Johanna Paillet

Johanna Paillet (Vital Voices in Cameroon): Johanna is from Montpellier in the South of France. She received her undergraduate degree from Mills College, and also earned a Baccalauréat at the Lycée Français in San Francisco. Johanna worked as a counselor for youths-at-risk in San Francisco. She also served as a rape counselor for Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR), an Oakland-based non-governmental organization. Johanna has also attended the Academy of Art University where she specialized in documentary photography. At the time of her fellowship, Johanna was pursuing a Masters degree in International Policy Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Johanna has been extensively involved with the National Model United Nations. After her fellowship, Johanna wrote: “The fellowship has confirmed my desire to work as a development practitioner.”

Really Heading Off to Cameroon!

10 May

After various weeks of preparations, my fellowship is becoming tangible in all of its aspects: I have undergone the various vaccines and acquired the appropriate malaria medicine, accumulated the various documents destined for the visa application, bought my ticket to Douala via Brussels, reassured my parents that I would not wander into “la brousse” where wild animals roam, convinced my loved one to come and spend a week-end in DC prior to my departure for Africa and said my goodbyes to supportive friends.

More than ever, I have experienced a bitter sweet feeling upon my departure from San Francisco last night. A mix of sheer excitement and unprecedented longing for the comfort, warmth and tranquility of home. A little less than 7 years ago, I was heading off to Mexico for a semester abroad not even thinking that I would miss my family. This time it feels very different. Nonetheless, I am constantly reminded of the tremendous privilege it is to be able to fly out to Africa for the summer and support a local human rights organization. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid’s words, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund and the speaker of honor during my graduation from Mills College, resonate into my head… with education come responsibility to self and to others.


One of our main responsibilities as a Peace Fellow is to “tell the story” of the local organizations we will be supporting throughout the summer through blogs, pictures, videos and more. Prior to leaving for DC, I picked up a book that had been sitting on my shelf and collecting dust throughout the school year –Unaccustomed Earth by Jumpa Lahiri. I have been so inspired by Lahiri’s ability to capture the intricate workings of human nature and the way in which she describes the complexity of the mind and hearts in such humble manners. As an apprentice blogger I will attempt to capture the lives and experiences of the people I meet in Cameroon in a compelling and truthful manner. Your guidance, comments and recommendations are always appreciated.


Thank you for reading my first post. Merci!


Woman Trader in Sandaga Market in Douala, Cameroon


Posted By Johanna Paillet

Posted May 10th, 2009


  • Marina

    June 4, 2009



    I’m sure you will do a lovely job telling the stories of the people you encounter this summer, I am really looking forward to following your blogs and hearing about your experiences.

    Take care,

  • Bichounette

    June 10, 2009


    Tres beau reportage sur tes premiers jours en Afrique, particulierement au Cameroun. Je suis sure que tu vas t’y mettre avec toute la passion du coeur que je sais que tu possedes! Bisous!

  • Joseph Désiré SOM I

    June 22, 2009


    Bonjour Johanna,

    je ne pense que ces femmes qui s’époumonent à satisfaire la mégalomanie d’un dictateur sénile en abhorrant des pagnes en son effigie produit en pillant le trésor public ont grand chose en commun avec ces commerçantes courageuses qui se lèvent tous les jours avant l’aube et passent la journée sous le soleil tropical ou sous les adverses en vu d’offrir un avenir à leur progéniture?

    • Johanna Paillet

      June 24, 2009


      Cher Joseph Desire,
      Merci de ce commentaire si important. Effectivement j’ai mis cet photo avant mon depart pour le Cameroun sans vraiment connaitre le contexte dans lequel cette photo avait ete prise. Il etait donc temps de la changer pour une photo plus appropriee… une photo de nos courageuses commercantes du Marche Sandaga.
      Merci encore!

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