Mbuh Stella is a talented and passionate journalist who goes out of her way to provide accurate and verified information. Despite the crisis in the North-west region of Cameroon, she leaves her comfort zone to travel into the heart of conflict areas in the North West region to get first-hand information. We had a brief chat with her about her work;
Tell us a bit about yourself, where you come from, and your experience growing up in Cameroon.
My name is Mbuh Stella Menyen, and I was born in Bafut.
My childhood was amazing. If I could, I would live it over again I would. I grew up in a town setting, but my mother would take us to the village during school holidays to experience life on the farm. As a teenager, every school holiday, I would listen to news editions on the radio and brief my dad as soon as he got home from work. I would summarise all the news items and then read to him.
Growing up when I did feels special. We would come together to tell stories, listen to our grandparents, our elder sisters, and brothers tell us stories, unlike today, where children watch cartoons or movies and have access to smartphones. I only had access to a phone after my advanced levels.
How did you get into journalism?
I’m a journalist by profession, but that is not what I intended to do; I wanted to become a doctor or an engineer. I loved sciences in high school. After high school, I took the medical school entrance exam twice but didn’t succeed either time. Between the first year and second that I wrote the exam, I did a computer awareness course. During that time, I met a technician who was a whizz with computers. It was more advanced than what I learned in school and, it got me interested in video editing. I turned down a teaching job at my school because I wanted to learn more from the technician. That’s how I joined video editing, and I kept improving myself until I started earning money from it. I was able to pay for my university education as a video editor. I didn’t exactly choose journalism but found myself doing what I used to do as a teenager – gathering information from different sources then briefing my dad.
I’m passionate about telling stories. I started without knowing I was doing journalism, and here I am.
What are unforgettable moments you have experienced in your career?
The crisis my country is currently facing has challenged me as a journalist. There are many unforgettable moments, but March 8th, 2020, was the most memorable. I was at the grandstand in Bamenda, covering the women’s day celebration. The women’s leader had just finished her speech, and the governor was speaking. I was directly in front of him, and suddenly I heard a thunderous noise which turned out to be an explosion. It was pretty serious, and several soldiers were severely injured. I later found out that the blast’s location was where we often took rest when there was a big occasion at the commercial avenue. I had escaped severe harm.
What challenges have you faced while doing what you do?
In the context of the ongoing crisis, telling the story as it happened will earn you names like “terrorist journalists,” most often from those on the government side. I face a lot of harassment from the general public. As a videographer, I encounter a lot of verbal sexual harassment.
Who do you look up to?
My mother inspires me. I get to learn a lot from her as far as general knowledge is concerned. Professionally I look up to several people depending on the stage I am in or the challenge I am facing at that particular moment.
Do you think your gender limits your achievements or the speed at which you are able to get things done?
If I were a man, I believe I would achieve more. Women are treated as the weaker gender, especially in my career in Cameroon. I have had instances where I present myself as the person behind the camera and, some people find it difficult to accept. I have had a work request that wanted a male videographer. I have had instances where I have been forbidden from making a trip because it’s felt that men are more suited for the journey.
What do you hope the future holds? And what can you tell young women as they work towards their goals?
The future is brighter for women in the media. As for those women out there, follow your dreams. Let every “no you cannot” be an opportunity for you to show that “yes you can” impose yourself and prove it. Don’t stop until you reach your goal.