Thursday, November 13, 2014

RML Woman: Monique Kwachou - Cameroonian Writer, Youth Advocate and Chevening Scholar

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Monique Kwachou is a Cameroonian writer, youth advocate, blogger and currently a Chevening Scholar. She is studying for an M.A in Education, Gender and International Development at the Institute of Education, London.

Monique founded Better Breed Cameroon, a youth led and youth focused association in 2013 and have since then been coordinating its activities. Better Breed Cameroon generally seeks to promote youth development and empowerment in Cameroon.

Q: Tell us about your writing. Have you been published?

Yes, I published my first book in 2010 in my second year at University; a poetry collection titled Writing Therapy: A collection of poems with the Cameroonian publishers Langaa RPCIG. I have since then published individual poems as well as several short stories internationally in anthologies and magazines of African literature. I am an executive member of the Anglophone Cameroon Writers Association (ACWA).

I have participated in the Caine Prize Workshop for African Writing (2011), the FEMRITE Regional Residency in Uganda (2011) and Farafina Trust Literary Workshop in Nigeria (2012). I am currently working on gathering my short stories into a collection.

Q: You say you're a blogger too?

I set up my blog while in Nigeria where I have since posted opinion pieces on whatever strikes me. Some of my posts that have gone viral include An Open Letter to Cameroonians and Why I am Not "Here" for TB Joshua's Ministry. I also often post too- long rants on my Facebook wall…

Q: And your Chevening Scholarship?

As you might know, it is quite a prestigious scholarship from the UK Government that pays for those selected, usually from developing countries, to study for a one year masters degree in the UK at any university of their choice. In my case, I’ll be studying for an M.A in Education, Gender and International Development at the Institute of Education, London.

Q: What was your first job?
My first unofficial job (which I got paid for but not enough to call myself employed) was writing blog-posts for a Cameroonian dating site. My first official job was as an administrative assistant at my alma mater the University of Buea.

Q: Is what you are doing now remotely like what your 16 year old self thought you would be?

Growing up what I wanted to be changed every other year or so. At sixteen I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but two years later that too changed.  Suffice it to say, I didn’t exactly foresee my current goals to be a lecturer in this particular field or write the novel at the back of my head nor my advocating youth development in my country.

Q: Who inspires you?

I should really have a standard answer for this question considering how many times I’ve been asked but it seems to change with who is asking and when. A lot of people inspire me. Notable heroes and unknown. I sincerely cannot name one and ignore the other. So I’ll say I’m inspired by those who have had what I see as more problems or obstacles than I have and still managed to do as much or usually more. I believe if God gave them that load and not me, it’s because He realized I’m not that strong.

Q: How does social networking help you? What social networks do you use?

Social networking has opened me to a vast number of opportunities from writing workshops and fellowships to my current scholarship, by networking I have been able to help others personally advertise my work and connect more with relatives and friends (chatting is my preferred way of communicating with family and friends because calling is difficult with my being partially hearing impaired). Of course there is the fact that social networks help us fraternize with people we may have never been chanced to meet.

Q: Everyone has a favourite though, what is your favourite social network?

My favorite social network is Facebook. Why?  Because I can’t express myself with Twitters character limit and LinkedIn is all work no play.

Q: Life balance is important. Do you take time-out from online are always connected?

I try to take time out. I have to especially when I have a good book I want to read. But I wish I took more time out from online. The trap is your favorite people are on there and not around you so that’s where you have to meet them- playing scrabble long distance 

Q: What is your favourite item of clothing and why?

As cold as I am right now, my current favorite item would definitely be a pair of knee length boots. Before now I never really thought of it.

Q: What’s your personal motto?
“As much as it could be better, it could be worse. So be grateful.”

Q: What is your favourite flavour of icecream?
Pecan pie or butterscotch. I can’t choose!

Q: What is the first thing you bought with your first proper pay cheque?
A new laptop.

Q: If we looked in your handbag right now
-The novel I’m currently reading.
- One purse with what should be a make-up purse but  is rather a clean-up purse (hand sanitizer to tissues to hair brush to breath mint and nothing related to makeup but Chapstick)
-  Another purse with all the cards this society makes on reliant on.
- School things depending on the class I have on that day ( file with papers for my course, scheduler and pencil/pen case)
-Phone charger, my phone is usually in my hand 

Q: If you were a super hero what would your power be?
It would be the power to understand all languages or reading minds. Any power which overcomes communication barriers.

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