THE IROKO OF PEACEBUILDING IN HER COMMUNITY – ROSE OBAH.
We talked to Rose Obah, a peace journalist and trainer in conflict transformation. She has worked with various communities ensuring their voices are heard. She is passionate about peacebuilding and community development.
Tell us a little about you?
I was born in Bamenda, the capital of the northwest region. My childhood was fascinating; my father was and still is my biggest cheerleader. Education wasn’t a high priority where I grew up, but I embraced education thanks to my parents. At first, I refused to go to school; later, when I learnt nursery pupils were given tea, I decided I would go. I woke up in the morning and got ready for school; when we got there, I was told there was no space in the nursery class. I wanted to go to school; therefore, I skipped nursery and joined class one.
I was too young for class one and the school did not want to take me. We had this tradition of touching your ear with the alternate hand across your head, I struggled with that and was finally allowed. Despite my age my zeal to learn made me able to read and write at a young age. Learning was very interesting and different when I went to school. Now children are more with the internet, television and gadgets. They start learning earlier than we did and are learning differently than we did.
What do you do?.
I am a communications expert, I am professionally trained as a journalist. I also minored in women and gender studies while at university and I work with gender-based violence. I went to the University of Buea in Cameroon after which I have had hands-on experience working in peacebuilding, conflict transformation and a campaign dubbed “Do No Harm”.
I chose journalism because I wanted to become a development journalist. No development happens without peace, peacebuilding and coupled with an expertise in communication would be a good foundation towards being a development professional. Being a journalist helped me use the media platforms at my disposal to give a voice to the marginalised and reach decision-makers all at once.
How did you get into this line of work?
I like multitasking, I did it with a vision of carving a niche around my work. My focus is communication, peace and community development. Through a steady development, I have made an impact I am proud of. I started as a journalist volunteering for Eden Newspaper immediately after I graduated from the University. I later moved to other newspapers like the Horizon and the bamendaonline.net. After a year, the presbyterian church in Cameroon offered me a part-time job in their communication department, where I worked as a journalist. I still worked part-time as a reporter for Eden newspaper, Horizon and Bamenda online.net.
While working as a journalist in the communication department of the presbyterian church in Cameroon. As a voluntary print reporter, I started a column on Children and Women’s rights, where I articulated their rights, and opportunities and also provided a platform for them to express themselves. This gave me an opportunity to learn more. The presbyterian church after some time made me a full-time journalist in their communication department. My focus was producing content related to news around the presbyterian church in Cameroon. I was later appointed communication officer to the presbyterian church in the North West Region and later became a station manager of the Christian Broadcasting radio, where I worked from its foundation to 2020. While working as station manager, professional communicator, had hands-on experience in peace reporting, conflict transformation and “doing no harm”. This made me an expert in these areas which has made me a trainer. I have trained more than 2000 people on peace reporting and communication development. I have also become a fact-checking expert with, #defyhatenow under the AFFC fellowship.
What has been the highlight of your career?
The highlight of my career is when I moved from practising as a general reporter/journalist to working peacebuilding, conflict mitigation and development. Working with like-minded people in peacebuilding and conflict mitigation keeps me grounded and hopeful that one day the Anglophone crisis will come to an end.
What challenges have you faced while doing what you do?
There is a conflict going on in Cameroon, it has been this way for over five years now. It is referred to as the anglophone crisis So this is an easy question for me; security challenges, the threat of kidnap for ransom, the threat of censorship I am a journalist who works in conflict mitigation while trying to expose ills by both parties. When you are factual on what is happening on the ground you are faced with threats from opposing sides. I also find myself self-censoring, especially when you are reporting in conflicts and in areas hit by the conflict the hardest. You have to be very careful which words and images you use. Financial and technical support is also very prevalent challenges.
Which woman do you look up to? Who inspires you?
My mother and myself. I have a long list of other women, but I see myself in every visionary woman that I have encountered and especially in Cameroon. Every woman impacts the community, especially at the grassroots. These are the kind of women that I look up to and they inspire me.
I cite my mother because she is my first source of inspiration, my elder sister and my women colleagues and friends who have been very exceptional and selfless in whatever they do.
What can you tell young women?
I want to tell young women to be intentional about their goals not be jack of all trades. Seek education, helps you navigate the world with a more open mind. Be hardworking and consistent.