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.