Home » “The story of Oprah Winfrey inspires me. Sexually abused as a young girl but that didn’t stop her from being the powerful woman she is today.”

“The story of Oprah Winfrey inspires me. Sexually abused as a young girl but that didn’t stop her from being the powerful woman she is today.”

Get inspired by stories of change, take action by donating to World YWCA

Isabelle grew up in a part of Cameroon where people did not discriminate between boys and girls. But at the age of 16, her family relocated to northern Cameroon, where she experienced a cultural shock. Here, girls weren’t allowed to talk to boys, they were forced to skip school during menstruation, and were married off at the age of 13.

To stand up against inequality in the town, Isabelle started holding safe spaces for young women and their guardians. She would discuss gender-based violence, child marriages and stereotypes around menstruation with them, and address their views and perspectives in a culturally sensitive manner.
“World YWCA enables so many young women like me to host safe spaces where women come for advice, support and opportunities,” enthuses Isabelle.
Very soon, community members began to recognise Isabelle as a women’s right activist in the region. Young mothers would reach out to her to understand more about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and say, “I wish our daughter grows up to be like you.” A year later, a few people encouraged her to join the YWCA movement, and she did.
As a Young Woman Leader, Isabelle facilitates conversations and trainings in safe spaces for young women and girls. She mobilises 10-14 year olds to understand reproductive health and organs, the first period and menstruation superstitions. With the 15-25 year olds, she comes up with solutions to address their challenges around family planning, mental health, livelihood opportunities and leadership skills.
In Cameroon, girls some girls are forced to drop out of school and marry young, resulting in early pregnancy. Lack of education and, thus, an individual source of income makes them dependent on their husbands. All of these have a significant impact on their physical and mental health.
“It’s not easy to change the mentality, especially of parents,” Isabelle laments, emphasising on the need for intergenerational conversations.
A progressive movement is underway though. She can see the influence of her work in creating a powerful community of young women who are enrolling in schools to build their skills, starting small local businesses or taking up new job opportunities. Today, local teachers want their students to listen to Isabelle. Thirteen year olds aspire to become a leader like her.
Young mothers acknowledge her tireless efforts towards women empowerment, and the local mayor believes, “She is a young woman who’s blooming. And once she’s bloomed, she’ll be known all over the world.”

As the World YWCA, we will continue to share more evidence from the ground about the power of investing in feminist movements and leaders who embrace the challenges and make real impact on-the-ground.

We know you believe in the power of young women, as we do. Will you invest to make this a reality?

DONATE today – no matter how big or small.

Invest in the next generation of #YWCAleaders #YoungWomenLead

One Comment

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.