at Big Steps Outreach Network in Buea – Cameroon.
- Facilitator of Bloomberg University/University of Buea Seminar on Culture
- JCI certified trainer and presenter for 2011
- Business trainer at a six-week business training program in Buea in Jan-Feb 2013
- Founder of a project called “Microenterprise for social destitute project.” …Just to name a few.
Being born of poor parents, a father who was a mere secretary typist with the Tiko Rural Council, and a mother who was a common seamstress whose seamstressing shop was burnt in a 2006 fire incident at Cameroon’s Tiko Market, she has grown to face life’s challenges as they come.
“Life’s challenges are my pillars of strength,” she says. “When I think of the way my parents sacrificed their happiness just to get us educated, there is no way I will sleep comfortably in my bed without thinking about how best to make life better for others who find themselves or may find themselves in similar situations.
Daru is remembered for saving her monthly earnings to give to young mothers in her neighborhood where she grew up, a neighborhood which she says is filled with poor and destitute families whose female children often became mothers at teen age. Every month, she goes back to see those girls who she calls ‘victims of circumstances’ to provide a little money for them for their children’s upkeep.
She says enough is enough with giving people fish instead of teaching them how to catch fish. This is the reason why she came up with her ideal project which she calls “Micro enterprise for social destitute.”
She has identified seven destitute teenage mothers with whom she is currently working in the poor neighborhood where she grew up, training them on entrepreneurial skills. She plans to move this number up as time goes on. She hopes to get funding someday to help them increase their small businesses. She however encourages every individual to start a business no matter how small.
Daru says she has always been on the forefront.
“Hardwork has always made me to stand out in situations where others are standing in,” she says with a broad smile.
Being an admirer of Daru, Maggie-Lowels Egbe, a student in the department of Women and Gender Studies of the University of Buea described her as a source of inspiration.
“Comfort [Daru] is a girl who will not only make you discover your hidden talent, she will make you work on those talents yourself,” Ebge says. “When I started interacting with her, she made me to discover my leadership talents and today I am holding about three leadership positions, all thanks go to Comfort.”
Egbe says of all the leading women in the world, Daru is her role model. This is because she was a shy person by nature, she revealed, but when she listened to Daru’s story and saw how active she was as a leader, she told herself that if Daru could conquer her fears and become who she is today, then she too can become another Daru.
Daru is a force to reckon with. She recently gave this word of motivation and advice to students on Cameroon National television (CRTV) during an interview where she appeared as special guest.
“Students, I made my first 100,000frs out of 10,000frs capital. Your pocket allowance can generate a lot of income for you, just identify a line of small business and dedicate some time to it. Do not sit and ask your government what it has done for you, but rather ask yourself what you have done for your government. The government cannot employ all of its citizens; let’s all stand up and make a difference for our lives and our nation, let’s become entrepreneurs. “
Shakespeare wasn't wrong when he said:"Some were born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Whether in-born, achieved, or both, Moremi Fellow Nkiri Comfort Daru has achieved a lot of greatness in her scant 22 years. Cameroon looks forward to what she will do in her next 22 years, which will no doubt involve ‘standing out where others are standing in,’ and challenging those around her to find their voice and become own hero.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.Voices of Our Future 2013 Assignments: Profiles