We had a chat with Carole LEUWE about her work and the role of women in peacebuilding.
I was born in Dschang in the west region of Cameroon. I grew up travelling a lot; my dad worked as a diplomat at the time. When I was about eight years old, all that changed when my dad’s job ended. That wasn’t easy at the time, but I have learned resilience, which has led me to work with people living with disabilities and mental health challenges.
What do you do?
I studied foreign applied languages and minored in communication at the University of Dschang. My passion for radio journalism comes from listening to radio presenters pronounce names during the GCE results announcement. They would mispronounce the peoples’ names which made me so grumpy as a young girl. What was so difficult in reading a name!
I loved making people feel good by sharing good music, and sometimes I would pretend to read the news, and my brothers and sisters had to listen to me.
While in high school, I joined radio Suelaba FM 105 youth programs, with mentors like Leonard Chatelin, Tricia Oben, Moise Bangteke (RIP), Serge Pouth, Tony Tumenta, Solange Aicha, Evelyne Ngo Lambidjeck, Leo Bernard Garra, Wamba Sob Ngu among others. I have also worked at Radio Yemba in Dschang, Radio Star in Bafoussam and Radio Nostalgie in Douala. I have since quit active radio; I now work as a media consultant.
The highlight of my career was receiving the George Atkins Communication Award from Farm Radio International in Canada in 2016.
What challenges have you faced in your work?
As a woman, I have had to work twice as hard to prove my skills and competencies. While working as a reporter, I was denied opportunities to cover stories because I was a woman. Some of the men I worked with reminded me that men would report specific stories better; for instance, men mainly dominate politics in newsrooms. I have not been a victim of sexual harassment, but I have seen it happen to my colleagues; it can demotivate you. Sometimes you are not sure it is happening but talk to someone if you are uncomfortable with your colleague’s behaviour. I would urge all women to be their sisters’ keepers.
Who inspires you?
My mother is my role model! If I were to describe resilience and stamina, I would use my mom. Professionally, Oprah Winfrey and Christian Amanpour have always fascinated me. The people I work with every day also inspire me a great deal.
What is the impact of armed conflicts (anglophone conflict) on women? What can be done to alleviate the suffering women go through during conflict?
Women are the first victims of the anglophone conflict. When the conflict began, women saw their husbands, brothers and sons die helplessly. They instantly became breadwinners and were rendered homeless as they fled from the conflict zones. They have also endured raped, sexual harassment, maimed, and some have been killed if they failed to live by the regulations put in place by conflicting factions. Some were held hostage and forced to give sexual favours for survival.
Some managed to escape and settle in other towns, albeit with language barrier problems that hindered effective communication, lack of official government documents, prejudices and biases from the existing host communities and lack of sources of income. Being forced out of your home to start a new life with nothing has been jarring for most women I have spoken to. During conflicts, women and children suffer the most. In these circumstances, physical and psychological help needs to be available to help them recover. Women are expected to remain strong in times of strife, but societies need to be the strength they lean on to help them stay resilient as they are rebuilding their lives.
How can digital and online tools be used to foster women’s participation in peacebuilding?
There is a need to make the internet available for all. According to a report by Nkafu Policy Institute, more men dominate digital spaces in policy and decision making; a lot needs to be done to bridge the digital gender divide and enhance women’s participation in policy and decision-making processes in Cameroon. A lot of work also needs to be done to educate women on digital media literacy.
We can then guide them on how to use online tools for peacebuilding. When we start with the basics, women will learn how-to resources available online responsibly. They will also be peace advocates and know how to protect themselves from online harassment, blackmail, bullying, phishing and identity theft.
What do you hope the future holds and what can you tell young women?
We need to create societies concerned with more equity rather than equality. Young women are capable of achieving more than they can presently fathom. Women can have babies and still accomplish any goals they have set for themselves. Do not limit yourselves. Women are MIRACLE workers. Believe in yourselves. Never stop learning. Strive to be the best and impact your community. You can make the difference. You have everything in you to make the difference. You are smart, intelligent, bold and loved. Look up to those who inspire you and be an inspiration to others.