When Margaret moved to the UK from Cameroon in 2007 to join her diplomat husband in London, she struggled to leave behind her experiences as a development worker, helping poor and vulnerable women in her homeland to have a better quality of life.
Many Cameroonian women are vulnerable to poverty, HIV/AIDS and poor employment opportunities, making it tough for them to support their families. Those in rural areas face further difficulties as access to support is particularly limited.
Motivated by the memories of the hardship she witnessed, Margaret reached out to the Cameroonian diaspora living in London and set up CAME Women and Girls Development Organisation, to undertake research into helping disadvantaged women build their income capacity and business skills to improve their lives.
In 2012, Margaret secured funding for CAME from Comic Relief’s Common Ground Initiative, which is co-funded by the Department for International Development (DFID). The CGI initiative works with African diaspora organisations in the UK, run by people of African heritage with strong emotional, cultural and political links to their country.
Now, as the founder of CAME, Margaret works with women living in Cameroon to help them find sustainable ways of increasing their income so they can support their families, in collaboration with the African diaspora living in the UK.
Margaret explains, ‘The women I knew were crying because they were in such need, and their cries have made me go back. I could not turn my back on the women I worked with. I had a real passion for them and I wanted to bring people together to support them’.
Some women in Cameroon are doubly burdened; many are widowed, or are unmarried mothers, while others are living with HIV and AIDS. Meeting the demands of family and work, as well as their health needs can be difficult without resources to support them.
Through Comic Relief’s Common Ground Initiative, co-funded by DFID, CAME works with women living in rural areas to assess their business needs and improve their opportunities, providing relevant business training. It also explores the possible avenues for exporting their produce to new markets and research ways that their skills and businesses can be improved.
CAME has teamed up with local London Councils and the Diaspora Volunteering Alliance to get volunteers and donations.
Margaret explains, ‘Living here in the UK opens up many opportunities but we can’t turn our backs on those who are struggling to live dignified lives in Cameroon. I wanted to bring people together here to support them.’
Her passion is truly a force to be reckoned with, as she says, ‘My vision has been to help women. There is no stopping me.’