Fifth in the Know Her Story Series by Zoneziwoh
Mukam Olivia - Bamendjou's Native Daughter
One young woman’s self-initiative has helped bring clean water to about 5,000 people in Bamendjou.
In Cameroon, it is estimated that only about 30 percent of the total 20 million inhabitants have access to piped drinking and treated water. Even though the country borders the Atlantic Ocean, and has water surface mass of 6,000 km2; very little measures have been put in place to explore this opportunity and make treated and clean water available to all.
But one woman's vision could change the status quo; in a recent interview for the #Knowherstory series, Mukam Olivia, a 25 year-old social entrepreneur based currently in Yaoundé, central region of Cameroon, said;
“I have always desired to contribute in making my country and community a better place to live”.
Mukam hails from Bakang village, a small rural community situated in the western region of Cameroon, with a limited electricity supply, health facilities, or clean water; it is where girls, women and children are routinely seen each day – either at early hours of the morning or late at evening, walk (sometimes in groups of two and more) to fetch water from creeks, untreated and unsafe boreholes, and open wells. And these factors thus expose them to water-related diseases and other health risks.
"In 2007, after my Bachelor's degree at the John Hopkins University in the USA, where I studied for four years, I decided to embark on a trip back to Cameroon – to experience and understand local realities: The challenges and opportunities, the hopes and despair, the joy and struggles, of my people
When I visited my village, I observed that there were still cases of preventable, yet life-threatening diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, and cholera as a result of lack of access to clean, drinkable water thus leading people to drink infected water”.
Meanwhile, across the globe, and in USA, where I have been, there are several clubs and engineering networks working and engaging in developing solutions that are culturally and environmentally sustainable, especially at grassroots communities. One of these is Engineers without Borders (EWB), a chapter of the University of Delaware (UDel), USA”
Having observed the difficulties her community – especially women, girls, and children, faced before accessing and affording drinking water, Mukam decided to contact the EWB, where she received a positive response.
“In September of 2006, following an International Engineering Conference in Yaounde-Cameroon, ny dad and I presented a water-addition project to the EWB team at my university – Johns Hopkins, but they already had four ongoing projects, so they referred us to the University of Delaware chapter of EWB. Six months after our project-submission, the water project was approved by EWB-USA; and a team of six professors, engineers and students from Engineers without Borders (EWB) chapter of the University of Delaware (UDel), USA, planned an assessment visit to Cameroon in June 2007. That was the beginning of the realisation of the six-years water-addition-and-distribution project, in collaboration with the people of Bamendjou”.
Since the establishment of this program, Mukam said that surrounding villages, community elites and also some grassroots groups across the continent have gained inspiration to do same in their community.
“This water project continues to have great impact in the community” says Lawrence N,. an IT expert of WasaMundi Network, “over 5,000 people now have access to clean water”.
Solutions for Communities
Though young in years, Mukam works speak of how young people are continually in search for solutions that can transform a community for good.
A motivation, Mukam explains, is probably linked to her childhood experience. Growing up, she says, “I always loved solving problems.”
“Translating the classroom mathematics into reality was always fascinating to me. I enjoyed solving problems in and outside of classroom. And I guess also again, being a middle child, it kind of happens like that! You are a neutral diplomat always in between: solving problems with your older siblings and younger ones and likewise finding solutions.”
Makam Olivia is currently the president and founder of a youth social entrepreneur sector, Harambe-Cameroon, whose goal is to inspire and stimulate young Cameroonians with passion in entrepreneurship to see problems as opportunities in need of solutions.
Harambe Cameroon was founded in 2009 as an independent branch of the global alliance, Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance: a global youth movement that is been recognized and supported by high profile entities, including the White House, the UK's Westminster, the Ghanaian Parliament, plus some African and global philanthropies such as Mo Ibrahim and Aliko Dan Gote.
Olivia is also co-founder of a for-profit enterprise, Solutionneurs, a capacity-building sector, which trains, recruits, and subcontracts skills personnel to reputable institutions. Solutioneurs also provides solutions and consultancy services (like market analysis, business plans, and strategy) to investors and persons about to start-up business in Cameroon.
In the few years since the creation of Solutioneur and Harambe Cameroon, it is estimated that both networks have positively affected over 30 young Cameroonians' lives either through recruitment, mentoring, or successful execution of projects.
Engineers Without Borders
Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance
Know Her Story Series
Regina Zoneziwoh (Mbondgulo) is a global Citizen DAWNS Digest award winning humanitarian reporter and storyteller, working in Cameroon to interview and give voice to women's perspectives on the country's development.