BAMENDA, CAMEROON – Vivian Emade sits at her office desk, its surface piled high with papers. Her left hand supports her chin, and her eyes are lost in thought.
Emade, 40, is a widow with five children who hails from the Southwest region of Cameroon. She is one of the new recruits hired under Operation 25,000 Youths, an initiative launched by President Paul Biya to reduce unemployment in the country by offering jobs in the public service sector to citizens not older than 40.
“I am grateful to the government for absorbing me at the age of 40,” she says.
But despite the president’s promise that employees would start receiving their pay from their first month of work, she says she hasn’t earned a dime since receiving her post in December 2011.
“I have shed a basin full of tears ever since I came here,” she says.
Emade says she also must live away from her children and home in Kumba in the Southwest region because her assignment is at the Northwest Regional Delegation of Women’s Empowerment and the Family in Bamenda, the capital of Cameroon’s Northwest region.
“My children are still there in my husband’s house in Kumba all by themselves, with no one to look after them,” she says. “I am dying slowly in pains.”
She says she presented her husband’s death certificate and other documents to prove to the government that she resides in Kumba, but her Bamenda posting remained. She has been moving back and forth with limited funds in order to take care of her family in Kumba.
“I have a sick child whom I have to look after all the time,” Emade says. “As a result, I travel to Kumba every now and then to follow up [on] his ailing health. I have borrowed over 600,000 francs ($1,145) just to make sure that my children are well taken care of.”
She says her current situation runs counter to the mission of the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family, where her posting is.
“Posting me to the Northwest region instead of the Southwest to me is contrary to what my ministry itself preaches,” Emade says. “If the ministry is really bent on empowering women and family, they should have posted me in my region, where I can easily run my family.”
Emade says she can no longer stand the stress of living away from her children.
“I feel like quitting,” she says. “I used to work in the private sector before the recruitment, and I was earning a small salary that I managed well. Now, the case is different. There is no source of income for me.”
Emade says she wishes that the government would address the situation of the newly recruited 25,000 employees so that they could excel in their new posts. Work without extrinsic motivation – even if intrinsic motivation is there – is ineffective, she says.
“The joy with which I received the news of this employment is gradually