Nadine Ndjomo : dame de fer revenue de l'enfer

Nadine Ndjomo : dame de fer revenue de l'enfer

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At first, life was not kind to Nadine Ndjomo. Now, at the age of 31, this Cameroonian journalist with a big personality is in a position of responsibility in her media outlet. She is also committed to informing and educating girls.
Profile by Emmanuel de Solère Stintzy.

An absent father who died when she was 11 years old. A mother who died four years later. A broken family. A forced marriage. A violent husband... Nadine Ndjomo, now aged 31, had a painful start in life: “When mum died, she was just skin and bones. She had spent her time helping people, but no-one was there for her anymore... It was hell on earth. My family broke up. I became a mother at the age of 17. I still have one eye in which my vision is only 20% because of the violence I endured...”

débrouille toiHowever, her reduced vision does not stop her from viewing her past with lucidity: “I inherited my mother’s personality. She didn’t laugh a lot and said things in the coldest way possible, like a man! When she spoke, everyone was silent! People called her ‘‘Margaret Thatcher’’ (editor’s note: former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, nicknamed the Iron Lady)”. From this “hard and tender” mother, Nadine learned one key phrase: “A woman’s first husband is work... So when my mother died, even after being beaten, I continued with my lessons.
To encourage all the other girls to “hang in there with their education” Nadine Ndjomo published a book about her experiences in 2021: “Débrouille-toi, tu es une femme !” (Deal with things, you’re a woman!) (Harmattan Cameroun).
This was a revelation for her loved ones. “Another little girl would have given up, but Nadine’s backstory forged her. After reading this poignant story, I admired her even more for having succeeded in her studies and her life as a woman!”, said retired Colonel-Magistrate Hiehies Jonas, a lawyer at the Cameroon Bar, who became a kind of adoptive father to Nadine after the death of her parents.

If you close the door, she enters through the window!

An exemplary career: after completing her bachelor’s degree in communications, specialising in journalism, in 2014, Nadine Ndjomo went on to obtain a two-year master’s degree in 2022 in international relations, specialising in international and decentralised cooperation, from the International Relations Institute of Cameroon (Institut des relations internationales du Cameroun – Iric). Since 2018, she has also been deputy coordinator of the newspaper L'Œil du Sahel (Eye of the Sahel): “I like to find the right word to transport the reader out into the field with me. For example, I’ve never forgotten an image taken in 2015 at a refugee camp in Ngam (editor’s note: northern Cameroon): the nine children of a widow getting by on the bowl of millet she had prepared for them...”

Her field reports are particularly appreciated by her editor, Guibai Gatama:
As a regional coordinator in Ngoundéré, Nadine, being from the south of the country, gave us a fresh perspective. Hardworking and rigorous, she is practically my right hand these days.”
Having become her friend after being her colleague, Valkossa Mohamadou is struck by her stubbornness: "One day, at the Ministry of Health, a spokesperson for the minister was annoying us a little, but Nadine wanted to interview his boss! Not only a woman, but a young woman, she managed to get her interview with the Minister, but I didn’t! She does a lot of investigations into education. And, when she wants information, she gets it! If you close the door, she enters through the window!


Determined to “encourage young girls to train themselves to become independent women”, Nadine Ndjomo created the “Read more” association in 2017: “I buy exercise books, pens and sanitary towels for the children. As an orphan myself, I know these seemingly trivial things are of paramount importance... I used a piece of cloth from my mother’s wrap skirt for several months when I didn’t have 500 CFA francs (less than €1) to buy a sanitary towel...” In late 2020, Nadine created her online newspaper Sukulu News (meaning “school” in some Cameroonian languages): “Fact-checking in the area of education does not yet exist in Cameroon, but after having been trained by CFI  (editor’s note: Talk Paix (Talk Peace) project), I intend to include a section on my website, because there are sometimes false statements from pseudo ministries or false announcements of training for students on social networks.” Tremble in fear misinformation peddlers: impassive face and icy voice, the “Iron Lady” is here!


In ten years…

Journalist? Trainer? Feminist committed to the education of girls? What will Nadine Ndjomo be doing in ten years? Her friends are divided on this question. “Nadine will be the head of a media outlet or an online TV station. will become a newspaper or a radio station. Nadine might create an organisation to help young girls be independent”, her friend and former colleague, Valkossa Mohamadou, predicts in a scatter gun manner.

Nadine NdjomoThese predictions are partly in line with those of retired Colonel-Magistrate Hiehies Jonas, a sort of adoptive father to Nadine: “After what she has been through, she will be a feminist dedicated to young girls in distress. I picture her in an international organisation where she can be useful. Maybe she’ll have other stories to write, too?
In turn, Guibai Gatama, her editor at L’Œil du Sahel, pictures Nadine Ndjomo as a “journalism teacher or an international journalist”: “She has so many qualities and so much to give that bigger doors should be opened for her!

Yet, the “Iron Lady” is keeping her feet on the ground: “Once you become a journalist, you die a journalist!”, she chuckles softly.
However, Nadine is not averse to the idea of moving on: “I’ve already started to teach journalism with my interns. Ten years from now, I will have also probably written four or five books. I hope some of them will be translated and adapted into films to reach more people.” Education will, it seems, remain at the heart of her concerns: “ will cover a large number of African countries, with articles in English and Spanish. I hope that my training in international cooperation will help me to find partners. As a child, I wanted to teach international relations at a university. I’ve begun to realise my dream. I very rarely give up on a project, no matter how long it takes.”
Looking down on her daughter, Nadine’s mother, with her steely character, must be proud of her little ‘‘Iron Lady’’.