Meet Michèle Okala from Cameroon


Michele Okala is a young Cameroonian water professional. She holds a master degree in International Communication and Public Action from the International Relation Institute of Cameroon. Her expertise are on the field of human resources management and project management. She serves as member to several youths initiatives. In the domain of water, she actively works with the World Youth Parliament for Water, with the Youth advisory group of AMCOW, with E Foundation sm and with Youths Volunteers for the environment.
Her experience in water sector comes both from her involvement at national/international events and field work. She advocates for the acknowledgement of youths at all the levels of decision making process.

What is your motivation in water sector?

My motivation comes from both the challenges and impacts young people have in bringing about the desired change in access to portable water. I believe youths are an important link in the development chain and thus, should be valued and prepared to lead tomorrow.

My motivation also comes from the water related bitter realities and my own personal experiences. Coming from water scare region, I am well aware of water and sanitation problems. But I believe we can contribute from our individual levels than to expect others to change things for us. No matter how small it may be, it goes a long way to impact other peoples’ lives. I am an actor of change at my level and that is why I am challenged in doing all I can to change things and improve.

What project/campaign/work related to water sector you are leading

I am leading a project with a theme “ONE SCHOOL, ONE WATER POINT” with E Foundation sm, a social organization which aims to support schools in having access to portable water and good sanitation. The organization constructs boreholes at the places where water is inaccessible and also supports schools to have water connections from the Cameroonian water company.

We are not just helping in improving access to safe drinking water but also equally raising awareness among community members’ especially young people. We do it especially working with young students. We have several campaigns at selected schools to educate young students to make them aware of water related problems, to encourage their participation in events and competition and also to develop and support innovative ideas within the domain of drinking water and sanitation.

As an example, last year, we celebrated World Water Day under the theme of “International Cooperation” where students wrote poems and songs, presented sketches and paintings and many more creative activities related to drinking water problems that they face at school and home.

Currently, I am searching for funds to bring one water point to a village where students must walk for over two km from school to drink.

What are your success, failures and learning?

Today, what I consider as a success in a global way is the fact that I became a landmark, a young, fierce fighter and an African youth representative. This can be seen at three different levels. At the international level, I have been participating at major international events and contributing the discourses from African perspective. At the continental level, my success is to have contributed at elaboration and adoption of the AMCOW policy and strategy for mainstreaming youth in water and sanitation sector and also my participation within the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW) to prepare the next AfricaSan. In my country, what I can call success is the positive impact that I brought through E Foundation sm in terms of actions, campaigns and inspiration to other young people.

My greatest failure is not being able to organize an event that we planned in Cameroon with an NGO “Youth volunteer for the environment.” We wanted to organize “youth and child water forum” which aimed at gathering young people to discuss water issues in the region, but because of financial reasons, we didn’t do it. We failed to provide enough efforts but now we are looking forward to do it for next world water day.

My learning has been to be determined and focused on my vision. There is a sentence from Magaret MEAD that I have adopted « Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. In reality this is what always happens ».

What do you think is the greatest water related challenge in your region and how can it be addressed?

The greatest challenge in my region is to provide safe and portable drinking water to rapidly increasing population which the existing infrastructures and systems can no longer support. And also to manage waste water and leakages.

I believe good involvement and support of stakeholders, and appropriate scientific approaches dealing local problems at local levels with local solutions can help to address above mention challenges. But education, training and involvement of young people is must for sustainable solution.

What message you want to share with other water youth leaders?

We are fighting for a noble cause; we should not expect a medal for what we do. This is not definitely an easy job but we should never give up. Our actions can bring smiles in people faces. Today we are young, let’s build a foundation and basis on which tomorrow will live on.