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I #Break_the_glass by not keeping silent against violence against women. I #Break_the_glass by speaking against what is wrong and making girls realize about their own potential. Through my organization EVOLUTION360, I work to empower women in my community in different ways. I don't allow anyone to judge me basing on my gender and make girls conscious about their right for being treated equally without any gender influence. I motivate young boys and girls to work for empowering women around them in different ways. Because I dream of living in a gender equal world someday. Thus I #Break_The_Glass by empowering women in my community.
Anika Subah Ahmad
Global Champion for Change
I was born with a clubfoot deformity and come from a low income/poor family in the North West Region of Cameroon. As a child born with a clubfoot, I faced a lot of myths, stereotyping, stigma and marginalization because societal and family perception placed me in the category of persons with disabilities. One common cultural practice in my village is that when a baby is born after twin babies, he/she is name with a specific name to identify him/her as a sibling to the twin babies. I was born after some twin babies but not named as our culture demands. My mother did not notice my deformity from birth but only noticed it when I was learning to walk. Every time she complains to my father that this child has difficulties taking up her right leg my father will hush her by saying “she is just learning to walk, when she will be use to walking, she will adjust”. Before my deformity could be clearly visible, my father had long died. Death did not give him the opportunity to see how my mother struggled with me in trying to repair my clubfoot.
As I grew up with the deformity, societal perception looked upon me as a cursed child. In primary school I was not given the opportunity to participate in events and activities as a normal child. Back at home I was love and treated with extra care and over protection. That notwithstanding my mother will let me do chores as my siblings but weighing on my strength. When I completed primary school, an aunt of mine who also had a daughter with deformity on the knees had taken her daughter to a hospital for repairs. She then advised my mother to take me to that same hospital to also repair my leg. My mother took me for my first repair at the age of 11 years old when I just left primary school in 1987.That first surgery did not heal any results because as a child I need someone to follow me up closely. I was not leaving with my mother because coming from a poor home and have lost my father, relatives of my father had to support my mother by taking some of her children to live with them. They did not show any interest to make my surgery successful, so my deformity reoccurred. I continue to live with the deformity and my elder brother who had overtime trained to be a hair dresser was working in a hair dressing salon. One of his customers, a pregnant woman at that time came to do her hair and was expressing the need for a baby sitter for her yet to be born baby. My elder brother told her about me and finally I went to live with the family as a baby sitter. I lived with them for sixteen years and they were good to me. They did not focus on my deformity so much but treated me as a normal person. At the beginning they asked me a few questions about my life and deformity and as time went on they were very satisfied with me. Through my stay with the family as a baby sitter with a clubfoot, I went to secondary, high school and the university. During my school days, I will put together being a baby sitter and a student, struggling to make ends meet. I made sure I was not over excited with school and forget to serve my master. Thank God I was able to make it through successfully
After the university, I was working in a super market as cashier. One day a reverend sister of the Franciscan congregation came in to buy and I was the one to attend to her. When I walked towards her, she screamed “Oh what a beautiful girl, I do not want to see you limping”. Then I asked her what could be done. She told me to come to Saint Joseph’s Children and Adult Home (SAJOCAH), a rehabilitation center where she works and I will be counseled on what to be done.
I had my second surgery in 2008 at an adult age and it was successful because, I was conscious of how to take care of my clubfoot. After a lot of follow ups and finally resulting to adapting all my shoes, I was employed in SAJOCAH as a cashier. I worked with them for three (3) years and had the opportunity to go back to school. I had saved enough money to pay my professional school. I went back to school and obtained a diploma in Project Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation from the Pan African Institute for Development West Africa, Buea, Cameroon.Today I still fall in the category of PWD because my clubfoot was repaired at an adult age which is not completely perfect. I still were supports in my shoes and I still limp. But unlike before I can wear better and nicer shoes and also have more strength than before. I can even wear flip-flop which I have never wore before. As I have accepted my fate, I chose to also focus my career on issues of disabilities and all vulnerable persons. I volunteer as a Program Manager in an organization for persons with disabilities where I have gained a lot of skills on disability and inclusive development. With inspiration from this organization and the skills I have already, I am the founder and owner of the Community Association for Vulnerable Persons (CAVP). I feel victorious over my clubfoot because I have gone through all the challenges overcoming the myth, stereotyping, stigma, and marginalization and taken a leap over my barriers. I am assertive and have a high self-esteem with full confidence. I am very satisfied with my carrier ambitions and as I am a role model for my peers with disabilities, I do my best to encourage them to be confident of themselves and know that it is never too late to achieve what you desire in life
My passion for girl’s education and menstrual hygiene management comes from my life experiences. I was only 10 years old when my father died. My mother and I were disinherited by my uncles afterwards, because our culture prevented women from inheriting property. But this wasn’t enough. I had to drop out of school for one year because my mum lacked money to pay my fees.As a girl from a poor background, growing up in this patriarchal community that didn’t support women’s rights and girl child’s education was even more difficult. Many believe that girls aren’t worthy of an education and their best chance in life is to be married off when they’re barely teenagers and start having children of their own.This prevents adolescent girls from getting an education, or a complete education.
My mother challenged this cultural practice by engaging in small scale farming, raising income and becoming the first woman in her community to send a girl (me) back to school. when other parents sent only boys to school and forced young girls into early marriages,forced labor to work as house help, nannies and farm workers, my mother kept working hard to ensure I stay in school.When I went back to school, I missed school 4 days every month when I had my period. My mother couldn’t afford to buy me sanitary pads after paying my fees. Often, I’d use toilet tissue and old dresses which was unhygienic and caused me infection.
I founded Centre for Livelihoods and Support to Sustainable Development (CLISSD) Cameroon, a non- governmental organization at 20 years old in 2010,to honor my mum’s legacy , help many girls who were school drop out complete their education and promote women sexual reproductive rights.Since then, CLISSD- in partnership with schools, churches and women focus groups - has helped over 300 girls go back to school and continue education. We have raised campaigns on girl’s education and on their rights to protect themselves against forced labor, early/forced marriage; unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. We initiated cultural events, to break silence and cultural taboos surrounding menstruation.
Through my 9 years leadership experience, CLISSD also convinced 5 local leaders to set laws to stop forced marriage, change traditional attitude towards menstruation, and empowered 40 mothers to send daughters to school.Engaged 80 girls and boys as 'Let Girls Learn Ambassador.Trained women to produce Re-usable sanitary pads and provided 180 sanitary pads
to girls and women in prisons, rural communities, disability centers who cannot afford sanitary pads.
My long term goals is to connect and empower over 500 girls and women to leadership opportunities,so that they wll gain life educational skills to make informed decisions on gender policies and develope their own solutions to the problems they are facing.
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