We had a talk with Yaah Gladys Shang Viban – fondly known as Aunty Gla, during International Women’s day and below is our conversation;
I was born in Cameroon, and I had a great childhood. We had a lot of communal fun activities, and looking back, they were very valuable. When I look at children today, I recognize that they have entirely different experiences than I did. They probably have more challenges, ranging from drugs, media influences, different value systems, and ‘the me generationism’, among others. We could learn to integrate the changing world with some “African values” to help them navigate some of the challenges they face.
What do you do?
I trained as a Translator/Interpreter – I naturally gravitated towards it as I am terrific in languages. I would probably train to be a lawyer or an astronaut if I had a do-over.
You make a life by earning a salary, but you live by serving others. I have integrated that into serving other people. I mentor young women and facilitate workshops in communities. In my work, I have had several highlights, but I get the most joy from working with young women in line with my mantra, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another”.
Which woman inspires you?
I stand on the strong shoulders of my mother, Olive Shang. On her heir day, she was an iconic journalist with CRTV Radio. Her program, ‘Calling the Women’, advocated for women to be economically empowered; she was the golden voice on radio at the time. The world-famous author, Maya Angelou, also inspires me. She was an activist who wasn’t limited to defending the rights of women, young people and marginalized people but also used her words in her activism. She wrote so well she is quoted the world over. Her story of how she stopped talking for five years because she thought her voice had killed a man who sexually abused her reminds me of the power of self-belief. She reminds me to fight harder for those who don’t have the same privileges I do. Reach out to and empower younger women more so during this time that Cameroon is faced with a conflict – the Anglophone Conflict.
The women who came before me have also paved a path for me to achieve more than the women in the previous generations. There are many challenges but embracing “my womanness, my femininity” has helped me look beyond prejudice. I am still a work in progress, and I work every day to be a better human being for myself and my community.
What do you hope the future holds?
If you lose hope, you have lost everything. I strive to inspire hope and possibility. The future is bright for those who are purpose-driven, intentional and persistent. My word to young women as they work towards their goals are:
- Embrace your amazingness and the power within you, and never compromise your values.
- Do not allow yourself to be treated as an adjective, be a NOUN!
- Be proud of who you are and where you come from. Be yourself!
- Be focused, determined and daring.
- Remember, you are a child of the universe, and with God, you are limitless.