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On the occasion of the IWD, the newspaper La Nouvelle Expression in its issue of Monday, March 8, 2021, granted a two-page interview on the career of Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo.
“My logic is to act usefully, by giving a good example everywhere
President of WILPF Cameroon, Regional Representative of WILPF Africa, Coordinator of the Women’s Platform for Peaceful Elections in Cameroon, Sylvie Ndongmo is always at the forefront of the scene and stands out above all for her struggle for peacekeeping and especially for the consideration by public authorities of the important role of women in the peacekeeping process in Cameroon and in Africa. It was she who took the lead in popularising the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and especially the implementation of the national action plan. She is on all fronts to make the voice of women heard.
My background
I am a teacher by training and an expert of international renown working for the promotion of women’s human rights and more specifically for the Women’s Peace and Security agenda.
I decided to get involved in civil society and in 1996 I joined the Syndicat National Autonome des Enseignants du Secondaire (SNAES) to demand better working conditions for teachers and the creation of a decent working environment for students. Within the union, my dynamism was very quickly noticed and this is how I was promoted to different positions of responsibility and unanimously selected in 2000 to represent the association with 3 other women at a workshop in Libreville on Women’s Leadership. This was my very first international experience as a woman activist. On my return to Cameroon, I implemented the recommendations of the workshop by creating a “Women’s Committee” within the union for a better supervision of women and also for a better consideration of their specificities as women. The Federation of Education and Research Unions was very flattered by the initiatives taken by the women’s committee and requested our expertise, which led to the setting up of a women’s committee in three unions. A seminar was then organised in December of the same year to recognise and promote the role of women. I remember the words of Mr. Jean Kamdem, SG of SNAES, at the opening ceremony “This is the best Christmas present Sylvie has given the Union”.

In 2001, I joined the League of Rights and Freedoms, an organisation whose actions aim to ensure that democratic principles are respected in Cameroon and promotes the idea of a peaceful political transition through free and transparent elections. Concerned about a greater involvement of women in Cameroonian civil society and in order to ensure that their specific problems are taken into account, I created the League of Women for Education in 2004 (Life Cameroon).
After a three-week stay in Burundi for training in gender and active non-violence, during which I was a visual witness to the horrors of war, I returned to Cameroon, mobilised women and created an association to promote the participation of women in peace processes. This is how the association Women’s Human Rights and Peace Initiatives was born in 2009, with the aim of sensitising Cameroonian women on peace issues and encouraging them to engage in conflict prevention actions by taking initiatives in favour of peace.
In 2012, I got in touch with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and decided to explore the possibility of working with them. After 2 years of advocacy, the WILPF chapter in Cameroon was created in January 2014 and I was elected president. During the WILPF Centenary Congress held in The Hague in 2015, I was elected co-coordinator of the WILPF Africa working group and in August 2018 at the WILPF Congress in Ghana I became the first ever elected representative of WILPF Africa region in the International Executive Committee.
The fight for women’s rights
My commitment and determination to work in civil society was motivated by two major events. The first was the loss of my baby and only daughter in 1994 (born by caesarean section) due to gross negligence and medical errors which led to many other health problems resulting in three other surgeries. In sum, in my young age, I underwent a total of 07 operations with general anaesthesia, the after-effects of which are still perceptible to this day. The second major fact was that as a young teacher, my salary did not allow me to pay for my medical care for more than 48 hours, a salary which in 1994 was 66,000 CFA francs for a category A2 civil servant.

I was so outraged by these two events that I decided to get involved in civil society, promising myself that I would dedicate my life to fighting so that no other woman would go through what I had experienced as a trauma.
In addition, the experience of the 2008 food riots in Cameroon, with its attendant destruction and damage and its impact on Cameroonian women, as well as my participation in the 2008 training in Burundi, enabled me to measure the disproportionate impact of conflicts on women and girls. It was with this in mind that I decided to mobilise Cameroonian women who shared the vision of a violence-free Cameroon so that we could create the association Women’s Peace Initiatives (2009).
Emerging as a woman on the path of men
My childhood marked out my path in the field of social action because I am the fourth child and the first daughter of a family of 14 members. I grew up on football pitches, I grew up reading comics such as Blek, Akim, Rahan, Zembla etc. I learned to resist the bullying of my brothers who always thought I couldn’t do this or that. My schooling was an element that allowed me to make my way in the court of men because, like my older brothers, I also benefited from school grants in high school. So they didn’t have many arguments to eliminate me from their “circle”.
I also think that emergence is less about gender than about the skills and qualities one has as a human being. The contribution I can make as a citizen to the advancement of society is what matters most to me. This is why, for a long time now, whenever I have an action to take, I ask myself a number of questions: Is the action to be taken beneficial for myself? Is it good for my family, for my community, for my country? Whenever the answers are ‘Yes’, then I don’t hesitate to go ahead even if there is opposition in my way.
One particular thing I did was also to ensure that the women’s organisations we have created since 2004 had 30% of like-minded men in their statutes, which enabled us to have constant peace and justice loving men by our side who in due course facilitated conversations with their peers on the issues we were working on. Today I am happy to know that the concept of engaging a percentage of men in the promotion of feminist peace and a more equal world is being promoted within the agencies of the United Nations system.
The activist, the actress and the woman
Just as activism is not an obstacle to carrying out a woman’s mission, being a woman is not an obstacle to activism. My logic is to act usefully in one context or another, setting a good example everywhere. I am described as a ‘good activist, good mother, good daughter, good sister’.
As a woman, I have made it a priority to look after my children and that is why they have always been among the best at school. Socially, they are noted for the many values (respect, tolerance, commitment to work, non-violence, humility, firmness, compassion, etc.) that I have taught them.
It has always been impossible to dissociate activism from my private field. At home, for example, a space was used as the association’s office for many years; equipment and own funds helped to run the association, at the time in Bafoussam, my vehicle was called the ‘union car’.

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