It is often said Rome was built by laying a brick every day. Consistency has always been the bedrock of excellence. This month we feature a diligent community builder, Ndi Nancy Saiboh, she is our youth of the month. Below is the discussion we had with her on the journey so far.
Who is Ndi Nancy Saiboh?
I am a young person who believes I can bring change in my community. I started activism while in the University of Yaoundé II, and then I was responsible for advocating for good student leaders. I spoke out against corruption, human rights abuse, and disfranchisement of community members. I wanted change in my community and did not see it coming so I decided to do something about it. I decided to look around, figure out what my talents are and use them contribute to my community. To figure this out, I started off by joining Citizen Governance Initiative (CGI) as an intern whilst I was a student at the University of Yaoundé II. From this stage I worked my way up to be the head on gender and youth affairs at CGI. This took me down the path of founding Actions for Development and Empowerment (ADE) and leading the Follow the Money movement in Cameroon.
In summary, Ndi Nancy Saiboh is a young international Gender Activist and an anti-corruption activist. She founded Empower Her Africa, an initiative aimed at demystifying menstruation. Nancy Leads Follow the Money in Cameroon, a social accountability initiative that comprises data analysts, journalists, activists, and students. She is also the Chief Executive of Action for Development and Empowerment (ADE), a non-profit, grassroots, and youth-driven organization with the aim of empowering young people to act around issues that affect their lives and play an active role in the development process thereby creating positive change in their communities and Africa at large.
What motivated you to start the organization Actions for Development and Empowerment (ADE)?
I wanted to be a change maker and impact people’s lives positively and needed a platform to execute what I had in mind, so, I built one. This platform was necessary for my community to hear my voice and for those who share the same values and vision like I did to find me. This was why I, together with Nono Alida my colleague from CGI founded Actions for development and Empowerment.
In addition to being the founder of ADE, you work with Follow the Money Cameroon. Tell us what you work to achieve in your role as the project lead.
As project lead of FollowtheMoney in Cameroon, I lead a team of technology & innovation driven campaigners to amplify voices of marginalized communities in promoting accountability as it affects utilization of public funds focusing on specific communities across Cameroon. I also sensitize my audience and people around me about the importance of holding government to account. I work to achieve a well-built capacity of citizens on how to hold their elected representatives and government accountable.
What challenges did you face in the establishment of ADE?
The bureaucracy encountered while registering ADE as an association with the relevant authorities was a challenge. The procedure upon deposition of our documents was expected to take two weeks but it took much longer. During this period, we were limited in what activities we could carry out as our legal documents would be requested. However, we overcame this by carrying out projects which did not require these documents such as, raising awareness on the sustainable development goals on our social media platform.
Which do you constantly face in running it and how do you overcome these?
ADE is 2 years old, so the primary challenge is raising funds to carry out projects. We understand that before you ask anyone for money, they must see a track record of what you can do. So, we self-financed our projects. Currently, we have been awarded our first grant to work on Covid-19 transparency and accountability project in Cameroon. Also, we faced a challenge with human resources where volunteers where not committed to the mission. When carrying out activities we provide transportation and stipends to volunteers, however, some are dissatisfied with this expecting a higher pay.
What should we look out for from ADE in the future?
With ADE we set out to design a transformative organization. Our goal is to transform the lives of all who we encounter, from staff to community, for the better. The long-term plan is to grow internationally and provide funds for other organizations creating change in their localities.
How do you balance your commitments to ADE and Follow the Money Cameroon?
FTM is integrated in ADE programs, so in as much as I am committed to ADE, I am committed to all of it programs.
What current plans/projects are you involved in which our readers should be aware of?
Currently, there are three projects we are working on: the Covid-19 transparency and accountability campaign (CTAP), Empower Her Africa initiative and SDG School Tour. For the former to be as effective as possible we require engagement from the public. To follow up on projects promised by the government and work with us to ensure they keep to their word. If they do not, together we can utilize the power of social media to call them out.
With the latter project, e plan to donate reusable sanitary pads to girls in the Far North and South West regions. In addition to this, we plan to hold workshops which teach young girls how to manage themselves during menstruating and how to make these pads. Last year, through this initiative, we donated over 100 sanitary in Bamenda. With more donations we could reach more young girls.
Tell us about some of the achievements you have had with ADE and as an individual which you are most proud of.
Our journey so far is what I am most proud of. At ADE, we celebrate our baby steps as we know how much work was put into it. I am especially proud of how much our staff and volunteers have grown professionally in the time they have spent with us. We see ourselves as an international organization, so we hold ourselves to high standards. I am most grateful to God for giving me the strength to keep moving forward.
What are your ambitions?
I believe to change the system you have to know it. When the time is right, I plan to go back to school learn more about leadership and go into politics. My plan is to keep serving people and teaching them how power works.
What you think our Cameroonian youth need to know/do to be the Better Breed?
We must realize that being a young person is not a career and we have a role we must play in building our community. We have power, especially being the majority demographic in Cameroon but need to put in the work to harness it. Every one’s journey is unique, so you as an individual must figure out what yours will be. Do not try to copy from others. Decipher what your purpose is and work on that.