The Frontlines of My Life; Empowering My Community Through Self Empowerment

Emily Miki
Posted March 1, 2016 from Cameroon

At the age of 13 I took up my first holiday job for which I was payed 30,000CFA F and which I handed over to my mum and she used to start a fire-wood business. This was what assisted her in carrying for us the months immediately after the passing away of my dad. At 15 I worked with the Limbe Council as a road cleaner during the holidays and the money I made payed my Lower-Sixth school fees and I continued working during the holidays to continue my education and assist my family and this was the same training I passed onto my younger sister Shella. Today she also has holiday jobs and part time jobs which have made her very responsible and supported her till the completion of her Bachelors of Science Degree.

Women can be empowered through their children and the youths of their communities. But this is seen absent in many poor and rural communities because the children and youths are seen to love an easy life (that is want a car, a nice home, money, nice clothes, expensive phones and eat good food) and this all due to the erroneous perceptions of young people by adults. Women are the ones to empower their young children and through that they will also be empowered given the many available opportunities for young people globally today.

I as a young woman see the fact that we love an easy life, to be the motivating factor of our successes and strengths because it is this love for the easy life that makes us work hard, become responsible at younger ages and seek ways to empower ourselves so as to get out of poverty and have a life of comfort and riches. I personally hear this from my mum all the time when she tells me and my younger sister that we work a lot and we want to run ahead of our shadows and not hurry in life. But then she forgets that if we weren’t hard working we wouldn’t have gotten the education and qualifications we now have especially after she fell sick after the sudden passing away of our father. She forgets that in the 14 years of her being down health-wise and not been able to work to fend for us, it is the holiday jobs and part-time jobs we did, the scholarships we applied for that could pay our tuition fees and fend for the entire family.

1 out of 10 Parents (mothers; since most of them are single parents or widows in my community) allow their children to take holiday jobs or volunteer at Institutions or Companies. And it is because they consider a child who takes up a holiday job at the age of 15 to be because his parents cannot take care of him or they are poor. But then this is not the case because this instead builds that child and makes them responsible. Looking at the opportunities available now for children and youths globally I rarely see African children not to talk of Cameroonian children and youths been nominated for Nobel Peace Prize like Malala Yousafzai. KidsRight is presently receiving nominations for children involved in activities to empower their communities and fellow children but where can we find such a child to nominate in my community?

Though many women don’t empower their children and the young people in their communities it is important to know that there are some people who believe in youth empowerment and are waiting to see these young people take the first step and add a helping hand. This is true because while we worked we received assistance from family and friends who were encouraged to help us seeing our efforts. This points out that help comes to us when we take the first step, for there are others watching us but who only come in when they see us pushing towards a set goal. Women who are mostly mothers will be empowered when we teach them how to empower their children and the youths of their communities. For through empowered children and youths, they will also be empowered and our communities developed.

Comments 13

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  • Gladys Muthara
    Mar 02, 2016
    Mar 02, 2016

    Hi Emily,

    I completely agree with you that it is crucial for young people to take up some work and help at home, learn to be responsible at an early age because this often helps majority of them become very responsible at later stages of life.

    This is what we do at Teen Action Program, helping teens develop into all round individuals who can identify and create solutions to challenges affecting them and their communities. In a nutshell, we are nurturing a generation of change makers and leaders.

    I also grew up working during the holidays and saving some little money for my pocket money and it surely taught me a lot.

    However, care must also be taken so that children are not turned into laborers by their parents and the community; hence, miss-out on other children activities such as play which helps nurture skills such as collaboration, communication, problemsolving, decisionmaking.

    In addition, a balance is important in order to ensure children are not missing school due to exposure to menial jobs that give them money.

  • Emily Miki
    Mar 02, 2016
    Mar 02, 2016

    Hi Gladys, Thanks for reading and adding your opinion about my story from my own life experiences and it is wonderful to know you had similar experiences which have made you the unique and responsible woman you are. You have made a very vital contribution about finding the balance so these children and youths don't end up missing out on socializing and play time with their friends. Honestly this phenomenon of youth development is a rare one and while we try to incorporate that we do make sure this is not missed out. Because just like you pointed out bringing up this pertinent concept gets misused by most parents given that people turn to always be at extremes about adopting new concepts. So we as leaders just have to keep working since mind-building is not a days job. Thanks and I would love to share some vital work experiences with you on the way forward for this. Best regards!

  • Sally maforchi Mboumien
    Mar 02, 2016
    Mar 02, 2016

    Hi Emily Good idea you got about raising children. I agree with you because when you teach a child not to be too dependent you help the child to grow responsibly. In our community, those holiday jobs are available but can't employ up to one tenth of the total population of youths. This probably explains why major of them engage in petty trading which equally has devastating effects on so many of them.

    Considering the fact that you are a success story of holiday jobs and academic, what can you suggest be done to my young people out there to be hard working and remain focus in their academics. Most of our mothers too are so committed in fending for the families as a result they allow their children work within any follow up. The way they go about it makes them guilt of child labour. How do you think we can get the mothers involve their children while being responsible of taking care of them.

  • Emily Miki
    Mar 02, 2016
    Mar 02, 2016

    Hi Masalien's, I feel you on that point because it is very true of Limbe where I come from. I know of just a few Institutions that do this and in the years that have followed the numbers have gradually increased. So I believe as leaders it gives a new target group to work with, not just youths and women but now corporate societies. Where we educate them and their Founders and Leaders on the importance of getting involved in promoting youths and social services through providing fundings for young people through grants, scholarships, holiday jobs and payable volunteering opportunities at their Institutions. Because I strongly believe in a concept that rather than employ 10 and pay 50000CFA each and leave 30 unemployed its better to employ 25 and give them each 25000 CFA because not just the pay will build them but the working experience too will help them in their future careers either in picking up jobs or becoming entrepreneurs. Also about petty tradings, to me nothing is every small. But it is about educating them on how to go about it and avoid the challenges attached to it because every experience in life is important. But teaching the parents to not overload these children and on how to be strategic about their businesses will give the businesses a different face. For example a mother sends her child out to sell yahourt everyday and the child goes out in the sun all round town and returns with no sales made, but if the mum was taught on creating a great strategy for her business she could instead get sales permission at a school or institution and gets a spot and sells and the child can take over sales for maybe an hour or two while she makes food for the house and she takes over later and the child gets on with his extracurricular activities. Next on her strategy is scaling and branding her business; give it a name, seeks out supply chains for events and getting to another spot and multiply her business such that it becomes a chain business. So if she called it "B Yahourt" you can now find "B Yahourt" in two to three different places in the same community. Now her customers trust her and while the child is involved in what started as a petty trading he is now involved in a growing business and while there he is learning about starting and growing a business. While we work to change the systems in our communities and though its a long process, we as leaders have to be able to create and teach the people we lead how to become creative and innovative while connecting them to opportunities they don't know about. Like we teach them how to use Internet to search for opportunities related to their business fields and help them out in filling out applications while teaching them so they can pass on what we taught them.

  • Gladys Muthara
    Mar 02, 2016
    Mar 02, 2016

    Hi Emily,

    This is an important conversation you have started with your Frontline story.

    I would also really love to carry on with this conversation so that we see how we can empower young people (especially girls) better and achieve sustainable impact.

    Teen Action Program revolves around this concept. We engage teens in teen clubs where we train them life skills, Educational Workshops on varied topics like ICT, Teen Stars Camps (Lifeskills training, Global issues discussion, Active citizenship, Leadership, games, morals, career development, and academic performance) Teen Action week (Teens address a key issue of their choice in the community e.g. tree planting) and Yes Teens Can conference.

    I would really like us to carry on this conversation and see how we can help develop a generation of changemakers, leaders, and people who are responsible about their lives.

    Thank you.

  • Emily Miki
    Mar 04, 2016
    Mar 04, 2016

    Yes Gladys, indeed we would work together on this great empowerment model. I recently sent you a friend request on World Pulse, I am going to send you one on Facebook now. So we can stay in constant contact. Thanks sister. God bless you!

  • ARREY - ECHI
    Mar 02, 2016
    Mar 02, 2016

    Hi Emily, I am glad to see that the tragic events of your young life did not stop you from aiming higher. It is true that often times, society's wrapped views can be discouraging. But you rose above that and also succeeded in empowering your sister. Well done and keep empowering others.

  • Emily Miki
    Mar 04, 2016
    Mar 04, 2016

    Thanks so much Arrey. I will definitely keep empowering others. You know you have one of the Bayangi names I love pronouncing a lot in the country way; "A'rre'y"" lol. But am not Bayangian though. Just love the name.

  • ARREY - ECHI
    Mar 07, 2016
    Mar 07, 2016

    Lool thank you very much. Many people loving prounoucing my name the traditional way which makes me too to love the name. I think you grew up around some bayangis then. Thanks again.

  • GetRude
    Mar 03, 2016
    Mar 03, 2016

    Hey Emily. The one thing that many young people in Africa are failing to do is move from that place of spoon feeding to becoming independent and able to determine our own futures. Most of the times we complain about what our governments are not doing and demand change we might never see in our life time, yet your story shows just how determination can bring us to a place of sanity and progress. I admire your strength and ve to keep going despite having been young when your dad passed on.

  • Emily Miki
    Mar 05, 2016
    Mar 05, 2016

    Hey GetRude, You've made a very pertinent point about our endless wait on the government which is not forthcoming. Our President Paul Biya recently made a point though many didn't catch it in his message to the youths of Cameroon that the should become entrepreneurs and use technology in which he was trying to point out the many opportunities for entrepreneurs. We have to work even with a failing government system because in their failures it is us the citizens who suffer. So we have to take the bold step and stop being dependent on them.

  • Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente
    Mar 07, 2016
    Mar 07, 2016

    Hi Emily

    I am very glad to read the frontlines of your life and thanks you very much for sharing this with our community. I am happy and blessed to be part of this journey with you. I love the title, I think it resume an important fact about ending with opression and inequality that is: the good we create as women and for women is a good we deliver to all people.  I am looking forward to support you in every step. Well done!

  • Tamara Kubacki
    Mar 14, 2016
    Mar 14, 2016

    Dear Emily Miki,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I think this training will bring out even more of the leadership qualities that you already possess. You have already worked very hard in your life, both for your own betterment and for others. It's clear that your goals are not to earn a lot of money so you can have expensive things, but to educate other people, youth especially. I agree that teaching responsibility early is important, but it is equally important to find a support network, like you had with your sister, so the burdens of working and life's challenges don't seem quite as impossible. I hope that in your pursuit of a better world you take some time for yourself to relax and reenergize now and then. Stress can stand in the way of our goals if we let it. Please take care of yourself, too. Your mission is important.

    Respectfully,

    Tamara