Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Latoya Likambi: Stop fighting for peace and show more love by giving more people education and a change

1. Who is Latoya Likambi?

I am the author of Short Stories by Latoya Likambi (which is a series of moral stories which come in handy to young children) and Kasey’s Diary which has recently been published and got a #2 bestseller). I developed my passion for writing when I started school since I loved storybooks and had a big imagination.

2) What fuels Latoya Likambi?

What gets me to level up (or work harder) is when I am pushed and reminded about getting tasks done, which is exactly what my mum did, if not I would probably procrastinate and not finish the tasks/ achieve my goals. At the beginning of my writing journey I would jot down things that I imagined and I thought may develop into an interesting story.

3) Who is your role model?

My mum is my inspiration, helper and rock. She supports me massively by paying for the publication and promoting my book almost everywhere, including: Facebook, websites, WhatsApp, schools, leaflets, and many more. However, my dad buys me all of the books I read to stretch my imagination and my vocabulary. My mum is also my role model because she is also an author and has gone through some of the hardest things but is still always positive.

4) Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

 In the next five years, I want to have published over 30 books, have my own clothing line, be a huge inspiration to many young girls and boys worldwide and have over 1 million subscribers on both of my YouTube channels. 

5. How demanding is this for you?

The only challenges for me would be my peers who have increasingly demonstrated interest in writing and they have said they want to write a book with me or they want to do my illustrations for me but I have to make sure they're serious about it and will not build a toxic relationship with me. I will also need to understand and get to know their values and habits.

This does not stop me from putting my family first anytime, followed by school and finally friends, because the values my parents inculcate in me are not only priceless, but they are as well timeless.  Despite any natural limitation, I will mainly focus on my studies and my books because it’s very important and in my spare time (which I hardly get) I will always be with my family. My mum is also very strict with social media since it is a distraction and stops children from releasing their creative genius because they will be glued to it all day.

With the birth of Kasey's diary, I am keen to time management because I am solicited by media organs in my Country and the UK for interviews on insights of the KD. I must admit I am very privileged to be invited to many interviews and they have all been successful so far. I think I enjoyed the "Angela Preston Get Up 7 Go Radio Motivational Show" interview the best which was also my first. I also loved the interview in London at “Rose on All Sides” on BEN TV in London, and would love to go back anytime.

6. How do you unwrap pressure?

I relax myself simply by reading, writing or listening to calming music, which gives me more ideas for my future books, clothing lines, etc. 

7. What is your ICE enthusiasm for girls of your age and mothers willing to write a different story? My ICE for girls and mothers lost on a slumber trip would be: be yourself, inspire each other, take advice and always build each other and make everyone feel good about themselves, instead of putting each other down.

8. What will you change in the decision making quarters should you be made a junior parliamentarian? If I ever had the chance to be a junior parliamentarian, I would consider shop keepers, business managers and colleagues to take sensible children more seriously. I once came across a situation like this when I wanted to refund a packet of sweets which had a sticky substance on the packet, the lady said no, and I protested three times but she refused.

9. What things easily put you off these days? Instagram and social media photos are the main things that put me off. Personally, I don't spend a lot of time on social media and I think it is unfair that people are going through bulimia and depression because they want to be as skinny as an "Instagram model".

10. What if you were made Minister of Youth and Civic Education, what will be your first steps to right present misdemeanors?  

If I should be 'The minister of Youth and Civic Education', I will always have a rethink of decisions I take and be sure that the youth will absolutely benefit from its outcome because I strongly believe that all children and adults should be educated with more knowledge to help inspire and save the world. I will not hesitate to tender public apologies where I falter and make new constructive and more determined adjustments for the common good to tomorrow's leaders.

11. What is your greatest influence after Kasey's Diary?

 My greatest influence before and after the writing of Kasey's Diary is the impact it has had on many young boys and girls worldwide. Readers all over the world can get Kasey's Diary, since it is international and sold worldwide on Amazon and other retailers worldwide. Many people who have read it say that it is a very engaging book to young peers and I agree because Kasey goes through daily challenges that any teenager would go through at home and in school.

12. Are you indifferent to the current crises robbing the nation of its peace and economic stability? I was shocked to hear about this bad news, and about our country being destroyed, but some might be rather shocked by my answer. I personally think that we should stop fighting for peace and show more love and also give more people education and a chance to see how the UK is like compared to the country they are living in then— then they will be able to make major differences which will help their country and the people living in it.

Princess Clitin W. NKUME - KWENE: There is enough space at the top. No person’s shine can stop yours.

1) Who is Princess Clitin W. NKUME - KWENE?
I am a multi-talented, dynamic, and purpose driven young lady from the Nkume- Kwene's Family of Nyasoso Village, South West Region, Cameroon. Born on 31 July, Princess Clitin W. Nkume-Kwene is the third child of a family of 6 children. I Lost my dad in 2007 and it made me see life in a different way pushing me to work extra hard. I am a Holder of a Masters degree 2nd Class Upper in Journalism and Mass Communication from Sikkim Manipal University, Accra, Ghana 2013/2015.
In a nutshell, Clitin was born with exceptional vocal abilities that has made her gain the heart of many. These abilities got activated from childhood as she was always chosen to give welcome speeches at school and entertain parents and her audience with many rhymes at the Nursery level. She grew up getting a little introverted at her secondary school level but exploded again at her university level. She is now a trained media personality (TV and Radio presenter, Talk show host, Vlogger, Mcee etc popularly known "Princess Clitin". “Something To Sing About” was a show she ran over the airwaves of the Christian Gospel Radio FM98.1 that kept her audience in awe and drew a reasonable following to the radio. She still works with the radio part time online. Clitin has worked with over 4 media companies ranging from print to broadcast media and has gained a well of knowledge that makes her an amazing content creator. She is still learning all the same as learning never ends. She also produces peanut burger and trains people on how to produce it. This business she started for fun but it has seen her through tough times when all seemed bleak. She intends to do industrial scale someday and international as well. She is a go getter. When she sets her heart on something, she makes it happen.
A Public Speaker and Language teacher who through varied media content (practical and real life videos, write ups, song, etc) is helping young adults develop themselves better resulting to social change.
Founder/CEO of Royalty International which is a mother company of the varied products and services she has to offer to the world. Her mission is to :
* Reach out through weekly videos and FACEBOOK live sessions that contain practical real life stories, quotes, poems and songs that can spur individuals to believe in themselves and take action. We keep it real and practical to the core;
* Do a few series on issues that affect our daily lives to make sure the audience follow through and progress can be measured;
* Take on both online and offline training sessions so as to properly interact with the audience in the best way possible;
* And Organize training sessions where individuals can learn a skill or two that will help them gain financial stability by getting multiple income streams.
So far she has trained people in well over 6 different countries empowering them socially and economically. She has also spoken in well over 20 seminars both online and offline and is still at it as time goes by. Being a depression survivor has put her out there as a whole lot of people are in that state today and truly need help.
2) What Fuels Clitin?
I am fueled by the desire to see people believe in themselves, become their best versions and impact the world in their own little way.
What fuels me more is the desire to see the change in the society I desire.
What fuels me is the desire to help people out of pain and hurt.
What fuels me is the desire to be a solution to a troubled society and bring smiles on people’s faces.
You may want to know why I am fueled with burning zeal to heal heaviness of heart? I am a dispiritedness survivor and I know how dangerous that state can be. I have seen and spoken with people in that state and some do not even know that is what they are going through because they are in denial. I was there some time as well. The part that drives me more to do something about it is the suicidal tendencies associated with distress. Yes I did have such tendencies but did not dare act on them for fear of taking an express ticket to hell. Depression can be devastating but that cannot be compared to what hell will be like so it was a no go for me. Hahahahhahahahahha
The truth is I hail from a family where family is gold. My dad was not super rich but he made us especially me get well over what I needed every time. The best part is he also told me all what he gives me is his and I have to in the future work hard and get mine. That was my ACE card from my loving late father. When he died in 2007 I thought it was the end of it all for me but know my ACE card came to manifestation. So I had learnt this selfless love from my dad and him not being there at some point I started searching for him in all the wrong places for the most part. My educational, career and spiritual life was all in order but my relationship life got all jumbled up. But thank God for saving me.
3) What according to you are your greatest achievements in all these years of hardwork and struggle?
My greatest achievement is to see the smiles on people’s faces after getting off pain like me. To see messages of appreciation for the work I am doing even if it is just one person at a time. To receive calls and messages from people I barely know to say thank you. It is humbling. Another is to realize that I am fulfilling purpose and my mess became my message. Another is to realize that I am a better person as days go by and I am not settling for less because I now know my worth. I am glad I took no shortcuts but I am here still standing and holding on.
4) Who is your role model?
My role model is Jesus Christ because He is the perfect example of unconditional love and that is what the world needs today.
But for Human beings I have a few: Nelson R. Mandela, Lisa Nichols, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Myles Munroe, Todd Michaels, Komando Ivo, Mensah Otabil and Mabel Oben. All these people have a heart for the people around them and that is my passion.
5) Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself reaching out to larger international audience and helping a lot more people physically and also gainfully employing many. I see myself raising leaders who will intend raise other leaders and the effect continues. Some 2 years back the YouTube channel began like a joke but today is it touching lives widely. I started with talking to just one persona at a time encouraging them, to a few persons and today I speak at events of hundreds of persons from all works of life. I look forward to thousands of people and why not millions as the need be. My desire is to be a world source of knowledge that truly transforms individuals and bring about positive social change.
6) What are the Challenges of a smart, buoyant and result oriented individual like yourself?
The challenges are many but the main one is breaking and getting especially young adult females unlearn some damaging stereotypes they have learned and used as a foundation for their lives over the years. These need to be unlearned and new stuff learnt. It is challenging because for the most part it feels like starting all over and it is never an easy thing. It is destroying the foundation and all they have built on because the foundation is faulty. That is not easy at all but if the foundation be destroyed what can the righteous do? For some, as it was in the beginning, it’s now and ever shall be world without end (adamant to change, sincere to what they believe but sincerely wrong) hahahahahahahhahahahahahha.
Things like women need men to be complete, things like entitlement mentalities (men are to do everything for us), things like use what you have to get what you want (selling yourself or your body), things like the woman’s place is in the kitchen, things like an educated woman cannot get married and a host of others. This has led to many women Underutilizing their potentials and settling for less. This has led to some women staying in abusive relationships no matter what and the list is unending.
7) How do you unwind tension?
I relax and unwind by travelling, listening to music or singing to myself and chatting with my best friend.
8) What is your ICE (Inspire Celebrate Empower) Vision?
To be the number one global resource for young adults (ages 18 – 40), providing a suitable environment for unlocking their innate potentials, in order to effectively transform their lives for positive social change.
9) Any plans for the UN or AU? If yes, what significant changes will you make?
Not necessarily but yes so to speak. I was born to talk and as I grow and learn I have learnt and I am still learning how to not only talk but talk about what matters that results to positive social change. So yes the UN or AU are possible platforms to foster my larger audience reach goal. I have they content and they have the access to the audience that needs the content. So whenever our paths cross I sure will be ready.
10) What are some of the things that girls and young women do that put you off?
Some of the things are inbuilt in them as a result of the stereotype around them. I hate the way some have become lazy and lack vision. They are waiting to get married to some already fulfilled man who will better their lives.
-Another is the fear to fulfill purpose even when they find it because they may end up remaining single.
-I hate the way we become desperate and settle for less because of peer pressure, family and social pressure, competition. All my friends are this and that, family and friends are not letting me rest, society looks at me funny because I am not getting any younger.
-I hate the way most women see other women as enemies and so backstabbing them becomes an option instead of holding hands and growing together. My shine can never and will never stop another person’s shine.
How will you want the African (Cameroonian in particular) woman to carry herself?
I will want women to know what they are made of and are capable of and use it for the good of the society. This means when they know themselves and their worth, they will carry themselves confidently and live purposefully changing the world one step at a time for the best. Little drops of water they say makes an ocean so one woman at a time.
11) What are your first steps to right wrongs, should you be named Minister of Women's Empowerment and the Family in Cameroon today?
I will start by checking the educational system. The whole idea to me will be to train them young by making them get the right foundation. So in the systems every individual be it male or female will learn the value of knowing who they are and believing in themselves. Getting to know that fulfilling purpose has nothing to do with anyone but you. When they have the right foundation, a whole lot would have been taken care of. Whatever is built on a solid foundation will definitely stand the test of time. So yes I will start by readjusting the educational system and also giving everyone an equal chance at maximizing their potential in any giving career.
Eventual employment will be based on delivery not just paper work. Everyone will have an opportunity to take up any given career as long as they qualify. Those are the things I will look into.
For the most part I will love to build an innovative and creative mindset in people. Dare to dream and make it become a reality.
12) What is your greatest influence?
God is my greatest influence. He created me and know they exact purpose for which I was created. To properly use a product, one needs the manual that came along with it or get to the manufacturer. So yes he is my influence and my desire to fulfill purpose and fully maximize my potential is also a driving force. I hope to leave a legacy and leave empty.
13) Any advice to the African woman as we wrap up our blog chat for the week?
You can be better, you can be more. You deserve better so do not settle for less. You were created not for fun but to be a solution to a particular problem. Find that problem and put all of you to solving it. You can be more, do not let anyone define or label you. Let the society and circumstances around you not make you. Choose who you want to become and most of all believe who and what God says you are. You are unstoppable and you can live a purpose driven life even as a single person. Sure find your purpose, build and empower yourself and other benefits will be added onto you. You can be a complete package let no one deceive you.

Find people in your field, network with them and learn. There is enough space at the top. No person’s shine can stop yours. Let us break that stereotype that one woman is another woman’s enemy. That is a lie totally. We have the power to make a difference and if we stand together we can move mountains. Support a sister and let us grow together. We are all in this together. “Be the change you want to see” Mahatma Gandhi. You have the power to change just you and no one else. When you begin and other see they will voluntarily follow. They say little drops of what makes an ocean right? Be that droplet in your own little corner and before you know it, it is an ocean of women shining the light all over the world.

Thanks for sharing your story Princess Clitin on IMA for global change and impact.

Nyandoh PAHO TADFOR: Learn to live in peace and foster peacebuilding initiatives both at home and abroad.

1) Who is Nyandoh Paho Tadfor?
A female Cameroonian aged 29, who is passionate to see the less privileged and marginalized benefit from a healthy living and healthy environment, Miss Tadfor doesn't just advocate for rights, she empowers people to lead better lives via training, mentoring, and spreading awareness. She concretises this by inspiring both women and men to become advocates and change makers and leaders in their communities.
With focus on the rural communities of Cameroon, this 29-year-old miss is also committed to advancing and upholding positive actions in relation Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in Cameroon and this, through the promotion of sexual education in order to increase awareness and practice via grassroots advocacy, community campaigns and sensitization programs, seminars, sports, talk shows and radio programs; all this, through the use of community radio.
Confident and poised in interactions with individuals at all levels, this dynamic lady has carried out youth orientated programs to assist and empower young school dropouts, single mothers and young widows. Some of these programs are related to HIV/AIDS education, SRHR, GBV sustainable agriculture and on solar energy. Above these programs, she has brought in some degree of change through program/projects focusing maternal and neonatal health, including fertility and abortion, STIs, and rainwater harvesting.
By working to improve the lives of women and the youths, Miss Tadfor equally indirectly and sometimes directly fights for the right to equality through participation in decision making, especially where the forces rolling back these rights are severe.
Nyandoh Paho Tadfor is Cameroon UNESCO Peace Ambassador, Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Dakar-Senegal fellow of Cohort 14, Strategic Innovation for Community Health (STICH) INSEAD and Johnson & Johnson Nairobi-Kenya 2018 fellow and beneficiary of: Princess Recognition Award 2016, Marie-Claire N. Kuja Foundation Inc., New York and Cameroon Ambassador 2018-2019 for Young World Leader, Young World Leaders for Humanity 2018, Best Humanitarian Award D&Ksuomi Foundation. She is the Managing Director of Rural Women Development Center and holds a M.Sc in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea.
She has been engaged in so many development actions which have brought about improvement in the community lifestyle. Worthy of note is the fact that she is highly trustworthy, ethical, discreet, committed to community service, detail orientated and resourceful in completing projects and able to multitask effectively.
Growing up without a mother from age 8, Nyandoh Paho Tadfor was exposed to double as an elder sister and a mother to her siblings at a very tender age. Her drive for women/girls empowerment was ignited in her by her dad – her pillar, Mr. Tadfor Solomon (blessed memory). But then this passion had to be groomed, nurtured and fed; and this became a reality when she later on met the Executive Director of Reach Out Cameroon – Mme Omam Esther, a powerful activist who endlessly and tirelessly guided her in realizing her purpose.
2.) What fuels Nyandoh Paho Tadfor?
In the beginning, it was not easy for Nyandoh as she was not bold and courageous enough to talk and defend the marginalized. As she became more engaged and involved in community development and lobbying, she gradually began to improve her skills and abilities in advocacy. Also, reading and working with senior colleagues have helped build her skills over the years.
3.) What are your greatest achievements after all these years of advocacy, women empowerment and lobbying?
My greatest achievements have been in supporting women and men to become advocates, change makers and leaders in their communities and I have been receiving growing calls for service providers seeking community engagement in addressing SGBV after this. I feel happy and an achievement to see vulnerable and marginalized persons use these skills and serve as peer educators and moreover, they have become more self-reliant and with a better understanding of their rights as humans.
4.) Why are you so keen on encouraging the girl child and the illiterate woman in most of your work?
Little or no attention is paid towards this target group and often they are being neglected in decision making. Because of this, empowering them and strengthening their voices, enable them to contribute in decision making, build their self-esteem and their capacities.
5.) How supportive have your sponsors been?
Our partners have been supportive and engaging. Their trust and confidence in RUWDEC have been fascinating, like Oliver Twist we still plead for more funding for our programs/projects.
6.) Who is your role model?
My role model is my Late Dad (Mr, Tadfor Solomon).
7.) Miss Tadfor, where do you see yourself in five years from now?
See more persons informed and make the right decision as to what concerns their sexual reproductive health rights is my greatest future projection. Moreover, I see myself working in an international organization as a development communication officer.

8.) What are the challenges of a vibrant, smart, result-oriented and creative activist like yourself who recently returned from Senegal from a training on ways to beef up standards?
My greatest challenge has been to find a balance between blending work and my social life. I always struggle to create a time for myself but most of the time the career aspect outweighs the social part. Another major challenge faced is the issue of funding in order to get engaged in more programs on SGBV, Agriculture and Solar Energy.
9.) How is being a female uplifter with minimal funding, easy to manage in Cameroon?
It is not quite easy in the beginnings, especially if you are not surrounded by the right persons. Like it is often said, ‘your network is your net worth’. Braving the odds and engaging with persons who have gone through the path and emerged or are emerging successfully is very productive. In my early days, I felt like giving up but thanks to my mentors and coaches, I sailed through the tides. The mistake we often make is thinking that funding must be financial only.
10.) How is being groundbreaking an issue on a platform where about 80% of the actors are not human development oriented?
Well, so far it has not been an issue with us as we engaged them, first by selling the vision and thus they become incorporated and act activist too at the grassroots level.
11.) How did you prepare your energy project and a trip for the three benefactors who returned from India months ago?
The Solar energy project has as objective to build the grassroots women’s capacity from communities, on renewable energy solutions (solar energy) as a gateway to enhance participation and improve access to energy. So far over 5 women have benefited from this program – an initiative of RUWDEC in partnership with the Barefoot College. It trains women to become solar engineers and establishes local solar train workshops for local training, multiply impacts and increase outreach. The project ensures women capacities, as well as organic agriculture, is enhanced.
12.) What have they done so far, after follow-up?
RUWDEC Solar Mamas have created solar clubs and are transmitting what they were taught, to their various communities. These clubs are for dynamic rural women working to improve their community. They do this by providing household solar energy solutions, comprised of women who are committed and devoted to working for the development of their communities.
13.) What is left undone?
We still plead for more support that will enable us provide more opportunities for these women to go for capacity building: passport and visa acquisition.
14.) How satisfied are you with the output of these three energy solutions oriented entrepreneurs?
RUWDEC is very much pleased with its output and service in the community and is happy to have them as Grandma Solar Engineers. We plead on the community to give them the maximum support they need in order to achieve the objective.
15.) What is the next project on the table?
Setting up the mushroom enterprise is the next project we are engaged in currently.
16.) How do you make a perfect balance between work, school, family, and the media?
I like being on the background most of the time. That said, I’m not a media fan. This enables me to create a balance between work, school, and family. Before it was not easy to strike a balance, but gradually, I have been working toward attaining it.
17.) How weird or interesting was your first advocacy online experience with your Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest, WhatzApp, Tumblr, Instagram followers, and fans and how did you use their feedback to your advantage, by growing your audience?
My first advocacy online had timid reactions and feedbacks from friends. Colleagues and mentors helped me ameliorate my strategy. So far the online advocacy has been awesome as they have been a lot of call for actions.
18.) How has your online experience been with sister colleagues?
My online experience with sister colleagues has been beautiful. They can testify how I always bug them with questions, guides, and directions. They have become used to me always seeking an innovative solution and possible ways to improve on our synergies.
19.) While giving your best at work, who are some of the female colleagues you admire and why?
Ngo Biba'a Lundi Anne, Yonga Nelly Shella, Mum Marie Abanga, Sakwe Alice-Rein and a host of others, and this, due to their unending passion in serving humanity.
20.) How do you relax?
Cooking an especially traditional meal, traveling to rural areas, reading, playing with my siblings and most especially sleeping.
21.) What is your ICE - Inspire-Celebrate-Empower vision for young girls, women of your age and mothers who have gone on a slumber trip?
It doesn't matter how you feel, it doesn't matter how you think you are far off attaining your objectives, simply do not give up. Evaluate yourself, change your inner circle, write down your plan and work towards achieving them. Do not be in competition with anybody, above all self-love is the greatest key in achieving your dream.

22.) Any plans for the UN or AU? If yes, what significant changes will you make if you were given a chance to be a peace and gender ambassador?
As an ambassador, I will ensure there is a strict and adequate follow-up on evaluating and reinforcing laid down policies by each member country.
23.) What are some of the things young girls and women do that put you off?
Pretending to be something they are not especially the ‘Christian' ladies.
24.) How will you want the African (Cameroonian in particular) woman to carry herself?
Carry themselves with a lot of self-love and confidence. Our girls have been prone by society to think they need to impress others. They need to delete this poor mindset.
25.) What are your first steps to right wrongs, should you be named the Minister of Women's Empowerment and the Family in Cameroon today?
Improve on the budget of the ministry and ensure activities are planned from bottom to the top, not vice-versa, recruit skilled and well-trained and result-oriented personnel.
26.) What is your take on the present crisis in Cameroon? How professional and ethical are reporters with the coverage of these crises that have lasted 32 months?
Hmmmmmmmm… I think the media professionals have not been fair in reporting concretely. Their inappropriate reporting and lack of ethical journalism have contributed to aggravating the crisis. I believe the media being the fourth arm of the state needs to act as one.
27.) Is Peace Journalism an option? How much of good is Peace Journalism doing to citizens in Cameroon?
I believe peace journalism should be inculcated in the curricula of all journalism schools. Also, the rise of citizen journalism is a call for concern as they all need to be trained and equipped on reporting and not promoting hate. There is no good so far as peace journalism is concerned in Cameroon.
28.) How active or passive would you want the journalists in Cameroon to be?
I believe journalists in Cameroon need to be very active in peace journalism and fact check before reporting as much as possible as a means to kill all the hate speeches we see everywhere.
29.) As an enlightened advocate who is neither blind nor deaf to the happenings in the country, what is your immediate reaction to the present wailing of women over the crisis in Cameroon?
There will be no country without a woman/women. The actors involved should hear the cries of our mothers. The voices and cries of our women countrywide should be heard.
30.) How is this helping matters? Or are a few making profits off others' painful and mischievous occurrences?
Well, I believe the effect of their actions will create an impact shortly. Their objective is for peaceful dialogue, negotiations, and ceasefire. Their steps are helpful as it has opened the eyes and ears of the communities, national and international bodies.
31.) What suggestions would you make to the powers that be if you were a UN Peace Ambassador to help curb, if not put an end to these crises preventing business moguls from adding economic value to the country’s coffers, teachers from running normal daily routines without the fear of the unknown or stray bullets and children from building a promising future by going to school?
Suggestions to put an end to the crisis: Call for a sincere dialogue between actors concerned, and this should be led by a neutral entity. This dialogue should seek for possible solutions. After that, peace education should be introduced from nursery schools and in our communities.
32.) Any advice to the Cameroonian and African Woman within and without the continent on why and how to become a peace builder?
Mother Theresa said Peace begins with a smile. Let's learn to live in peace and foster peacebuilding initiatives both at home and abroad.

Guerda Romain Chartelain: No one can be Phenomenal without hard work and creativity.

1) Who is Guerda Romain?

I am a product of globalization.  I was born in Colombia, of Haitian parents, grew up and studied in the United States, and am now living in Haiti with my husband and daughter. 
I completed a doctorate in French and Francophone literature at Princeton University and have been working as a translator and interpreter for the Department of State since 2005.  Before that, I worked as a university professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
As a child of immigrants, language has always played an important role in my life.  Although I was schooled in the US, my parents always required that French be spoken in our home.  My first discovery of Haitian and French literature was through my father who remained attached to his mother language and cultures throughout our lives in America.
It was only natural then that I pursue my studies in French with a concentration in Haitian literature. I wrote my doctoral thesis on the Haitian novel in the late 19th and early 20th century.  This further ignited my interest in the history and culture of Haiti.
I was a toddler when we moved to the United States. Before beginning school, I was in an exclusively francophone setting and only began to speak English when I went to kindergarden.  At that young age, I was introduced to the duality in mindsets that comes with being bilingual.  For a child, this is a natural thing. Our elders from the country of origin are associated with the French language and with a certain behavior and attitude.  It was just as natural to become little Americans when we were with our American friends and classmates.  I have never felt any conflict between the two.  Through the books I read, through my mother’s enchanting stories about her childhood in Haiti and through the tightly-knit family bonds that pushed and encouraged me in all I did, Haiti felt like home and its culture has been endlessly compelling to me.  It is a bilingual country with French and Creole as its official languages, and there is plenty of literature to be studied in both idioms.  Therefore, all Haitians at home or abroad experience the same duality as I do.  Of course, French was considered to be the exclusive domain of the educated and cultured, so for some Haitians it is intimidating. But the enormous output of literature written in French shows us that many Haitians have appropriated the French language and made it theirs.
Now that I am a parent, I have exposed my daughter from birth to both languages and cultures and can only feel she is enriched by being bilingual and multicultural.
This is so important to me that in January 2018, I founded a reading program for schoolchildren in Haiti. Since we are in a French- and Creole-speaking environment, I work with them in English. I like to think that I am giving back to Haiti after having my horizons widened and my universe made richer when I was growing up in a world of diverse cultures.

2) What fuels Guerda?

My beginnings in interpretation were quite unusual!
I was teaching Creole language at the United States embassy in Port-au-Prince when I was approached to interpret for Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was the First Lady of the United States.  I had never studied interpreting and always thought it would be too difficult to think in both languages at the same time.  I first refused the job on the weak excuse that I was to travel to the US to spend Thanksgiving with my family.  When I called my parents to boast that I’d given up this opportunity to be with them, my mother told me that she would not let me enter her house if I did not accept the job!  I suppose she and the embassy officers saw something in me.  With no experience, in front of TV cameras, without even a scrap of paper to take notes, I had my baptism by fire as an interpreter.  Mrs. Clinton was very kind and I suppose my natural boldness took over.  It was exhilarating, one of the high points of my professional life.
I have been extremely fortunate to have had a few such moments, thanks not only to my skill but also because I was given stellar opportunities.  One of my kindest clients was a president of Haiti who made sure I grew and stepped up to professional challenges. That is how I even had the chance to work at the White House.  My work as a consultant with the Department of State has taken me all over the world and given me a chance to meet some of the most dynamic and committed people working in journalism, government, entrepreneurship and the social sector.  I consider myself to be very fortunate and I always strive to live up to these amazing opportunities.
This alone would have made for a wonderful life of achievements beyond anything I might have imagined when I was younger.  But now, a new layer has been added, first since my daughter came along, and now in my work with children in Haiti. This has given me a chance to look beyond myself and into the future, and it has taught me priceless lessons about communication and language.
I think that for anyone, the greatest achievement is adaptability and the refusal to rest on one’s laurels.  As an interpreter, any job is an opportunity to learn and grow.  One assignment can teach you about police work, another will have you spending time with journalists and yet another will be about GMO mosquitos.  And now, since last year, I am testing my limits and expressing my creativity in new ways in the classroom. By opening up the world of reading to young children, I can find ways of teaching them kindness, respect for the environment, self-respect and acceptance of all fellow human beings.  In the Haitian setting, this is not as easy as in the United States, probably because of the considerable pressure exerted by political and economic instability and social strife. Life is not easy in Haiti, and children are not immune to these pressures. This school year ended rather abruptly because street riots caused schools to close before the end of the yearly calendar. Families have had to deal with the fear of being attacked in the streets or at home. Social division makes it challenging to teach children peace and harmony.  A special effort should therefore be made to make sure they love themselves, thereby making it possible to love and share with others.  Books do that while still keeping their worlds full of wonder and creativity. I do not know if this is my greatest achievement—someone else will perhaps have to make that judgment—but I consider it to be a challenge that forces me to grow in new directions. 

3) Who is your role model?

My parents taught me to stand and deliver no matter how difficult the situation. They both had to leave their families, learn a new language, adapt to a new culture and thrived professionally and personally. One of the challenges they faced was raising two daughters in an unfamiliar environment and without the usual support given by extended family. But they created a new environment around us, and my sister and I never felt isolated, nor was our cultural world every impoverished.  This is the most important thing that I emulate.

In addition, there are so many people who have taught me by example, not the least of which are my daughter and the children with whom I work now. There is nothing like the candor of a child to keep you humble and force you to reevaluate your outlook.
I have to say that as a woman of color and as a child of immigrants, I have often felt I was embarking on uncharted territory in my academic and professional life; sometimes the net of role models was not always visible. In those moments, it became necessary to get down to the basics: family who may not be experienced in the type of work I did, but who gave me enough love and self-confidence to simply put one foot in front of the other and move forward with the usual conscientiousness. Sometimes no one else can guide you, and that’s okay because you have beacons within you too.

4) Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I’ve given myself two years to put out a culture and language program for adults. I am working so that in five years these programs will be self-sustaining so that I can devote myself to new commercial ventures. Beyond that, I am working towards writing my own books.

5) What are the challenges of a vibrant, smart, result oriented and creative interpreter like yourself?

Interpreting is not always easy work: it requires a broad base of general knowledge and considerable skills in concentration and memory.  But I have an “attitude of gratitude” and am especially thankful for opportunities to work and grow. When my daughter was younger, it was difficult to be away from home for three weeks at a time several times per year. However, there is a positive side to this because I come home with stories from exotic places that otherwise I would never visit.  In addition, one of the best ways of raising a daughter who is confident and happy is by doing work that you love and that makes you rise to different challenges.

6) What is your greatest influence before your shift for Interpretation?

Then and now, the greatest influence on me has been the world of reading.  My sister once told me that I was wise beyond my years because books have made me experience several lifetimes!  When I was younger, I was very shy and felt more comfortable in a library than with people my age.  Now, I have overcome my shyness, I love the company of people, and my favorite thing to do is sharing the literary universe with others, particularly children.

7) How was your media experience with 2016 Edward Murrow Fellows who were chosen from over 80 countries in the world to cover the Presidentials in the US?

The 2016 Murrow Program was a beautiful chance to make new friends from all over the world. The highlights for me were Saint Petersburg, Florida and New York. I learned so much about communications Poynter Institute in Florida.

8) While giving your best at work, who are some of the female colleagues you admire and why?

I have worked with women and men who just blew me away with their skills or with their ability to work harmoniously with even the most difficult visitors.  Maryvonne Kerzabi is a friend and a person whose professionalism and superior social skills have afforded her a prize from Global Ties this year. The fact of working with different groups of people at every assignment makes it possible to hone my skills and acquire new techniques or to learn more elegant vocabulary from colleagues.  I do really love that about my work.

9) How do you relax yourself ?

Since almost all my work involves thought and the mind, I like to relax by doing very basic and physical things like cooking and exercising.  My best ideas come when I do housework or when I am out walking or testing myself physically.  My family loves music of all kinds.  Because of the situation in Haiti, we do not go out as often as we would like, but we are perfectly happy listening to music and spending time with family and friends at home. I have to admit that we “come up for air” by traveling to places where we can engage in fun and cultural activities.

10) What is your ICE Vision for young girls, women of your age and mothers who have gone on a slumber trip?

I love this question because it is perhaps the most difficult! It is interesting: I never thought about being a woman until I came to live in Haiti. Thanks to my parents and because I developed in an America where paths had already been blazed by women of color, I never thought that being a woman or being black would be obstacles to achievement.  In Haiti it is a different story. Although this country is ahead of others in that it has already had a woman as president, the status of women is still very complicated in Haiti. There is no shortage of strong and accomplished women here but they still face the stereotype of women who are weak and overly sensitive. Men and boys are somehow considered more important and entitled and women and girls still accept a secondary role. Various forms of abuse are also accepted to a certain extent, and economic hardship makes it difficult for women and girls to say “no” or to leave unacceptable situations. I am committed to developing materials and programs to help girls in my reading program become self-aware and independent women. But this will not bear any fruit if the boys are not taught to be men who respect women’s rights.

11)What are some of the things young girls and women do that put you off?

I do not consider that I am in any position to judge another woman or a girl. This year in the reading program, we learned the story of Sadako Sasiki, a young girl who, after surviving the atomic blast in Hiroshima in 1945, later contracted leukemia and passed away at age 12.  She made 1,000 origami cranes because Japanese legend has it that that will help you find a solution to even the worst problems. With the children I have been making peace cranes since last fall. The repetitive and complicated motions do make for a kind of meditation, and when we did it together, I had a chance to share with them on a level that created lasting bonds. We wrote a play about Sadako and peace cranes, and the final words of the play were “We must build peace. First, build peace within yourself. Then build peace in your family. Then in your community, state and country.  Then in the whole world.” Peace starts within and moves out in concentric circles. And inner peace and stability, self-love and self-respect show us that we cannot judge others because we cannot know their struggle.

12) How will you want the Phenomenal African Woman (American in particular) woman to carry herself? 

Self respect, honor and dignity are necessary qualities. And no one can be Phenomenal without hard work and creativity. But I think that what is the most important quality is to be self-aware and to be conscious of others with the kindness that comes from knowing your own value and being able to respect any other human being. 

Thank you Guerda for accepting to share your inspiration with IMA readers and we hope to have more of you in the nearest future.