Girls and women come together in Cameroon to share stories of success

Cameroon’s First Story Summit took place on January 31 at the Pastoral Center Up Station at Bamenda, Cameroon. It was focused at bringing women and girls together to share stories of strength and success under the 10,000 Girls Initiative. It was held under a model known as “Creative Expression + Transformational Literacy + Dynamic Mentorship = Empowered Girls”.

Story Summits are a joint project of LitWorld and Global Girls Rising comprised of one-day events, led by trained mentors and volunteers, for women and girls from the community to share their stories and learn from one another’s experiences. They are dedicated to improve and empower the lives of girls through the power of storytelling, creative expression, literacy and mentorship because we believe there is power in stories and that lives can change through peoples stories.

It is against this backdrop that myself and my partner, Carine Binwi, worked hard to organise the First Story Summit which brought together about 90 girls from five primary and two secondary schools with 12 trained mentors to co-ordinate the activities of the girls.

This programme takes girls out of the typical classroom environment and provides a safe space where they can confidently tell their stories without fear and intimidation. The 10,000 Global Girls Initiative’s model for change can be summarised by the formula: Creative Expression + Transformational Literacy + Dynamic Mentorship = Empowered Girls.

Mrs Nounga Sheila Limen, a teacher from one of the schools in the community, delivered the keynote address. She applauded LitWorld and Global Girls Rising for the initiative and thanked the organisers for promoting girls’ education and productive lifestyles. She spoke to the girls about the importance of education and the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle. She listed some key things girls should avoid which included bad behaviour, drug abuse, smoking, indecent dressing, disobedience, laziness at school, gossiping, etc. She called on the girls to live lives that are worth emulating.

After this, there were a series of breakout groups working on a community-building activity and sharing stories of strength. The community building activity, called “identify web”, helped girls to understand how connected their thoughts were formed. It also allowed the girls to express who and what they identified themselves with.

The stories of strength allowed the kids to express their innermost thoughts amongst the seven attributes of belonging, hope, friendship, curiosity, kindness, confidence, courage. This was started by calling out one of the participants to read out the different strengths to the whole group. Girls were encouraged to continue to be inspired by the stories they have shared and the best ones were selected from each group and presented by the girls to the whole team. 

Since Dr Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Day was celebrated just before our summit on January 15, we decided to focus our Read Aloud on some quotes on leadership and kindness from Dr King in celebration of his heroism. At the end we all raised our hands up as a group and said we were #UpForSchool and the mentors got to sign the #UpForSchool Petition.

The summit was a great success – the girls all had wonderful stories to share and inspired each other. Some girls had problems reading while others were just amazing. But everyone had a chance to practise and learn more.

And finally, most of the out-of-school girls were very interested in the programme and would love to get involved in the future. We hope they keep joining us to learn and get to school.

Going forward, we are going to continue to work on sharing the girls’ stories, encourage girls and mentors to fully participate in story exchange on the Lit Power Platform, and begin planning World Read Aloud Day. We are also looking forward to the next story summit, with all the lessons we got from this last one.

Fideline Mboringong is an A World at School Global Youth Ambassador and Regional Coordinator for LitWorld’s 10,000 Girls Initiative. Carine Binwi is the Lead Mentor of the first LitClub in Cameroon. They would like to express their immense gratitude to our partners and funders LitWorld and Global Girls Rising, Equally to Youth Outreach Programme and Big Steps Organisation for their moral and technical participation. “We appreciate your support!”