Joya Taft-Dick

Joya Taft-Dick (Vital Voices - Africa Businesswomen’s Network, ABWN): Joya was born in Vermont and spent much of her youth on the move with her father – a UN official – in Africa and South Asia. After graduating from Middlebury College in 2006, she spent a year working in Colombo, Sri Lanka with a local women’s group and public health organizations. Joya then moved to Washington D.C where she spent two years working with a Congressional Commission on sexual violence in U.S prisons and jails. At the time of her fellowship, Joya was pursuing her Master’s degree at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. After her fellowship, Joya wrote: “Being around my colleagues and CBWN’s members was truly inspiring. The fellowship reminded me that I can operate very independently, that I am truly adaptable, and that I am happiest ‘in the field.’ I leave Cameroon with some rediscovered 'joie de vivre’.”

CBWN reaching out to members

14 Jul

CBWN continues to move and shake…

All of last week, the Cameroon Businesswomen’s Network was graced with the presence of Yvonne Finch, a consultant with Vital Voices who is currently overseeing the VV Hubs in Kenya, Uganda and Cameroon.  Clemence and I had the pleasure of meeting with her on and off throughout the week, as we waded through paper work, budgetary tasks and other administrative needs.  Mrs. Finch’s guidance is especially useful for Clemence, as she is currently the sole CBWN staff member, and clearly doesn’t have enough hours in the day to get it all done (on top of traipsing around Douala with a certain Advocacy Fellow of the American variety).

I was also able to get Mrs. Finch’s input and advice concerning CBWN’s advocacy needs and agenda.  It has become apparent that at the moment, given how recently the network was established, the initial pressing need is to determine exactly what are the obstacles and difficulties facing women in business in Cameroon.  It is already becoming clear in the conversations I have had thus far with CBWN’s members, that there are certain reoccurring themes, and it is these very themes that the Network as a whole can work to address.  As they say, there is power in numbers…

So, in addition to the Vital Voices baseline survey, and acquiring visual material, I have been, and will be, asking the women what they have found to be the biggest obstacles in the world of business here in Cameroon.

Just yesterday, Clemence and I spent some time at “Les Ribambelles,” a nursery and primary school founded and run by Marthe Abesollo, one of CBWN’s newest members.  Mme. Abesollo received a degree in children’s education in Switzerland, and shortly thereafter opened Les Ribambelles, which has now been teaching students of Douala for 30 years.  Not only does this institution provide a solid education to those in attendance, they also reach out to orphans living in the area: raising money and clothing for them, and including them in various activities and performances.

Unsatisfied with simply running a school, as well as a family comprising of 6 children, Mme. Abesollo is also part of an Association that focuses on the education of young girls, especially young mothers, who wish to return to school.  In addition, she runs a business which cleans and restores historic buildings in Cameroon, with several remarkable successes under its belt.  Mme. Abesollo is also an extremely active member of her Church, and a grandmother of 17 children.

This past weekend I had the privilege of being escorted through one of the local markets by Mme. Abesollo and her daughter, Isabelle (who is also a teacher, primarily of French, and currently teaching at the American school here).  At one point, when crossing a busy street, Mme. Abesollo actually reached over and grabbed my hand to lead me across.  Enough said.

There are still others in need of an introduction, but I will save that for another day.  In the meantime, do check out the pictures posted on CBWN’s new Flickr site, and if you haven’t already, take a look at an interview I recently posted on their YouTube page, of another inspiring member.  That’s all from Douala, still wet with daily rainfall…

Posted By Joya Taft-Dick

Posted Jul 14th, 2010

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