Leadership Lessons from Kah Walla at Open Dreams
Kah Walla, epitome of community leadership
We could not believe who just crossed the doors of the Open Dreams Centre: Ms Kah Walla, famous entrepreneur, activist, and political leader and her team. In 2011, she became the first female to run for the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon. As a result, it was a great honor for us to receive such an influential mind and her team on Friday, the 4th of September 2020. After introducing herself, Ms. Kah encouraged us to always dare to ask. She explained that the best opportunities are often awarded to individuals who have the courage to inquire. To back up her point, she stated that the reason she got to know about Open Dreams is because when she e-met our Country Director, James Akaba, at an event organized by Africans working at Google, he was not afraid to reach out to her and ask if she will be interested in sharing her leadership experiences with the Open Dreams Scholars.
James Akaba, Open Dreams Team
After this, Ms Kah Walla opened the floor to answer our questions. Here are some of them and the in-depth answers given by our guest and her team.
1. What are her thoughts about politics being called 'a dirty game'?
To this, Ms Kah recognized the prevalence of malpractices in today's politics. However, she stressed on the importance of playing 'your own game'. By this, she meant that through hard work and strong ethics we may eventually become so good at what we involve in that we will not need to play dirty in order to win. Hence, one can be a very successful politician without bribing, cheating or lying. Also, she admitted it will sometimes be very difficult to resist the temptation of playing dirty but she reminded us that it will be much better not to trade our ethics to win easily. As we say: "One man's value is a measure of his ethics".
kah Walla, Feka Parchibell (of Hope for the Vulnerable and Orphans - HOVO) & Bergeline Domou - women in leadership
2. What spurred her passion for politics despite the lack of a fair female representation in Cameroonian politics?
First, Ms Kah started by debunking the myth surrounding female involvement in our country's political scene. She mentioned the fact that in the North West Region of Cameroon, the males who lead the villages also have female close aides with responsibilities such as contributing to decisions on whether the village can go to war with another or not. Another example is the numerous women who actively fought and advocated for the independence of Cameroon. The problem, she said, is not that females are not actively involved or represented in our political life but that their contributions are often left out of the history books or undermined.
Secondly, Ms Kah explained that, from childhood, her father required her to listen to the news, research about the reason as to why what she listened to over the news happened and be able to build her own opinion about each piece of information. This, according to her, laid the foundation for her passion in politics as she saw it as a profession which will enable her to voice her opinion to a larger audience. Next, she was fortunate to have parents who disapproved of sexist societal beliefs such as 'a woman's place is in the kitchen'. She equally stressed how reading books written by non-white male authors was eye-opening to her as she realized that other women/races had achieved great things and as a result believed she was equally capable of doing so. She thus encouraged us to read extensively and as often as possible.
3. What accounts for her being able to successfully manage her multiple hats-mother, entrepreneur, and activist?
Two key elements were highlighted in her answer: teamwork and planning. While establishing her businesses and political party she formed a team in which each member excelled in a domain she was weak at. As such she was able to participate in many activities successfully. In addition, she expressed her strong belief in the power of proper planning; that is having a timetable for your activities and preparing for unexpected outcomes.
4. What is the approach she considers best to train future leaders?
Ms Kah insisted that the best way to learn is by doing. Thus, she said she would like the Cameroonian Youth to get involved in community service, activism or entrepreneurship. In this way, they will learn leadership skills effectively. This, according to her, is key to winning the war against corruption and mismanagement.
After this one-hour long Q/A session, Ms. Kah expressed her desire to mentor a few Open Dreams Scholars to enable them realize their dreams. We equally had a short presentations from the other members of her team.
Bergeline Domou sharing her community leadership convictions
Ms. Bergeline Domou who is also a fervent and resilient activist walked us down the path of her inspiration rooted in the phenomenal leadership of Ms. Kah Walla and the politician, Ni John Fru Ndi, of the SDF Party who braved challenges to mobilize citizens and launch the party, demonstrating great leadership and a passion for the alternative. Mr. Mohammadou Bachirou, who also spoke, highlighted the virtue of sticking to the truth and nothing but the whole truth in governance. That, it is by staying truthful and realistic that you can win the faith and hearts of the people you lead.
The visit ended with a picture-taking session and one-on-one discussions with some scholars.
This was a very enriching experience as we learnt a lot from a great political figure, and a strong voice that encapsulates the aspirations and vision of many. Her passion for change, engagement and consistency in community leadership inspire.
In the closing remark, James Akaba underlined the importance of recognizing and celebrating our own Rosa Parks and leaders who put their lives on the line for social justice and that it is through such collective actions that we can build a more democratic and inclusive society open to creative ideas and innovations.
This discussions were coordinated by the Cameroon Fulbright TEA President, Nteta Philip and Feka Parchibell, Secretary (Cameroon Fulbright TEA) and Founder of HOVO.
Visit this website to read more about Kah Walla
Report by Eleih Elle Etian Jr. with contributions from Love Achondo