The African Girl Child In The Midst of Challenges Yet Triumphs
Neola Lyonga is the CEO and founder of the Neola Lyonga Foundation, her foundation is focused on volunteerism and inspiration and has transformed the lives of so many young Cameroonians who through the organization have either been inspired to believe in themselves or have gained skills and network through volunteerism. Neola Lyonga was nominated one of the 50 most influential young Cameroonians in the civil society category in 2017, and in 2018, she was awarded by her majesty Queen Elizabeth of England for her selfless services to the communities and contributing positively to improve the lives of prisoners in her in Cameroon. Neola Lyonga is one of the outstanding promising youth leaders Cameroon can boast of. One may think that this amazing young lady comes from a wealthy background.
In an interview granted Bantu Voices, an online Pan African branding and communication platform, Neola narrates her ordeal through education which almost pushed her to give up on her dream.
“During my school, after my A levels, I wanted to go study abroad and make money, for greener pasture… But things didn’t work out for me and I stayed home for one year and within that period, I was volunteering, I learned how to use the computer. My classmates were in the university and I was saying am learning how to use the computer and still hoping to go abroad and things were really not working out. I started teaching people in the communities and as I was teaching, it was not easy for me and I met someone who advised me I was very young and I needed to go back to school”.
Neola’s story is similar to the pathetic conditions African children find themselves struggling to break the barriers of hardship and tradition especially the girls in a society where norms posed a major challenge towards the education of the girl child. As the world commemorates the international day of the girl child, Children Home International contextualizes on the African girl child who despite the obstacles imposed by nature and norms, she has risen beyond the odds and triumphs to the amazement of the globe.
It is no news that despite the continent’s natural potentials, it is still considered a third world continent, hosting most of the world’s poorest nations. African countries dominated the ranking of the 25 poorest countries in the world, according to an analysis by the Global Finance Magazine carried out in April 2016. Only four countries within the list of 25 were not African countries, insinuating, 21 of the 25 were from Africa.
Based on data from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, this magazine ranked the world’s countries according to their GDP based on purchasing power parity per capita. The four non-African countries within the list included Afghanistan, Kiribati, Solomon Island, and Haiti.
The report shows how poor African countries are, yet a good number of African girls have risen beyond the challenges and are braving the odds just like Neola Lyonga. Neola’s struggle lands her in the University of Buea where she had to drop out of the University of Yaounde 1 due to her inability to adapt to the French language, yet her zeal to succeed and become a better person kept pushing her.
‘’ I took the advice and enrolled in the University of Yaounde 1 in Ngoa-Ekele. I was there for a year but couldn’t cope with the French and had to drop, though French better but I had to quit. I came and enrolled in the University of Buea but that’s thanks to a job that I got for two months which could I raise some money and I could pay my school fees and I got enrolled in the University of Buea, and in the University of Buea, going through school was never easy because I was sustaining myself. I had to sell body sprays, I had to market paper bags and am one of those who went to school through the presidential grants, so its not like I was born with the golden spoon but had to walk through life and fought those challenges to help myself study all through my degree until I had the Cameroon Women’s scholarship from the British High Commission that helped to fund my masters that am currently wrapping up. ‘’
The challenges of the girl child in Africa do not end at the stage of finance. Customs and tradition in most African society find it difficult to see reasons why the girl child should be educated. A random research sampled by Children’s Home International discovers how parents in some rural and suburban areas in Cameroon consider the girl child as a commodity that will soon be sent to the marriage market. Preferential treatment favors mostly the boy child who is seen as a potential breadwinner and the girl child a commodity that will be sold out to some men in exchange for marriage rights. Even when both children are given the right to education, that of the girl child often suffers a setback when it comes to leisure and study time at home. While boys have enough time to play, relax and study, the girl child is compelled to either follow the mother to the farm or get busy in cooking and laundry, something hardly considered a shared responsibility between both sexes.
Social norms in most of these communities impose an early marriage syndrome on the girl child. Despite the shift towards later marriage in many parts of the globe, 82 million girls in developing countries who are now between the ages of 10 and 17 will be married before the 18th birthday according to a research by Pelagia Research Library. Child marriage jeopardizes the health and limits the opportunities afforded to women, usually disrupts their education and violates their human’s right.
Such is the context under which the African girl struggles on her way to success, but amazingly, she has stood the taste of time and proving to the world how strong she is. As the global community celebrates the day of the girl child, Children’s Home International pays special attention to this category of girls who are going to shape the society we find ourselves while paying tribute to African Female Icons such as Winnie Mandela whose legacy brought freedom and social justice to the black people of South Africa