In a sort of wrap up to the last two blog posts about ending child marriage, today’s post is a chat I had with Eliane Mbende from Cameroon. She is the winner of the World Bank 2020 Blog4Dev Cameroon competition. You can check out her winning blog here. She had seen my twitter post about my Blog4Dev article and got in touch. Eliane awesomely accepted to be featured on the blog and tell us more about herself and her passions. So without much further ado Ladies and Gents, I present to you our chat
Tell us about yourself
My Name is Mbende Eliane Aurelie, my family and close friends affectionately call me “Nanou”. I’m a 22-year-old Cameroonian. I was born in Saint Petersburg in Russia and I grew up in Cameroon. I am the eldest of a family of 3 children. My interests are volunteering, dental health and museum hopping. I define myself as an accessible, dynamic and open-minded young woman.
What’s your professional background
I’m currently a 6th year dental student at the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Yaoundé 1-Cameroon.In addition to increasing access to dental health services in Cameroon, I’m a profound advocate for women, adolescent and vulnerable children’s rights. I promoted gender equality and sexual education in schools as a peer educator through the Gender, Sexuality, Society and Health Education (GSHE) project for an NGO called “Women for A change Cameroon”. Furthermore, I served as a community animator for a project called “RESPEC-VIE CIPCRE/UNICEF Cameroon” which aimed at strengthening Child Protection and promoting life skills among young people in the Yaoundé 2 district. My main role involved identifying neglected child victims of violence and connecting them to the integrated package of care services which included, medical assistance, psychosocial support, legal and judicial assistance, school and family reintegration. I aspire to amplify the voices of women and children and improve access to sexual and reproductive health through advocacy ad health education.
What motivated you to write an essay for the blog4dev competition
I would like to let you know that I participated twice in the Blog4Dev contest organized by the World Bank. In 2018, I wrote a blog post which unfortunately was not selected for the 2019 edition. In 2019, when I discovered the new theme, focused on solutions to eliminating child marriage in my country, I immediately jumped for joy and I said to myself that this is a sign! As a humanitarian agent for the protection of children’s rights, also as a young woman engaged in the fight against Gender-Based Violence within Cameroonian families in precarious situations, I had the feeling of having already taken the first step of victory. One evening in the kitchen whilst tasting my dish of “Ndolè”, I vaguely explained to my mother the Blog4Dev concept and the aim of the competition, and in one sentence without hesitation, she said to me: “My daughter go ahead! you will win ” and from that moment I was both reassured and confident, I had every reason to believe in it a second time and try my luck again.
How has the blog4dev journey and award changed your life
The Blog 4 Dev is a unique and extraordinary adventure for any young African leader, as soon as the official results were announced, I was admitted into the large community of Youth Transforming Africa (YTA), I was quickly integrated and warmly welcomed into the team. I remain fascinated by the atmosphere that reigns there daily (the proactivity and dynamism of the winners as well as the professionalism and availability of our mentors). In Cameroon, I have been interviewed by the National Press and I have been asked by community-based associations to encourage budding writers, leaders and students to put their pen to the service of the ills that undermine society. I also edified young people on the concept of Blog4Dev and to crown it all I had the honor to represent the cohort of the 2020 winners during the YALDA/World Bank roundtable alongside the founder of this prestigious competition Ms. Diaretou Gaye (Vice-President and Secretary General of the World Bank) who believes in African youth and wishes to see more young people get involved in building a prosperous Africa. As a Blog4Dev winner, I was supposed to be joined by other winners from over 30 African countries to attend the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington DC in April this year, unfortunately due to COVID-19, the meetings were adapted to virtual format.
How has your life experience impacted how you see the world
My participation in the YALDA COVID-19 stress management café program helped me to manage my stress and anxiety throughout the health crisis. It is a space for discussion between young African leaders and coaching sessions on lifestyle during and after the pandemic. Through this experience, I discovered Africa in miniature in all its diversity and made new friends in several African countries. At the beginning of each week we were to get to know our respective teammates assigned by the YALDA program. Our mission was to discover our partners on a cultural level (traditions, habits and customs), on a personal level (values), on a professional level (life projects) while sharing our ideas and ambitions to build the Africa of our dreams; We also had to participate in singing and dancing exercises and then share them with the rest of the group during the weekly virtual assembly; thanks to our coaches we were able to face the crisis together hand in hand while transforming our cultural differences into exponential wealth. From this experience, I drew a very great lesson of solidarity between the African people all over the world. This program has helped me to strengthen my civic engagement and my open-mindedness.
Tell us about Cameroon, what do you wish the rest of the world knew
My country, Cameroon stands out on the world stage by the dynamism of its youth, the resilience of the population and its unique cultural heritage. Due to its geological and cultural diversity, it is called “Africa in miniature”. Cameroon has beaches, deserts, mountains, savannas and rainforests. We count more than 200 different languages, 120 touristic sites and two natural sites classified as World Heritage. Mount Cameroon is the highest point. Douala, Yaoundé and Garoua are the largest cities. English and French are our official languages. Cameroon has high social and political stability compared to others African nations and its industries include agriculture, railways, roads, timber and oils industries. I love my country because it is authentic and it is good to live in. The local population is warm and very welcoming. Our cultural diversity is our major asset.
What would you tell the world about Africa
Africa is a special continent, the world’s second largest populous continent with various cultures, natural resources and more than 2 000 beautiful languages. We are blessed with a very powerful youthful population, we as the youth are creative, energetic, talented and innovative. We are working so hard to fulfill our dreams while building a new continent, full of hope for the next generation.
Three people you wish to have dinner with
- Mrs. Michelle Obama,
- Mrs. Aya Chebbi:
- Mrs. Diane Audrey Ngako
Tell us about your favorite book and what are your book recommendations
My favorite book is Becoming by Michelle Obama. My book recommendation is I am Malala: The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick
Which country in Africa do you know the least about
The country I know the least in Africa is Swaziland.
What’s your favourite song, album and artist
My favorite artist is Charlotte Dipanda from Cameroon, favorite song Unstoppable by SIA.
Advice to fellow women and young Africans
I would like to advise my African brothers and sisters to believe in their dreams and to give themselves the means to achieve them. Volunteering is the best tool each young person should use to create a positive impact in their community. Civic engagement enables us to help, empower and inspire vulnerable people around us and to be part of a change makers network. These actions allow us to rediscover ourselves, learn from others and awaken the leader who lies dormant in us. Nowadays, being smart in your classroom is not enough to lead change in society, you must develop personal skills such as self-awareness, flexibility, perseverance and open-mindedness to be ENGAGED in your community. We all have something to share with others, so let’s be the change we want to see in Africa! Let us give our time, energy, positivity, creativity freely to make the world better around us and guess what? You are not alone, The YTA community is there to support YOU in achieving your goals by sharing content on: Young African models of success, Opportunities, Quotes, Youth led companies and initiatives. You can follow us NOW on our different social medias to not miss anything from the news of young African leaders
Facebook: Youth Transforming Africa https://www.facebook.com/Youth.Transforming.Africa/
Twitter: (@YTAfrica1) https://twitter.com/YTAfrica1?s=09
How can people get in touch with you (social media, email, etc.)
– Twitter: (@MbendeEliane) https://twitter.com/MbendeEliane?s=09
-Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/fedszsteazt
– email: firstname.lastname@example.org