Claudia Masah, A Better Cameroonian Breed

Hello Better Breeders.

Happy November! 

As a jobseeker, you must have come across employers requesting for a specific number of years of experience. This is a typical challenge for recent graduates and people transitioning into new careers. Luckily, work experience can easily be obtained through volunteering. Yes, no employer is going to refuse free labour. It’s a win-win!

November’s Youth of the Month will tell us about her journey as a volunteer and the benefits it brought her. Ms Claudia Masah is an active member of the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps (AU-YVC),  a developmental program aimed at equipping young Africans to be active participants in the implementation of the African Union (AU) goals. Here is our conversation with her.

Can you tell us more about your experience as an AU volunteer?

My experience as an AU Youth Volunteer has been incredibly rewarding. Volunteering at the AU in itself is a role aimed at serving Africa from another perspective, which entails leaving your country to get first hand contact with another society’s complexities. This, aimed at the realisation of the AU’s vision of an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa. Whilst in this transformative journey, I’ve been deeply involved in initiatives focused on promoting a peaceful Africa. I have worked closely with young people across the continent to amplify their voices and efforts in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and peacekeeping.

What motivated you to join this program?

I joined the AU-YVC out of a commitment to peace and a belief in the role of youth as catalysts for change. My motivation to join this program began in 2015 during my first internship at the Ministry of External Relations of Cameroon. My motivation grew even bigger pursuant to the 2016 crisis that broke out in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. This is when I dedicated myself to the cause of peace and security as a serving volunteer. It is this energy that propelled me to serve the continent towards achieving “The Africa We Want”.

You also work at the COMESA secretariat, tell us more.

The AU-YVC deployed me to the Governance Peace and Security Unit (GPS) of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), as a Junior Technical Expert. COMESA is a Regional Economic Community (REC) of 21 Member states, with primary aim to foster regional integration through trade. At the GPS, my role revolves around assisting in coordinating regional peace and security programs. I equally coordinate the effective communication and visibility of all programs undertaken by the unit. This allows me to advocate for policy changes and support initiatives that align with the African Peace and Security Architecture.

What specific challenges did you face in your journey to becoming an AU volunteer?

The journey has been challenging but enlightening. One significant hurdle towards becoming an AUYV has been the administrative bottlenecks and bureaucracy rendering the deployment process slow. Also, bridging the gap between the older and younger generation is still a myth. 

What current projects does AU-YVC have open that our readers should be aware of?

Currently, the AU-YVC just concluded its portals of application for the next cohort. The AU equally engages young Africans through programs including the WiseYouth Network, the AU Youth Ambassadors for Peace, the Pan-African Youth Union, YouthConect Africa, the Pan-African University Scholarship, Africa Union Youth Envoy and Internship programs. Youth engagement programs at COMESA include the Youth Advisory Panel, Funded internship programs, and Capacity bosting initiatives.

Tell us about some of the achievements you have had with the AU-YVC. As an individual, which are you most proud of?

With AU-YVC, I’ve managed to help raise the profile and visibility of COMESA’s Conflict prevention, Conflict Management, and Post Conflict Resolution and Development programs. This has been a great boost for COMESA. What I am most proud of on this journey, is how fine-tuned my skills have been. These include research, program planning and coordination in a multicultural setting, effective communication and visibility, as well as public speaking.

What are your ambitions?

My ambitions are to see that the youth across Africa are given a space and practical recognition that allows them to achieve their full potential. At an individual level, my ambition is to further enhance my capacities, both knowledge and skills on emerging conflict dynamics. This also includes acquiring new techniques to prevent conflict and promote peace-building efforts at community, regional and continental levels.

How did the AU-YVC shape you and your thinking on Cameroon?

My volunteering experience has expanded my perspective on Cameroon’s potential to be a model for youth-led initiatives. Despite the existing challenges, we have a dynamic youth population that’s brimming with innovative ideas for not only building the peace we need in Cameroon, but equally cross cutting development spectrums. My experience has reinforced my belief that Cameroon can leverage on its young population to contribute to resolving its internal development challenges. This can only be realised if the youth are given practical recognition as agents of change as well as a space to learn and thrive. 

What do you think our country and/or our youth need to know/do to be Better Breed?

To be a ‘Better Breed,’ our youth need to remain engaged, be informed, and proactive in development processes. It is crucial for our youth to seek out opportunities for capacity building, create relevant networks, apply for internship positions in the areas of work they wish to excel and get hands-on experience, offer their services to community development works as volunteers, and apply to participate in programs like the AU-YVC. For our country, investing in youth as agents of change and creating inclusive platforms for their participation in governance and security processes is non-negotiable. The time is NOW. Lastly, “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”.


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