|name: Marie Tamoifo Nkom |
organisation: Jeunesse Verte du Cameroun
type of activity: non-profit NGO raising environmental consciousness among youth
In this section, YXC has developed an imaginary interview with Marie Tamoifo Nkom, an environmental activist, youth organiser, and founder of a youth association called Association Jeunesse Verte du Cameroun. During 1999, she organised the United Nations Environment Programme's Youth and Sustainable Consumption Campaign in Cameroon under the aegis of UNEP Youth Advisory Council Associate Advisor for Africa in conjunction with the German Development Corporation (GTZ), the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MINEF), and young Cameroonians in schools and universities across the country.
In support of this UNEP program she organised and led a tour through all the provinces of Cameroon: - to identify best practices and activities relating to sustainable consumption; - to identify youth environmentalists; - to explain the Youth Network and how it works to all those who are going to be future partners; - to identify constraints and problems that youth experience in their environmental activities.
Marie is also Executive Secretary of the UNEP Youth Advisory Council, working out of Cameroon and running this program with a large number of volunteer youth. YXC thanks its virtual interlocutor for this contribution.
Pleased to meet you... My name is Tamoifo Nkom Marie and I belong to the Association Jeunesse Verte du Cameroun. The Association is a non-profit making organisation working towards sustainable management of the environment and promotion of human rights. Its founding principles are: voluntary participation, solidarity, public interest and human dignity. Among its objectives are:
A team of young volunteers and supporting partners animates the association. Past projects have included partnerships with GTZ, the British High Commission, UNEP, Global Village, MINEDUC, MINEF, UNEP/YAC, the Canadian High Commission.
- to develop opinions on environmental issues in Cameroon;
- to elicit the opinion of youth on forms of rural and urban pollution which are causing damage to the environment;
- to promote best practices amongst existing youth organisations;
- to promote new, non-polluting technologies.
So how did you get started and why? I started this environmental activity when I was a young member of another non-governmental organisation in Cameroon. I was discovering a new sector and international forums and I was with other youths, some younger than me, and I was so impressed... When I came back to Cameroon I initiated a project of organising a national youth forum to launch the UNEP Sustainable Consumption Campaign. And now some friends of mine and I have created our own youth association to continue to sensitise young people.
Why are people attracted to your organisation? First of all there is the image that I am giving to them as a youth leader. I have travelled a lot, I have seen and met a lot of people and I have initiated a lot of projects that have been nationally recognised and taken seriously by the authorities. Second, there is my enthusiasm and the vision we have for the future. And then there is an attraction for 20% of the participants that we cannot identify but which I am sure is personal.
How did you gain and maintain their trust? As I said earlier, I organised a lot of meetings and young people all realised that it was possible, that one young person (from a city or the rural area) could act in the field of elders and make a change. I organised the first national youth forum here in Cameroon, where 150 youth participants coming from schools and universities brought many contributions and project ideas. We continue to send them information through a youth magazine which gives information on all the activities undertaken by them, wherever they may be.
How do you ‘measure’ the success of your organisation? In the beginning I was basically alone with a friend of mine to put together this group but now we are 15 active members and more than 300 members of the national network group. The media are now interested in the events we organise, and Cameroonian authorities now look at the association with a good eye, which was not the case a few years earlier. The NGOs and international organisations are now more interested in our projects.
What were the major obstacles encountered and how did you overcome them? First, the ideas, the minds of the elders and the barrier between us: what kind of project could help us be taken seriously as partners and not only as beneficiaries, as agents to create this change we were wanting? The forum was new, innovative, and big. We decided to start with that and then continue through projects. The youth perception changed when they realised that the Association collaborates with organisations and individuals with the same concerns worldwide, such as UNEP and the Youth Advisory Council. The second obstacle was raising funds in order to be credible. I went to many international and national organisations and finally we got them.
And your last comment for us is... I would encourage youth, first of all by being a model. We don’t have a lot of funds but we have many ideas for projects, and this youth programme will encourage young people more. And the results are starting to show: youth now get in contact with us all the time.