Cameroonian Woman of Courage

Cameroonian Woman of Courage

On March 29, 2017, the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde presented Ms. Fidele Djebba with the first annual “Cameroonian Woman of Courage Award” 2017.  Ms. Djebba received this honor for her key initiatives in advancing security and the empowerment of youth, women, and girls in the Republic of Cameroon.  See Facebook album of the award ceremony here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/yaounde.usembassy/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10158432485440716.

Presenting the award, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission David Brownstein said that the U.S. Embassy commends her strategic goals of combating Boko Haram in the Far North Region by lifting the voices of citizens and encouraging their own efforts to support women’s empowerment to ensure economic development, peace and prosperity for Cameroonians in all ten regions. See his full remarks below in English and French. Ms. Djebba’s award citation reads as follows:

Fidele Djebba, Recipient of U.S. Embassy Yaounde’s 2017 Cameroonian Woman of Courage Award

“At great personal risk, Fidele Djebba has become one of Cameroon’s most vocal advocates for the advancement of women and girls in the most inaccessible regions of Cameroon.  By successfully enlisting support from Cameroonian women from all ten regions, she has challenged and inspired them to become directly involved in promoting gender equity to advance peace and prosperity for all citizens through vibrant civil society efforts.  The leadership and action by Fidele Djebba and the women and girls she mentored are raising awareness among Cameroonians about the plight of the victims of Boko Haram, and most importantly, organizing Cameroonian youth nationwide to contribute to their country by combating the roots of violent extremism and promoting economic development through their own immense talents, ideas, and contributions.”

Text of remarks (English and French)

Remarks by Acting Deputy Chief of Mission David Brownstein
At 2017 Cameroonian Woman of Courage Award Ceremony
U.S. Embassy Yaounde Multi-Purpose Room
March 29, 2017; 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It is an honor to welcome you to the U.S. Embassy today to honor a Cameroonian whose life is dedicated to service and making a real difference in uplifting the lives of others. For that reason, we have selected her as this year’s first annual Cameroonian Woman of Courage Award.

Fidele Djebba is a grassroots activist, social worker, writer, editor, founder of the women’s leadership and entrepreneurship NGO Rayons du Soleil, and State Department International Visitors Leadership Program alumna

She has valiantly challenged traditional cultural and gender roles in her region of origin – the Far North – to advocate for the rights of youth, girls, and women in the Far North through grass roots projects involving thousands of participants.

She has been an extraordinary recipient and steward of U.S. grants from the Department of State’s Office of Countering Violent Extremism, Public Affairs, and the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues through which she has enlisted hundreds of young women of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds from all regions in promoting national identity, peace, and grass roots community activism in partnership with all sectors.

The Far North, one of Cameroon’s most isolated regions bordering Nigeria and Chad, is a conservative patriarchal society controlled by traditional religious leaders and elders, and a place where countless traditional cultural practices such as child marriages make it difficult for girls, women, and youth to be heard and to participate in the region’s political and economic development.

Fidele’s work in the region is hard-hitting and revolutionary given that it addresses many of the root causes that have contributed to Boko Haram’s recruitment among youth and attempts to solve issues that, if left unsolved, could jeopardize Cameroon’s efforts to win the war and secure a lasting peace.

In 2012, Fidele was selected by the Embassy to participate in the International Visitors Leadership Program “Women Developing Civil Society”. She describes this experience as a turning point in her life that made her gain a tremendous amount of self-confidence as a woman and an activist.

As an alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Program, Fidele has been instrumental in advancing Embassy Yaounde’s women’s empowerment and peace and security objectives in the Far North, where distance and local languages make Embassy programming more challenging.

As a grantee, Fidele worked with the Mandela Washington Fellows and over 200 young girls in the region to find solutions to the Far North’s problems through a competition called Les Nanas Awards as part of Embassy Yaounde’s Gender Equity Group efforts.

Fidele’s project Engaged for Peace resulted in 10 workshops nationwide that trained over 500 youth on conflict resolution. Her social media campaign to raise awareness about the plight of the victims resulted in the involvement of 13,000 people. Fidele also organized the fundraising concert Cameraction for Peace that involved the government, youth groups, and the U.S. Embassy.

Fidele’s activism is an inspiration to youth and women in Cameroon. In Cameroon’s male-dominated society, Fidele’s unapologetic message of women’s empowerment is extraordinary. Her activism – rare in women from her region and even rarer in somebody so young – epitomizes hope and inspiration for many.

At the age of 32, she has already received her Master’s Degree in Social Psychology with a social work certification, serves as the Executive Director of an association to protect children and women’s rights in the Far North region of Cameroon, founded the NGO Rayons du Soleil focused on women’s leadership and entrepreneurship, and publishes a new popular young women’s magazine entitled Les Nanas in the capital city of Yaounde.

Fidele stops at nothing to ensure that women and girls’ rights are observed and respected, and that all traditional practices that are repugnant to women’s human rights are steadily becoming a thing of the past.

So therefore, I would like to call Fidele by my side as I read this citation and present her on our behalf this award:

Citation:

“At great personal risk, Fidele Djebba has become one of Cameroon’s most vocal advocates for the advancement of women and girls in the most inaccessible regions of Cameroon.  By successfully enlisting support from Cameroonian women from all ten regions, she has challenged and inspired them to become directly involved in promoting gender equity to advance peace and prosperity for all citizens through vibrant civil society efforts.  The leadership and action by Fidele Djebba and the women and girls she mentored are raising awareness among Cameroonians about the plight of the victims of Boko Haram, and most importantly, organizing Cameroonian youth nationwide to contribute to their country by combating the roots of violent extremism and promoting economic development through their own immense talents, ideas, and contributions.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Fidele Njebba!