KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE ExSSA-USA CONVENTION IN DALLAS, TX.
"EMPOWERING THE GIRL CHILD"
Delivered by Mrs. Egbe Etonde Mbiwan Monjimbo
(Graduating Class of 1981)
Good Evening Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome again to this special evening which is certainly one of the Highlights of our 13th Annual Convention. While I am very pleased to have been chosen to deliver the Keynote address this year, I must both humbly and proudly note that this banquet hall is full and teeming with Women who could very comfortably and easily, have filled my shoes. I am here to talk to you about a topic which makes a lot of sense, given the intrinsic and inherent nature of our Alma Mater and its Alumnae, namely:
“THE EMPOWERMENT OF THE GIRL CHILD”
My approach to this topic which is bandied about quite a bit without as much thought given to it unfortunately, is to look into the WHY and HOW aspects of the subject.
Mr. Fred Folkerts who served as Field Secretary and Field Treasurer for the Cameroon Baptist Mission from 1960 to 1964 made this poignant statement about the genesis of Saker Baptist College:
“During the late 1950s and the early 1960s leading up to national independence, The Cameroon government offered monetary grants to mission organizations for the opening of needed secondary schools, from international funds received between 1960-1961. The Catholics chose to open a Boys’ secondary school in Small Soppo, (That would be BISHOP ROGAN COLLEGE), and the Presbyterians chose to open a Boys’ secondary school along with the Baptists in Bali. (That would be CPC Bali).”
Well, The Cameroon Baptist Mission, recognizing the VITAL ROLE that women can and do play in any given society, chose to open a Girls’ secondary school in Victoria, (now Limbe), which they named THE BAPTIST GIRLS’ SECONDARY SCHOOL. This institution, which was later renamed the WEST CAMEROON CHRISTIAN COLLEGE, exists today as SAKER BAPTIST COLLEGE, our Alma Mater.
Prominent amongst those cited as having been instrumental in getting SAKER BAPTIST COLLEGE on its feet, is a certain Mr. E.K. Martin, (of blessed memory), whose family I happen to know very well. He and his wife had 8 children: 6 Girls and 2 Boys, with the boys being the last 2. Had he bought into the idea that was prevalent at the time that women belonged in the kitchen and were good enough only for housewifery, then Cameroon would never have had:
Mrs. GWENDOLINE ETONDE BURNLEY – his first daughter and graduate of Durham University in the UK, who served as MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT for many years in the Cameroon House of Assembly.
Cameroon would never had Dr. GLADYS MARTIN – his 3rd daughter who is a medical doctor of international repute, and one of the country’s first crop of female Pediatricians.
Cameroon and Saker Baptist College would never have had Our very own MADAM EIRENE MBONGO nee Martin who served as Tutor and House Mother for years on end at SBC!
Neither would we have had all the phenomenal women that our distinguished Alma Mater has produced over its 52 years of existence.
If the mindset wherein GIRLS are NOT considered to be up to par vis-a-vis their male counterparts were a thing of the past, I would not be standing before you tonight, talking about “EMPOWERING THE GIRL CHILD”. Agreed, we have come a long way, and made great strides no doubt BUT:
-We still live in a World whose greatest and most powerful nation – The United States of America, is yet to have a FEMALE President! -We still have women who wind up with 11 children not because they are trying to build a Football Team that could outperform our Domitable Lions by far, but because after giving birth to 10 “useless” girls, they are literally DYING to produce a “CHOP CHAIR” for her “OGA” who is threatening to “born for outside” if that is what it will take for him to have a MALE child to carry on his name! Never mind the fact that, 9 times out of 10, it is the “GIRL PIKIN DEM” who wind up thriving and doing far better than the “BANGA-SMOKING, BOLO BOY” of a son who does not even have the courtesy to wait for PA to die first before he sells off all the family land, and with quite the “CHOP MA MONEY” attitude, squanders every penny of the proceeds in an off license somewhere there in 3 Corners Fiango!
Some people don’t like clichés; I LOVE them, simply because, even though they are trite, they are FACTUAL. Here’s one of my FAVORITES:
“If you educate a man, you educate an individual but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole family, an entire community and a whole generation.”
If you doubt that statement and underestimate the INFLUENCE & POWER that a WOMAN can wield NATURALLY, then
- Tell me WHY Nico Mbarga’s “SWEET MOTHER” continues to sell millions of copies while no one even remembers that he ever produced a track called “GOOD FATHER”?
-Explain to me why no one in their right mind messes with the “TAKUMBENG” women in the Grassfields of Cameroon? -Tell me why it is MICHELLE and not BARACK OBAMA who held up the HASH TAG, BRING BACK OUR GIRLS campaign slate when the CHIBOK girls were kidnapped, and why it is the pictures of the girls’ weeping MOTHERS, NOT their FATHERS or Uncles, that got the world to take notice. In fact, I don’t quite remember what President GOODLUCK JONATHAN said about the issue, but I will never forget his wife PATIENCE’s “DIA RIS GOD OOOOH!”
One only need look at Biblical characters like SAMSON and KING DAVID or listen to all the musicians who are desperately LOOKING FOR CARO, offering all their money to EMINADO, and singing the virtues of DOROBUCCI!
Unfortunately, all of that kind of “influence” only scratches the surface, and is nowhere near reflective of WHAT A WOMAN IS REALLY CAPABLE OF DOING, if she is EMPOWERED and given the chance to flourish. James Brown is just as right now as he was in 1966 when he released his “IT’S A MAN’S WORLD” album:
-We WOMEN are still labeled OVERBEARING and BOSSY when we exhibit the exact same Character traits that a MAN is called OUTGOING, FORTHRIGHT and AMBITIOUS for possessing. -We are still passed over for certain positions and promotions for no other reason than the fact that we happen to be women, and we still, in some fields, don’t get paid the same as our male counterparts with the same qualification and output.
Even our languages reflect this disparity: In PIDGIN, for example, “WOMAN HAND” denotes the left hand which, for majority of human beings is the weaker hand, while “MAN HAND” denotes the right hand, and the strength that goes with it. In ENGLISH, while we do have “SEAMSTRESS” to match the masculine “TAILOR”, there’s no “ENGINEERESS”, “LAWYERESS”, or DOCTORESS, for all the world as if Women were not expected to ever practice these professions.
Clearly, if we keep this up in a world where more than half of the population is female, we are in for big trouble.
SO, HOW THEN DO WE EMPOWER THIS GIRL CHILD WHOM WE KNOW HAS THE POTENTIAL TO IMPACT HER WORLD even more than the MARIE CURIES, FLORENCE NIGHTINGALES, ROSA PARKS, & MOTHER TERESAS before her.
FOR YOU MEN:
You are the DADS, UNCLES, GRAND FATHERS & MENTORS of these girls. You play a vital role in their lives by what you say - or fail to say, in how she views herself, which is why, very often, girls who are promiscuous and who have “self esteem issues” are the ones who have no positive Father/Male Figure in their lives. John Mayer definitely has it right when, in his song entitled “DAUGHTERS” he cautions Fathers to be good to their daughters, because they become LOVERS and then MOTHERS who could wind up SCARRED for life should their Fathers fail to treat them right.
So then, when your “little Maggie” tells you that she plans on becoming an astrophysicist or an astronaut, PLEASE try not to respond with a Sneer or Laugh. That is certainly not the time to tell her that she needs to focus instead on improving her Achu or Eru cooking skills so she can attract a good husband. Please refrain from making disparaging and demoralizing comments like: “If PIUS wey get sense no fit even pass First School, na you go fit do weti?” ENCOURAGE her instead, to the best of your ability. I know a certain Mr. WILLIAMS who did just that. He BELIEVED in both of his daughters and did all he could within his modest means, to SUPPORT them. GUESS WHAT? His efforts have given us 2 OF THE WORLD’S MOST ASTUTE ATHLETES, THE INCREDIBLE TENNIS CHAMPIONS VENUS & SERENA!!!
I also know, even better, about this guy in the Bible called MORDECAI. He is certainly not as popular as his niece QUEEN ESTHER, but incidentally, Esther would never have become famous for saving her nation, Israel, had it not been for him. She had the potential all along. In fact, she was born with it. However, it took her UNCLE MORDECAI’s prodding and pep talk to EMPOWER HER and make her BOLD enough to act in spite of the great risk to her life.
Personally, I thank God for Mr. E.A. MBIWAN, (God rest his soul), who made sure his daughters and all the female relatives he sponsored got as sound and solid an Education as their male counterparts, setting the expectations for both, equally high! He never told us we had to be Lawyers or Doctors. In fact, none of us is, but in addition to our Education we were imbued with a HEALTHY dose of self esteem which has made us very comfortable in our respective skins, feeling neither superior nor inferior to anyone else.
FOR US WOMEN:
We are the MOTHERS, AUNTS, GRANDMOTHERS & ROLE MODELS for these dear girls. They watch our every move and learn more from that than they could ever learn from a book, no matter how well written it might be. It does not matter that we are not always successful because what is important is that they see how we DEAL WITH and eventually OVERCOME our trials, challenges and obstacles. We don’t have to be SAINTS, KNOW-IT-ALLS, BEYONCÉS or CAT WOMAN to inspire them.
Let us also be mindful of raising our SONS to respect not just us, their Mothers, but their FEMALE Classmate, their Girlfriend, their Wife, their female Colleague, their Female Boss, etc. Let us teach them that doing that does not make them less of a man!
TO YOU, YOUNG ADULTS:
You have a role to play that DADS and MOMS cannot play. Because of the closeness in age with these girls, they will relate to you far better, be much more receptive to your message, and be more open to sharing their challenges and difficulties CANDIDLY with you than they would be with some of us who are still into our gramophones and vinyl records, firm in our belief that the word “TWEET” is nothing else but the sound that a bird makes. I got the following email from a Class of 2012 SAKERETTE who is going to be a Junior in College this coming academic year, and just the Subject Line: “SAKER MENTORING” made my day. Here’s an excerpt of the email: “I have been putting a lot of thought this Summer into trying to figure out ways in which I could improve Saker and Cameroon as a whole. One of the ideas which I came up with is setting up a Mentoring Program for the Girls which could consist of Form 4 to Upper-Sixth Students”
IMAGINE THAT!!! Is Charlene Effa Assam In The House?? Please Stand Up! Let’s give her a hand!!
ALL of this said, there is NO ESCAPING the ONE THING THAT will go a very, very, VERY LONG way to EMPOWER THE GIRL CHILD: MONEY – FINANCES!
A GOOD, SOLID, THOROUGH, WELL-ROUNDED EDUCATION such as our ALMA MATER, SAKER BAPTIST COLLEGE offers, is designed to EMPOWER every girl that walks through its gates and sits in its classrooms, and as can be expected, IT COMES WITH A HEFTY PRICE TAG! The PROOF that the school has done just what it was designed to do, for 52 years and counting, is not debatable. It is visible all around this hall and everywhere you find a SAKERETTE in this world. It is because we RECOGNIZE the formidable impact the school has had on us, and through us, on our Husbands, Children, Colleagues, Communities, and Country, that we are STRIVING to make sure that the same OPPORTUNITY is afforded to many more generations, even after we are long gone.
So, YES, we love our “SHOW-SHOW” and “OWELE” and we care about meeting up with our classmates and “inties” once every year like this but if that were all there was to it, we would NOT be here, because we all agree that our AIM, OUR GOAL, our PASSION, is to EMPOWER our Younger Sisters, Daughters, Granddaughters, Nieces, etc. by offering them a SOLID EDUCATION in the MOST CONDUCIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT possible, and that comes with a PRICE TAG!
THANK GOD, We don’t have to be OPRAH WINFREY, DONALD TRUMP, BILL GATES or WARREN BUFFET, to make a significant contribution towards this effort. True, Not all of us have 6, 5, 4, 3 or even 2 figure amounts to donate, but NONE of us is exempt from the obligation to do something to help. Every BIT counts, and well beyond the concrete things our generous donations will achieve, they will tell the Students in Saker Baptist College that we care, and that they matter to us. Take it from this TEACHER who has been in the classroom for close to 25 years now: Students who know that much has been invested in them – especially sacrificially, realize that much is, by consequence, expected of them and so they tend to EXCEL far more than those who feel like no one cares. WHY? Because they get the distinct impression that it would not matter if they failed or passed, so why bother?
There is this Form 5 Sakerette student who just took the GCE Exam whose SUCCESS I am willing to bet my limbs and lungs on, and that is NOT because I have “4 Eye” powers to help me predict with 100% accuracy what the GCE results will be. WHY AM I SO CORK SURE? Because I am talking about this girl that a handful of girls from the Graduating class of 1995/97 took under their wing, from the day she completed Class 7 in MILE 17, up till now! They did not just pay her School Fees, they bought her her Titi Pail & Matress, Marked her Bed sheets, and consistently visited her at SBC, diligently checking that Report Card like any good Guardian or Mentor should. You see, Failure, for this kind of child, is practically impossible, because ACCOUNTABILITY and sheer GRATITUDE for the sacrificial generosity and benevolence shown them, drives them to SUCCEED!
So, LADIES & GENTLEMEN, My Dear CHEERFUL GIVERS whom God Loves: when the time comes, PLEASE, FOR THE SAKE OF THAT PRECIOUS GIRL CHILD WHO’S DEPENDING ON YOU; PICK UP THAT ENVELOPE, FILL & STUFF IT TO THE MAX WITH SOMETHING WORTHY OF THE GENEROUS LADY OR GENTLEMAN that you are, so that when you finally make it to bed tonight, your feet sore from dancing, you can sleep easy, with a light heart, knowing that you too have done something for which some Future SAKERETTE Teacher, Doctor, Nurse, Astrophysicist, Astronaut or simply well adjusted citizen will THANK YOU.
In conclusion, by way of encouragement, I’m going to call on my Sister, Mrs. Didi Mbiwan Ndando and my dear friend, Marie Takusi Njowo (both Sakerettes) to join me on stage to sing this song that many, if not all SAKERETTES know. It’s called: “LITTLE IS MUCH WHEN GOD IS IN IT”, and its lyrics speak volumes. PLEASE SING ALONG WITH US if you can.
1.In the harvest field now ripened
There’s a work for all to do;
Hark! the voice of God is calling,
To the harvest calling you.
Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame;
There’s a crown, and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ name.
3.Does the place you’re called to labor
Seem so small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own.
GOD BLESS YOU – AND YOUR WALLET!!!