- Francine-Blanche Mengue is an alumna from Cameroon who participated in the UNITAR Youth and Anti-Corruption Programme in Sahel Region in 2019.
- As a guidance counsellor, Francine set up an anti-corruption club for students and proposed to strengthen the rules of procedure at her school.
- UNITAR Division for Prosperity trained professionals on leadership, regional issues and strategies for combatting corruption in law enforcement.
9 February 2023, Hiroshima, Japan – Francine-Blanche Mengue from Cameroon always had a passion for discovering people and cultures. She was therefore delighted to fulfil that passion with her participation in the UNITAR Youth and Anti-corruption Programme in Sahel Region in 2019. Not only did Francine-Blanche learn about the multidimensional problem of corruption, but she also gained the resources to be an actor of change – in her workplace and the broader fight against corruption in Cameroon.
The first example comes from oneself.
From political sciences dreams to guidance counsellor
Francine-Blanche is a high-school guidance counsellor in Ebolowa in the south of Cameroon. She studied law and completed a master’s degree in political science at the University of Yaoundé II in Soa. She chose to become a guidance counsellor as a path that would allow her to be creative and live different experiences through the people she meets.
Francine-Blanche heard about UNITAR Youth and Anti-corruption Programme from her best friend, who had just taken part and found the experience rewarding. The UNITAR programme brings together citizens from government, civil society organizations and media to learn about corruption and gain concrete tools to develop and design context-specific approaches to prevent and counter corruption in their societies.
Francine recognized that the programme aligned well with courses she was already taking on social values, deviant behaviour in the school environment, and the drafting of internal regulations. Moreover, many Cameroonians are sensitive to the negative effects of corruption in their daily lives.
Discovering the world while learning about a multidimensional problem
After being accepted in the 2019 programme, Francine-Blanche began with distance e-learning, quickly followed by unforgettable trips to Senegal (December 2018) and Japan (February 2019). The trips took her out of her comfort zone and gave her great opportunities to discover cultures different from that of Cameroon. She was particularly enchanted by the courses at the Gorée Institute (Senegal), a mythical place in the history of slavery on the African continent.
Francine-Blanche and her programme mates – from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Senegal – developed strong links that still endure. Three years after the UNITAR programme, they still regularly share their experiences via a WhatsApp group.
The UNITAR programme opened Francine-Blanche’s eyes to how seemingly banal acts are related to corruption. She remembers an example of a parent who did not hesitate to use bribes to change their child’s educational path. Francine-Blanche also understood that corruption can breed in the lack of transparency – both in a person’s actions and in the environment in which people operate.
Back to daily life to make the change
Her heart filled with all these lessons, Francine-Blanche identified quick wins to implement in her high school. Her priority was to strengthen the rules of procedure, as she identified that the school had no corruption hearings, and she proposed to the school principal to correct this lack. She also set up an anti-corruption club for her students.
In addition, Francine-Blanche developed a larger project with a Cameroonian colleague from the UNITAR programme: to convince the National Anti-Corruption Commission to set up decentralized bodies in the country’s main cities. According to Francine-Blanche, the Commission was established in 2006 by presidential decree as an independent public body with the mission to fight corruption. It develops the national strategy to fight corruption and produces annual reports on the status of corruption in Cameroon. Francine-Blanche and her fellow alum believed that decentralizing the work of the anti-corruption commission and making it more accessible would benefit local populations.
They also hoped to create rules and standards in every school to help raise student awareness of the evils of corruption. Major changes, believes Francine-Blanche, begin with young people who can learn and apply the best anti-corruption measures.
Facing first difficulties and learning the best lessons
In her ambitious projects, Francine-Blanche was beset by financial and technical difficulties. The cost of transportation to regularly visit the National Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters quickly became too much. She also had a difficult time meeting with the authorities.
Francine-Blanche believes the UNITAR Youth and Anti-corruption Programme gave learners the keys to launch each of their projects but would like more support in the longer term. She thinks that UNITAR could facilitate alumni interactions with the administration.
Finally, to the young people of Cameroon – especially girls – Francine-Blanche has this to say:
The first example comes from oneself. When the calabash breaks on your head, you have to take the opportunity to wash yourself. If you live in a corrupt environment, start by doing what you can to be free from reproach. If everyone does it, it will be a collective success.
The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is a dedicated training arm of the United Nations. In 2021, UNITAR trained 370,139 learners around the world to support their actions for a better future. In addition to our headquarters in Geneva, we have offices in Hiroshima, New York, Bonn and various networks around the world.
One of the eight divisions of UNITAR, the Division for Prosperity, based in the Hiroshima Office and Geneva Headquarters, seeks to shape an inclusive, sustainable and prosperous world. World-class learning and knowledge-sharing services on entrepreneurship, leadership, finance and trade, digital technologies, and nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are offered. We empower individuals from developing countries – especially women and young people – to address inequalities. Our alumni are making a difference in least-developed countries, countries emerging from conflict, and small-island developing states.
UN Volunteer Romaric Ngambo Fondjo to this article.