Thursday, August 21, 2014

Young African Woman of Note- Lily Foglabenchi Haritu- Cameroon

Lily Foglabenchi Haritu
Every month I shall be doing a special feature on young women on the African Continent who are doing amazing work for their communities quietly. I am doing this because very often these are the women who do not get local or international media attention, nor do they have any desire to. They are doing what they do out of a sense of responsibility and they are passionate about service. Many serve in some of the most remote and underserved areas of the continent and they do so with energy and compassion. I also want to illustrate and debunk the fallacy that African women are not empowered and to highlight the kind of women that development agencies can employ in communities in Africa where cultural sensitivity is critical for real and lasting positive social change.

I met Lily on a friend’s wall on Face Book. I was chatting away in pidgin one day, and she responded with great humor to a comment I had made. There was something about this young woman that drew me to her. I therefore sent her a friend request and after she responded, I began to look through her pictures and to ask her about herself. I saw pictures of her in a remote village and asked her what she did for a living. To my surprise she informed me that she was a health worker and that she ran a mobile clinic in Kenya where she did preventive care and education in rural communities. I was very impressed with this young woman in her mid twenties, who rather than stay in the big cities as most young women would do, she was in the “bush”, working there and loving it! She endears herself to the locals and lives among them as one of them, thereby breaking down barriers that would make her work impossible.

It was not a surprise to discover that Lily is also very spiritual and a Christian. Her serenity and radiant joy seemed to emanate from her deep convictions. It was refreshing to meet a young woman who lives out her faith and who does not spend time trying to convince others of her goodness. She is an authentic Christian and this is manifest in her humility and non- judgmental outlook. Her ability to engage in social issues in a thoughtful manner is rare for someone her age. I present to you Lily Favour as she is known to her friends, and known to me as ‘my Beautiful Lily of the valley’. A phenomenal young woman of great beauty, both inside and out.


Lily is a young dynamic Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) specialist who is committed to promoting women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights with an interest in building a body of research and leadership in the field. She is the Supervisor of the Women’s Health Program of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS) based in four main hospitals and three health centers in six of the ten regions of Cameroon. In this position, she has been involved in the provision of Women’s Health Services to Women and girls at stationary clinics and rural mobile clinics as far as the Equatorial rainforest of Central Africa and the Cameroon-Nigeria border in Abongshie. Her dynamic and innovative efforts have summed up to over 12000 women and 7000 girls reached with a variety of sexual and girls at stationary clinics and rural mobile clinics as far as the Equatorial rainforest of Central Africa and the Cameroon-Nigeria border in Abongshie. Her dynamic and innovative efforts have summed up to over 12000 women and 7000 girls reached with a variety of sexual and reproductive health services like; Family Planning, syndromic management of reproductive tract infections, breast and cervical cancer screening, treatment of cervical precancerous lesions, Human Papilomavirus Vaccination, clinical assessment of sexually assaulted women and girls, sexuality education and counseling, woman centered abortion care and HIV/AIDS counseling and testing.


As far as Lily is concerned, Women’s Health and Safety plays a key role in human development and economic growth and she is stopping at nothing to ensure that this is realized in the lives of the women and girls she serves on a daily basis. She holds a Bachelor of Nursing Science degree with honours from the University of Buea, Cameroon and Global Health Certificates in Gender, Sexual and Reproductive Health from the Global Health e-Learning Centre Coordinated by USAID and Johns Hopkins University, USA.

Lily's understanding of the importance of respect for culture and for elders has permitted her to go into territories where women as a rule do not address men, and where bringing in new ways that seem to threaten the normal way of life is viewed with suspicion. Her charm and non -confrontational approach has led her to some amazing places, where health education for women is needed. Below Lily is showing deference to the king in one of the areas she works. She understands that paying the elders due respect will open the door to the women in the community, so that she can do what she needs to do.

In 2011, she represented her country as a delegate and speaker at the 1st Global Summit for Women’s Cancers in Africa, Addis Abba, where she presented lessons learned from cervical cancer prevention initiatives in Cameroon. Lily was the youngest delegate there representing her country Cameroon. This is a testament of this young woman’s sense of duty and passion for the health and well being of African women and her mentors have identified unique leadership qualities that mark Lily out from among her peers and those who are older and more experienced than she is.


She also offers part time lectures on Women’s Health at the Private Training School for Health Personnel, Banso. Lily Favour is a 2011 Sexuality Leadership and Development Fellow (Lagos, Nigeria), who seeks to interrogate contemporary sexuality issues and emerging best practices that advocate for right based SRH programming in Africa.

Lily Favour has been named one of the top 25 emerging young African leaders by the Moremi Initiative and has received the Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa (MILEAD) Fellowship Award. She will be among the 2012 class of Africa's most outstanding emerging women leaders that will be converging for a women’s leadership summer institute in Ghana. Lily features on the top 25 out of the more than 1200 applicants from 41 countries. This is again another indication of Lily’s remarkable leadership qualities and a testament of her trajectory to greatness.

Below are pictures of Lily in her "luxury apartment" on one of her visits to a remote area, preparing her "gourmet dinner"! She will do whatever it takes to get to reach these women with whom she totally identifies.


To me, Lily is an example of a young woman who has made the most of all opportunities that have come her way, not only for her own personal gain, but for the greater good of her community and country. I applaud you my beautiful Lily of the Valley. May your beauty and fragrant perfume gently touch the lives of those in your care and I hope that you will be an inspiration to other young women in your community, country and in Africa. Our continent is very fortunate to have you as one of her own. Look how the little ones follow you already!
Below is a quote from Lily's wall:
Go to the people
Live among them
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have:
But of the best leaders
When their task is done
The people will remark -Chinese Proverb

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