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.”

Last Days in Douala: Coming Full Circle

31 Aug

Coming back to Douala on the night of 15th of August strangely felt like coming home: the familiarity of the streets leading up to the Procure des Missions, the taxi drivers speaking to us in French, the sight of the street children gathering in front of the fancy “glacier moderne” and the welcoming smiles of our colleagues and friends from the AMA women project contributed to a personal feeling of bliss and reassurance. While I knew that my sojourn in Cameroon was coming to an end, much remained to be done in our last few days in buzzing Douala.

Effectively, Helah and I were scheduled to give two trainings to the Sandaga women market traders: the first training focusing on how to use and update UCOMAS’ google site to ensure sustainibility once we leave the country; the second training consisting of familiarizing the women traders with key English vocabulary required to communicate with potential international funders and other international partners. During the first training, I had the pleasure to work with Anne and Janet who were both very eager to become more familiar with computers and the google site application. Janet, in particular, had very little experience with computers prior to this training; nonetheless, she demonstrated sheer commitment to the learning process ranging from the basic use of the mouse to inserting a web slide show on the UCOMAS google site.

The day of our departure, Mama Benedicta, accompanied by Adelaide Foute and Lydie Nwegah offered to give us a ride to Douala International airport; it is with a “pincement au coeur” (pinch in my heart) that I said good-bye to the other Sandaga women traders, to our friends at Strategies who have welcomed and trusted us since our arrival, to busy and many a times frightening Douala –which I have come to love as a city– and to the luxuriant country of Cameroon which has an enormous potential to get out of poverty if and only if civil society is given a voice and the leverage necessary to influence local politics, if the Cameroonian government undergo drastic changes to stop corruption and clientelism and invest in its people, if industrialized power like France implement pro-poor and pro-democratic polices in order to contribute to the economic development of its African partner.

This is certainly not the end but the beginning of a strong relationship that transcends geographical boundaries, cultural differences, historical heritage, and the current undemocratic policies implemented by my country,  France, towards Cameroon… a transnational connection eventually contributing to the transnational women’s rights movement. The women and men I have met throughout my stay in Cameroon are extraordinary human beings committed to the betterment of the lives of marginalized populations. They are my role models and thanks to them my field experience this summer is nothing less than the conformation of a calling.


Posted By Johanna Paillet

Posted Aug 31st, 2009

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