For many children around the world, war in their backyard is the norm.
Their lives are put on hold while their families try to simply survive. And during this time, girls can lose the chance to learn skills for their futures, as uncertain as they may be.
In Cameroon, Yeluma got to know this situation well. Her life was turned upside down after armed conflict between the southwest and northwest regions began in 2016. Without school, a place she loved dearly, her dream of becoming a doctor was crushed.
Pillaging in her village was common, but one day was especially devastating. As the community’s houses were looted and burned, Yeluma and her family fled into the surrounding bushes to hide, but instead got separated amid the chaos.
“The bushes became the safest place for me,” Yeluma says. “I stayed there for weeks. Sadly, I could not find any of my family members. That is my reality.”
But even in the bushes, Yeluma faced constant harassment from others. Without her family’s support, and conditions in the bushes worsening every day, she decided to escape to the city in northwest Cameroon.
When she arrived, Yeluma received counselling from social workers and joined a youth group at a child-friendly learning center, as part of Plan's emergency response work. She was able to take part in recreational activities and attend life skills sessions specifically designed for adolescents on topics including sexual and reproductive health.
Though the pain of losing her family lingered, Yeluma rediscovered her strength and eagerness to learn. She took up beadwork and learned how to make traditional African bracelets. While schools were still closed due to the ongoing conflict, Plan offered her the opportunity to enroll at a vocational training center to increase her knowledge and skills.
After graduating from the course, she was provided with the tools and materials she needed to start her own business, and she has since become an expert in her field. She makes beaded goods at her home and sells them throughout her community. She also exhibits her work at special sales events and even built up a regular client list.
Going forward, Yeluma hopes to raise enough money to open up her own workshop in the city and train more girls to become bead-makers.
“I am very grateful for everything done by the project,” Yeluma says. “I was constantly advised to get married to survive the hardship of the crisis, but the positive changes in my life and the learnings from the child-friendly space have brought me hope for a better future.”
Yeluma’s life has changed course so many times, and she’s experienced intense struggles. With the support of those who believe in her, and the skills and knowledge she’s gained, she can carve her own path. Her future is hers.