This Cameroonian activist is on a mission to free young girls forced into marriage

Aissa Ngatansou just won the first Simone Veil Prize for all her good work.

Aissa Ngatansou is on a mission to free young girls forced into marriage (UN Women/Teclaire Same)

Aissa Doumara Ngatansou, a Cameroonian activist, is on a mission to free young girls forced into marriage.

After losing her mother at the young age of 11, she got married off to a stranger by her father and his family. This happened without her consent when she was 15 years old.

Experiencing this made her the incredible activist she is today. “That was when I realized that I had to do something for myself. My own experience of discrimination inspired me to become the activist that I am today,” she was quoted by UN Women in November 2018.

Ignoring the opposition and disapproval from her husband and his family, she decided to continue her studies. Her husband eventually came around.

After high school, she started the Association to Combat Violence Against Women — Far North Antenna (ALVF-EN) with the help of other women. Their mission —eliminate all forms of physical, sexual or moral violence against women and girls. in all spaces: private, public or political.”

Ngatansou has just been recognised for her good work. On International Women’s day, she was awarded the inaugural Simone Veil Prize of the French Republic.

It was presented to her by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, during a ceremony at the Elysée Palace in France on March 8, 2019.

She received the award, worth $112,000, in front of a large portrait of Veil, known for fighting for women’s rights and battling to make abortion legal in France.

Accepting the award with “a lot of emotion”, the 46-year-old dedicated the prize to “all women victims of violence and forced marriages, to all those who have escaped from Boko Haram”.

Ngatansou was praised by President Macron for “her commitment of over 20 years in the service of women, carried out in silence, sometimes in disapproval.”

As he handed her the prize, France24 reported that he said, “Many women are on the front line of this fight society as a whole should mobilise, including men”.

“This is an example of courage, of challenging the weight of legacies,” he noted.

Macron then pledged 120 million euros in support of the fight against violence and discrimination in the world.

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