Category Archives: Posted by: Marcel Nkamwa

SODEI Opens Tech Hub – Helping Limbe Youth and Local Businesses Re-imagine Entrepreneurship for the Digital Economy

It is a no-brainer that small and medium-sized businesses – the ones starting out as ideas in the fertile minds of hard-working, creative entrepreneurs, are the backbone of the Cameroonian economy and the primary source of job growth and economic resilience in the 21st century.

With that school of thought and understanding that the waters of entrepreneurship can be choppy at times, SODEI recently announced an initiative involving young Cameroonians to grow, compete and transform in the digital economy by launching its TechHub in Limbe. As part of SODEI’s ongoing commitment to the community, the NGO aims to bring youth closer to startups, academia, civil society organizations, business and public sector. The Hub aims to inspire, educate and propel young Cameroonians from underserved and underrepresented communities to excel in information technology. The program will promote collision, connection, cross-pollination, collaboration and community with a supportive culture of innovation, inclusion and diversity. This new division will complement the core services provided by SODEI and offer an exclusive platform for youth.

The kick-off event was a huge success at SODEI’s office in Bota Middle Farms on Saturday June 20, 2020. Opening its doors in Bota Middle Farms, the launch included a tour of the multi-purpose facility, question and answer session, and a presentation on SODEI programs – Youth Mentoring and Leadership, Young Women and Girls’ Empowerment, Learn, Speak and Play (LESPLAY) for Children.
“As we formulate our 2020-25 Strategic Plan and head into a new normal while continuing with our mission to serve youth, facilitating entrepreneurs from idea to traction, teaming them up with premier startups is a major step forward,”– said Gilbert Ajebe, CEO of SODEI.

While, SODEI is inspired by its commitment to push young people into discovering their talents, abilities, opportunities through an innovative approach to education, the Hub is designed for target audience to work side-by-side within the sector to co-innovate by ideating, speedily prototyping and then scaling new products and services. SODEI starts with youth at the heart of every challenge, and aims to engage local and global teams of practitioners and ecosystem partners to leverage the power of innovative and emerging technologies to foster inclusive innovation — giving under-represented individuals the opportunity to participate in digital-economy.

SODEI’s Tech Hub will connect Cameroonian youth and organizations that operate without dedicated technical staff or team to vetted local experts to work on their digital/innovation projects. It will give entrepreneurs, IT labs, startups, school and universities, and support structures a platform that supports and accelerates the development of deep tech. It does also encourage partnerships in order to accelerate the development of new technological solutions by connecting actors in STEM with experienced entrepreneurs, investors, and corporations. Fostering the creation of new strategic sectors to inspire collaboration between different industries and combining different fields of technology to combat issues is another benefit of the program.

SODEI is situated at Fako Bakery Building, Bota Middle farms Limbe. We are a registered Non-Profit Organization (NPO) which was founded in November 2018 in the wake of the conflict in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon and the devasting impact on the welfare and education of children and young persons within the region. We are registered as a charity in the UK and have sections in Cameroon and Norway. Most of our operations are currently run mainly in the Southwest Region of Cameroon, with the intention of expanding to other regions progressively.

Click Here To Learn More About SODEI – Solidarity & Development Initiative

Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 Celebrated Under the Theme: It’s Time for Action

Yes, it is indeed time for action. Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) has been celebrated every year since May 28, 2014 all over the world. The need for the recognition of this day was as a result of the acknowledgement that women and girls in some parts of the world go through dreadful situations and are not able to live their menstruation periods in proper hygiene and dignity, for an occurrence so natural that every woman has to experience this for a large part of her life. Celebrating MH Day creates awareness and is aimed mainly at breaking stereotypes and taboos surrounding menstruation or periods. It has been a challenge for young girls especially in developing countries to cope with periods coupled with the stigma and ancient beliefs surrounding this natural and unstoppable circumstance.

Despite the pandemic which has disrupted our lives and even slowed down our economies, we still celebrate MH Day. Periods do not stop for young girls and women and definitely not because of a pandemic. Instead, it serves to create challenges for some who already had difficulties accessing proper hygiene products for their periods. This Pandemic is affecting the whole world and there is a very great tendency that other important issues will be neglected, and all efforts advanced towards the management and end of the pandemic. While this is not inherently problematic and we at SODEI support the efforts of all those involved in making our world safe again, we will not neglect issues which are important to us and our mission.

For this year’s celebration of MH Day, we want to illustrate the link between Menstrual Hygiene and The SDGs.

Menstruation is normal vaginal bleeding which occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle. Unfortunately, stereotypes regarding this perfectly natural happening, as observed in most societies evoke attitudes of intolerance, notions of uncleanliness and treatments of shame associated to the experience of Menstruation which is an important aspect of women’s health. It is often said that “Health is wealth”, and it goes without saying that women’s menstruation under hygienic conditions is an essential condition for their development and good health. (SDG 3)

Ensuring healthy menstruation conditions definitely contributes to healthy, productive girls in a progressive society. When girls are comfortable during their periods, they are free from the inhibitions and constraints of fearing judgement. They can rise above the biases and be more productive thereby positively impacting their society. (SDGs 4 and 5)

Healthy menstrual hygiene = quality education. Due to lack of access to appropriate feminine hygiene products causes some women and girls have to be absent from work/school which directly or indirectly affects economic growth. Consequently, the gender inequality gap is widened and perpetuated. (SDG 5)

Healthy menstrual hygiene = good health and well-being. The availability of good quality menstrual products prevents urinary tract infections, painful periods, itches among others. Thereby ensuring the right to health for young girls and women. (SDGs 1, 3 and 6)

Healthy menstruation practices equally highlight the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation. Educating women on healthy menstrual hygiene provides useful information on the disposal of used sanitary pads which in turn educates on the need to keep water bodies and other surroundings clean and safe. As a result, we will have sustainable cities, the preservation of life on land and responsible resource consumption will be encouraged. (SDGs 6 and 11)

The importance of observing a healthy and objective attitude towards menstruation cannot be overstressed. As a society, we have to move forward by dropping the perspectives which no longer serve us. Every young girl deserves to grow free from the preconceived notions surrounding a natural phenomenon such as menstruation. It is time for action.

#MHD2020 #ItsTimeForAction

Interview with SODEI Founder and Executive Director Gilbert Ajebe Akame on the New SARS 2/COVID-19

The world is currently gripped by a pandemic of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), an infectious disease that was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province. The pandemic has caused major disruptions around the world and we at SODEI are no different. We thought it necessary as an organization to join the world in the fight to stop the spread of the disease. So far, we have been involved in sensitization campaigns and creating awareness on the spread of the disease and measures of prevention. In addition, our organisation’s strategy involves continuing to organize limited sessions with young people with a focus on awareness about the virus, measures of prevention and mental health issues. SODEI’s communication Associate Nicole Mbiatem decided to interview the head of the organization to throw more light on the health crisis and the organization’s strategy.

Question: How has coronavirus affected SODEI as an organization?

It is a great opportunity to make a statement as the leader of an organization working for the interest of young people. Despite not being a medical expert, I believe it is important to put all hands on deck to raise awareness against the spread of the new coronavirus. As a budding organization, the COVID-19 outbreak has slowed down our momentum. Some of the work we do like the LESPLAY project involves organizing sessions with children every weekend. This is no longer the case as the sessions have been curtailed and the number of children attending has understandably reduced. Having few sessions rather than a complete halt is our own way to be part of the #LearningNeverStops campaign. Some of these children would still find themselves in crowded places and other places where social distancing isn’t respected regardless. Why not provide them instead with an opportunity to learn about COVID-19 and preventive measures? On the bright side, we also use this period as an opportunity for reflection. We continue to work behind the scenes, from our home offices to ensure that good systems and structures are in place. Together with the Program and Development heads, we are working on different policy documents and exploring ideas for funding. Hopefully, we will come out of this situation a stronger, well-established and professional organization.

Question: What is your understanding are the measures that have been taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus?

We align ourselves with the Cameroon government’s preparedness and response strategy which include six core areas:

  • Massive and generalized testing
  • Immediate treatment of cases
  • Active surveillance of suspected cases
  • Emphasis on awareness about hygiene, social distancing, etc.
  • Border control
  • Encouraging reliable local expertise for a response.

In line with this strategy, the government on March 17 announced 13 measures to contain the spread of the virus including:

  1. The closure of all public and private training establishments of the various levels of education, from nursery school to higher education, including vocational training centres and professional schools
  2. Restriction of gatherings of more than fifty (50) persons
  3. Closure of restaurants and entertainment spots from 6 p.m.
  4. Regulation of consumer flows in markets and shopping centres
  5. The postponement of school and university competitions, like the FENASSCO and University games, etc.

As a follow-up, the government on the April 9, issued 7 additional measures which include:

  1. The wearing of facemasks in all open public spaces
  2. The local production of protective masks, medicines, and sanitizers
  3. The establishment of specialized treatment centres in all regional capitals
  4. The intensification of COVID-19 screening campaign with emphasis on already affected areas
  5. The intensification of awareness-raising campaign in urban and rural areas
  6. The continuation of activities essential to the economy

I would like to highlight the importance of local remedies such as using immune-boosting products such as lemon-ginger-garlic tonics and other natural remedies we have relied upon in the past to fight the common cold. These products with their vitamin c and anti-inflammatory benefits have been very much talked about to be helpful in slowing down the effects of the virus in the human body. However, this does not in any way circumvent the preventive measures in place, as there currently is no proven cure or vaccine against the virus.

I am particularly impressed by the daily and weekly social media outings by the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister aimed at updating on new developments, stats on new cases identified and sensitizing the public on the need for personal responsibility and adherence to the preventive measures in place. I recommend every young person to follow the official twitter of the Minister of Health @DrManaouda. However, I would also love to see the minister of health delegate other health experts in the ministry of health to do the daily updates while his administration focuses more on strategy.

What additional measures do you think can be taken by the Government of Cameroon to prevent the spread of this virus?

I personally believe the strategies as outlined above, if accompanied by effective measures of implementation, citizen responsibility and additional government support in the form of an emergency package to the most-at-risk communities will help slowing down the spread and eventually flattening the curve. Note that the active surveillance of cases or enhanced contact tracing measure is similar to what other African countries such as Ghana have adopted, which is explained as the reason for the spike in case count. Such measures including generalized testing where the means are available, have been identified as the most effective way of containing and avoiding the spread of the virus.

You must have noticed the calls on the social media for a lockdown – some suggesting a nation-wide lockdown while others call for the lockdown of the main urban cities with the most cases, including Yaounde, Douala and Baffoussam. I believe to completely lockdown a country’s major urban and commercial cities, is a serious undertaking especially if the country doesn’t have robust social security to rely on. Some African countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mali and South Africa have imposed varied lockdown measures. Kenya, for example, has imposed nation-wide curfew limited to time – between 7 pm to 5 am daily, others like Nigeria have resorted to partial lockdown which applies only to some parts of the country countries specifically in urban cities; meanwhile, South Africa has imposed a total lockdown. Cameroon’s 6 pm curfew which applies to restaurants and entertainment spots could be said to be limited in scope. I believe at this point we can observe how lockdowns are unfolding in these African countries and apply lessons learnt in our context.

The potential challenges for imposing a lockdown include, on the one hand how lockdowns are implemented and received by the people, and on the other hand what happens to the economy. We have already observed how in some countries people are not keen to respect lockdowns and are being chased around by the police. The potential economic repercussions in African countries have already been indicated by international financial institutions. To impose a lockdown in Cameroon will mean many will go without their daily incomes. Many families who rely on informal employment will be unable to feed themselves on a day to day basis if a total or partial lockdown is imposed. This is a major challenge. I believe if the measures already in place including the restrictions on large gatherings, control of flows in markets, the use of face masks, etc, are properly implemented and yielding good results, there wouldn’t be a need for a major lockdown.

SODEI organized an informative event in Limbe on March 28, 2020. What was the motive for the event?

On March 28 we organized a session with our LESPLAY project participants to raise awareness on the existence of the virus and preventive measures. Our volunteer facilitators taught young participants on basic hand hygiene, wearing of masks, social distancing and other preventive measures. They also provided hand sanitizers for participants to take home. More importantly, young participants were taught on how to produce face masks using affordable local products. We organized a similar activity on April 11, emphasizing on the proper usage of face masks and the various types available. And on April 23 our volunteers went out on a door to door sensitization campaign educating residents of Limbe Camp on how the virus is spread and measures of prevention. Our intention is to use our modest means to sensitize young people and continue playing an active role as a youth organization.

Can you tell us more about the #LearningNeverStops Campaign and how SODEI is implicated?

#LearningNeverStops is a campaign launched by UNESCO as a response to COVID-19 and the disruptive effects on education. Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19. According to UNESCO, these closures have impacted over 90% of the world’s student population with those from under-privileged backgrounds with fewer educational opportunities beyond school being hit the most. The #LearningNeverStops campaign is part of UNESCO’s response to support countries in their efforts to mitigate the immediate impact of school closures, particularly for more vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, and to facilitate the continuity of education for all through remote learning. Our approach is guided by this philosophy. While we are at the forefront of the campaign of sensitization in our community, we are equally interested in continuous-play and learning opportunities for young people during the period of shutdown. Amidst the fear and uncertainty young people still have the desire to play and learn. We find the need to continue engaging young people, taking into considerations all the preventive measures and guidelines recommended by the government.

What last advice can you give to young people out there about the pandemic?

I will advise everyone out there to take the virus seriously and follow the measures put in place by the government. It is no longer news today that the virus is real and affects everyone regardless of race, colour, age or social status. Yes, it has been established that the virus can have more severe consequences to older people and people with existing medical conditions. Yet we have also heard and seen fatalities in young people though in a tiny minority. I will advise young people to stay at home as much as possible and avoid crowded places. And if they have to step out, they should make proper use of face masks, to wear a face mask to prevent infection rather than for fear of the police.