I am TRANSFORMING them from PRISONERS to #PRISONPRENEURS

Sophie Ngassa
Posted May 15, 2018 from Cameroon
She too can STEM
One of the ladies doing a presentation of her assignment
Closing ceremony of first phase in the presence of project lead and government officials.
Closing ceremony of first phase in the presence of project lead and government officials.: The ICT department received a grant from the project head to further the training and production of items for phase 2. (1/2)

When I joined the teaching field some 13 years back, I did my job with huge passion. Over 80% of my students were boys at a technical secondary school. I was not satisfied because I wanted to bridge the gap for women and girls who missed opportunities because they faced stereotypes about the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) labeled for men.

Generally, it had been a routine for me to handle the classroom with ease but recently, I was selected as a trainer for ICT skills for inmates at one of our major prison. I had to face another new and strange challenge that I had never imagined. OMG! I asked myself; "Am I sure to come out safe after going in there?"  "How can I teach this kind of people?"  as we had labeled them.

It was a very hard decision to accept this kind of “crazy” training adventure. I bowed down my head and prayed to God to give me the inner strength and love to handle the prison-phobia that worried me.However, I went on in good faith. It all started with the selection of the trainees which was done by the prison training officer. He called me up and handed the list of 12 inmates to me. As I walked up to the classroom with fear that I did my best to hide, I looked at the list keenly and didn't notice any female name. Well, I consoled myself because in our community, some men and women bear same names. So I finally stepped into the class to meet my new inmate students. They all stood up and looked strait into in my face.

Again! Not a single female in class! I was so angry and took it as a challenge. Being the gender activist and STEM advocate for girls that I am, I decided to use one of my successful methods to attract the ladies.I rushed to the prison superintendent to make a request for permission to go to the female dormitory to have an intimate talk with them at their camp.

I also wanted to feel secured and comfortable in class with the presence of some females. So luckily my request was granted and I quickly moved in with a broad smile on my face. Their leader smartly called their attention in the military style and they all stood in front of me looking very disgruntled. I started by making a joke to break the ice and I carefully explained to them the importance of new technologies, telling them why women in particular must be included and how it was going to change their future. At the end I asked the most interested to add their names on my list.

I walked away with 3 ladies following me and I said to myself "First mission accomplished". Unfortunately as we got to class, the men yelled at them. At this moment, I realized that I had missed a very necessary step. Oh! I had to educate these men first. Again, I took up the next challenge; I explained in simple terms why these ladies needed to be sited in this class and the numerous benefits of having them. Finally they understood and we began the lessons.

The ICT training went on for 2 months as this phase of the project stipulated. Our inmates have successfully gained marketable ICT skills. Again I said "Second mission accomplished', meaning I could overcome any other challenge as we will soon move in to the second phase.

I was baffled by how focused and fast they learned. 'The preconceptions I had about inmates have been erased. True some of them are victims of circumstances due to lack of self-control or discipline, some made bad choices and decisions, while others wanted to run faster than their shadows. But after a reformation and rehabilitation process especially with the acquisition of creative life skills and peace building talks, they will be able to reintegrate back into the society after their term is over.

It has been a great learning experience for me and I call the ladies in this class my #InmateSisters. I am proud to be part of their success stories and more inspired to make life more extraordinary to the best of my ability. I am thankful for this kind of special exposure that has further broadened my scope of reasoning. I find more reason to reach out to vulnerable persons who are really in need of empowerment. 

 

 

This post was submitted in response to Share Your Story On Any Topic.

Comments 24

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  • jlanghus
    May 18
    May 18

    Hi Sophie. What a great story:) And, yay, for you, that you went to the superintendent and had women added. I suspect a lot of people wouldn't have bothered with this additional step. I'm so impressed, and also that you were able to look beyond your fear and really help all these people that needed to be empowered. It sounds like it really broadened your perspective and opened your heart to them as well, as the same time, which is even more awesome. So, you had 3 ladies and 7 men total? Did you say you will be doing another course after this one is done, or you aren't sure?

  • Sophie Ngassa
    May 17
    May 17

    Dear Jill, thanks for you great comment and very encouraging words. Yes 3 ladies and 7 men which was better than before. Yes we are moving to phase 2, which is the production and sales of items produced using IT skills. This is one of my best experiences so far especially with encouragement from World Pulse sisters.

  • jlanghus
    May 18
    May 18

    You're welcome:) Awesome. Looking forward to an update on phase 2!

  • Sophie Ngassa
    May 18
    May 18

    Absolutely, I will.

  • jlanghus
    May 18
    May 18

    :-)

  • Tamarack Verrall
    May 15
    May 15

    Hi Sophie,

    I loved reading your story, how you faced your own preconceptions about people in prison, and how you made sure that women were able to take your course - both for your own sake and theirs. I love that you were angry that women had not had the course offered. And I love that they are now your #Inmate Sisters. I too had the opportunity to get "inside" the prisons for women here over a long period of time and learned so much from the women about how they ended up inside. There were obvious reasons why their lives had gotten messed up, and it is these problems that need to be solved. I am impressed that the prison authorities allowed you to offer an IT course. It is such a practical skill to be able to offer. Congratulations on making this happen.

    In sisterhood,
    Tam

  • Sophie Ngassa
    May 17
    May 17

    Dear Tam, Thank you so much. You are one of those who sent my more energy and light to move on with this project. I am so happy to be connected to you and other changemakers via World Pulse. I also learned a lot form the inmates.

  • Olutosin
    May 15
    May 15

    Wonderful woman!!!! You are a miracle. Please don't forget our girls in Ibasa . Love you all the way and cheering you on.

  • Sophie Ngassa
    May 17
    May 17

    Dear Tosin, my super woman. Thanks my sister for motivating me so much.
    Yeah! I can't forget our girls ohhhh. It is in my plan. Love you more.

  • Ndimofor Aretas
    May 16
    May 16

    Great Job Ma Sophie. Keep up, I am right behind you every step of the way!

  • Sophie Ngassa
    May 17
    May 17

    Hi Aretas, Thank you for always standing besides me. To God be the glory.

  • Evelyn Fonkem
    May 16
    May 16

    So inspiring Aunty Sophie.Thanks for touching lives.

  • Sophie Ngassa
    May 17
    May 17

    Hi Evelyn, thanks for commenting. Happy that I inspired you with this story. You are welcome.

  • nelsa nabila
    May 25
    May 25

    My dear Aunty Sophie, you are so powerful. I admire your courage and passion for change. One day I will be like you. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Sophie Ngassa
    May 30
    May 30

    Dear sis, thank you. You are on tract with the work you do. Thanks for your great comment.

  • Stephanie Mah
    May 29
    May 29

    Congratulations Mah Sophie, you really inspire me. I am happy to be on world Pulse Platform.Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Sophie Ngassa
    May 30
    May 30

    Dear Stephanie, I am happy that I am inspiring you. Welcome to World Pulse!
    Please explore this very valuable platform and make good use of it.

  • Ngala Nadege
    May 31
    May 31

    Dear Aunty Sophie, As read your story I felt very excited to join you, Please I want to be as bold as you are. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Sophie Ngassa
    Jun 07
    Jun 07

    Dear Nadege, Welcome to World Pulse! I am happy to see you active on this very spacial platform. Cheers!

  • Hello, Sophie,

    There is no stopping you, not even your "prison-phobia". You have done well! Thank you for your utmost passion and commitment.

    You are inspiring through and through!

  • Sophie Ngassa
    Jun 07
    Jun 07

    Dear Karen, Thanks for commenting and encouraging me. I appreciate you!

  • joyce nelly
    Jun 07
    Jun 07

    Dear Aunty Sophie, I am so glad to see that prisoners can receive this kind of transformation, thank you very much. You are a very courageous and outstanding woman. Cheers!

  • Sophie Ngassa
    Jun 07
    Jun 07

    My Dear Joyce, I am happy that you took my advice. Thanks for adding your voice.

  • Freddy Njang
    Jun 08
    Jun 08

    Dear Aunty Sophie, big congrats for touching the lives of these inmates Wow! You are awesome.