It’s a great day at the MMEG office when one of our grantee visits! On April 4, Valeria Neh Angu came to see us in Washington. A native of Cameroon, Valeria received a MMEG grant last year to pursue a master’s degree in Health Science, specializing in Community and Global Health at Clark University in Massachusetts, USA. Valeria had told us in her MMEG application that she has a passion for justice and equity and boy did that prove to be true!
Valeria’s belief in the power of women is electrifying as shown in her own story. Born into a poor polygamous family, Valeria was one of 16 children. While she was able to go to school while her father lived, her half-brothers closed that door when he died because she was a female child from another woman. This frustration pushed her into early marriage without any asset, where she was mistreated. However, Valeria believes that a woman should “Never go into a marriage as a liability” expecting another to support you or take care of you; women must be self-reliant to meet their dreams, not making plans subject to their husband’s support. She believes that if women “want to go ahead, they must do it themselves.” She was as good as her word and left her husband’s family to go to school, enjoining him to wait for her. He did wait as she pursued her dream.
In order to undertake a double undergraduate major in Women’s Studies/Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Buea in Cameroon, Valeria made ends meet by selling doughnuts at the roadside. She also then acted on another strong belief which is in the power of community. “Sharing is caring.” So, she shared, her ambitions, her struggles and her story within her community and was able to find an educational mentor who supports her studying to this day. Combine this ability to reach out to her community with her self-determination, persistence, and ambition and you have success in the form of Valeria’s achievements.
After finishing school in 2004, Valeria continued to walk the talk and worked in community and livelihood development with Heifer International and a local activist group -- Women in Action Against Gender-based Violence. She decided then to take her passion further and work in the broader area of global health and women’s empowerment.
We asked Valeria, how she came to MMEG and she noted that she is an internet “guru,” searching and scrubbing the net. She had identified the International Development Community and Environment department in Clark University which perfectly combines two programs (international development and public health) in the US and other programs in Europe. “When I want to find something, I go for it.” She said “I want [to have] opportunities. Then I choose.” She chose Clark University and then received a MMEG grant. “You people saved me” she said, noting that being a grant recipient has increased her already-formidable, self-assurance and determination.
We asked Valeria how she wants to pay her work forward. She plans on returning to Africa where she will continue her professional career as a project manager for any development organization that needs a passionate change agent. There she will work toward equality and justice for women and on global health issues. “Women’s empowerment means strengthening women’s capacity to use their innate abilities” she says. She will work toward improving women’s livelihood outcomes such as increasing their access to income which, in turn, gives them the means to become self-sustaining with access to life improvements like – education, better clothing, improved housing, higher quality food choices, vaccinations and better medical treatment. Valeria says” This would contribute in achieving the sustainable development goals especially for women and girls in all sectors of their lives. Her five years career plan is to lead a non-profit organization in Africa where she will collaborate with other partners to advocate for the voiceless underprivileged--especially women, girls and all children.
Valeria is also creating a legacy with her two daughters. Not only is she a model of a successful woman to her husband and in today’s global world, she is providing her girls with the foundation of success; “Quality education is the key” she says. Her elder daughter is studying computer engineering and the younger is still in grammar school. By Valeria’s account, they are both determined, driven, feisty and opinionated girls. They sound a lot like their Mother!