In commemoration of International Women’s Day 2022 and celebrating the virtuous, ambitious women with selfless contributions and commemorating the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women across the world.
Clarisse Mefotso Fall is one of the powerful leading women with great achievements, track records, and a multi-award winner. She hailed from Cameroon, a wife, mother, and dedicated professional woman in the field of public health having graduated from Mount Saint Vincent College with a master’s degree in public health in the area of policies and systems, and served in various positions.
In this interview, Clarisse Mefotso Fall shares her experience, challenges, and success stories with ADEWALE ADENRELE
You are the Global President of 1000 African women’s Networks; can you tell us the aims and objectives of this organization?
I am the founder and executive director of the African Hope Committee, a non-governmental organization that was founded in 2003, and registered in 2004. And before that, I was a manager in an NGO in New York for 5 years. Which makes nearly 20 years of career in Public Health. AHC is based in New York and more precisely in Harlem. We provide services to the African population and other immigrant groups in the field of social, education, health, and immigration. AHC serves an African community not only locally but also across the United States as part of its immigration services. Internationally, AHC has developed activities in the field of education, health, and the eradication of poverty in French-speaking African countries such as Senegal, Niger, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as English-speaking countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Ghana.
What have been the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of leadership for you?
The secret of my success is multiple. From the beginning of my career, I surrounded myself with a committed (dedicated) and competent team with which I shared a common mission and objectives. Supported by a board of directors dedicated to my vision, I have drawn up a development plan for each of the staff who have and work for AHC. As a public health expert, I was able to define and assess the needs and problems within the African community living in New York and developed and implemented social, health, and educational activities there. responding to these challenges. I have continually cultivated professional and cordial relationships with our donors, sponsors, and partners
What are your major responsibilities as DOJ Accredited Representative and how have you impacted your position on the populace and what are your success stories so far?
I serve as The DOJ Accredited Representative at the African Hope committee. As defined our mission, we provide immigration as well and this came out at the time, we were aggressively creating outreach campaigns on HIV/AIDS in the community. The immigration needs were well demanded. The board saw it as a huge service to provide in the community even if this was to begin by educating families about their illegal and legal status. I was then proposed to join immigration programs that will prepare me to be accredited. I have been accredited for 12 years, being that one must renew its accreditation every 3 years. African Hope Committee ROSE immigration service ( ROSE) Right to Organize for Social Equality. ROSE is my mother’s first name, a woman who likes justice and fairness for all and continues to live her through HOPE and FAITH. I deal with the immigration cases that come our way, namely asylum and refugee immigration applications, family reunification, obtaining immigration visas for students, changing statutes, work permit applications, and more. AHC has been able to meet the demand of the African immigrant community living in New York under this program by assisting them in securing their green cards through some of the immigration programs mentioned above. This is our pride.
With your leadership role and vast experience working with international organizations, accredited organizations on global projects linked to United Nations; what are the needs in Africa? What will it take to build entrepreneurship and employment in Africa? And what are you trying to do to move the needle, especially in Cameroun?
With my leadership role and my experiences working in community health, with the board members, AHC has always aimed to meet the social, economic, and health challenges of vulnerable communities by providing lasting solutions. The African community residing in New York is confronted with problems of integration, health, housing, learning the English language, finding employment, a complete lack or inadequate medical coverage, and faced with unprecedented immigration problems. Unlike in Africa, people are more confronted with poverty in general. The need to build more schools that are adequate to compete with the kids in America or Europe, to build a vocational program that builds our kid’s skills where some can progress to become great entrepreneurs, businessmen, and computer technicians. What we’ll take to build not only entrepreneurship in Africa but programs geared towards building our children’s skills is to mobilize government institutions and continue to address the SDGs 20230. AHC has begun to address programs that build youth skills so they could grow to be independent and this to a country like Cameron, Senegal, The Republic of Congo/DRC, Niger, Nigeria Through our member presidents and vice-presidents under AHC Network called 1000 African Women Network.
In the past 20 years, sub-Saharan Africa has achieved some of the most dramatic breakthroughs in the world. The number of female legislators on the continent has increased, would you consider yourself as a politician someday?
This is a question that most people asked me. Currently, I serve as an African Commissioner at the Newark Mayor’s Office in New Jersey. I was appointed in June 2021. I have worked for more than 20 years in the social areas. Our work will never be achieved without reaching out to politicians and partnering with their offices to address issues that affect our communities. The question you asked if I consider myself a politician one Day? We never know where our career will take us. Working in this area of public health does not distance you from working with politicians. I meet, Presidents, Ministers, congressmen and women, Mayors, Deputies, Elected Officials from around the world from these high level social, economic, and political forums, especially during global events such the CSWs, The General Assembly, and during some of the State Address by Assemblymen and member s of the Congress.
In 2009, Former First Lady Michelle Obama recognized your humanitarian work and activities; would you tell us what she told you and the kind of award?
Since 2004, thanks to an effective referral system and the collaboration of our local partners, NGOs, and government institutions, we were able to provide health education and host health summits for more than 7 years consecutively. Reaching women, men, girls, and boys in New York. For example, I have been honored with several awards as well as proclamations from members of the American government, including members of Congress and Former New York City Mayor Bloomberg on 3 occasions in 2006, 2007, and 2008. The most rewarding award was the Awards from The NYPD, where I was the first African Descent woman to receive such an award in New York for caring for the immigrant community. In 2009, we also received The Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s recognition with her own words: “Movement for real and lasting change is sustained by the relationships we build with one another. Thank you for your support. Michelle Obama.” This is simply a recognition of the hard and sustainable work we bring to the community. A lasting effort, durable and lasting. As a humanitarian herself, she understands what it takes to bring a community together to create a sustainable service.
You are the Founder & Executive Director at African Hope Committee, Inc, what motivated or inspired this great concept?
Once again thank you for the opportunity to speak in your journal. My name is Clarisse Blanche Mefotso Fall. With my background in public health, I have developed a great passion for education. My father is a retired educator in Cameroon and had worked all his life in educating kids. I guess I got that from my father with the only difference being that I am in the Field of Health, Public Health and I have obtained a master’s degree in Public health with tracks in policies, systems, and community health.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. Can you tell us how to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all?
African Hope Committee as an accredited organization with the United Nations ECOSOC Program works to reinforce the UN Women ideas that act to empower women and girls across all its programs and advocacy. We continue to address each year at the CSWs Gender Equality with the hope to make progress towards sustainable development by 2030, leaving no one behind. In 2020, right before CSW64, we hosted a Gender Equality forum in Cameron by reaching out to students and bringing them together at the Ecole Bilingue Wafo in Douala Cameroon. This was a great success in empowering young women and boys with the issues of inequalities. We hope to conduct such a program in Africa by mobilizing government and private institutions to develop a program that will not leave anyone behind in terms of education and employment.
African Development Magazine would like to be part of your team reporting your activities; will you give us this chance and support us?
Communication is key in our society. Social media and marketing are very important in the progress of our society. We continue to build partnerships with news media and social media that will help advance our mission and bring exposure to the work we do. We are honored to build a partnership with your journal to help cover African issues around the globe.
African ethnic groups and tribes have customs and traditions that are unique to their culture. What do you like about African Culture?
African Culture is the most ancient culture starting with Egypt. As we all know, of all the countries around the world, African culture stands out. From its beautiful attire to the languages, food, arts, and nature itself. It is rich and very diverse as it keeps changing from country to country in Africa. Many cultures and traditions are found in the country. And this brings the attraction to many people to visit the continent. People are kind, polite, and very humble in general.
Amazing memories are unforgettable; can u share with us the most amazing memory?
Before talking about some of the amazing memories in my life, are the wonders of life that define me daily and bring joy, pride, satisfaction, and motivation in my life. I am a happy wife and mother of 4 young adults including 3 grandchildren. The best memories are working and guiding young college and high school students to aim high in their lives; to work with men, women, girls, and boys even children to create a positive image of our community around the globe. Imagine bringing together the African Community to partake in the AIDS WALK for over 4 years. Hosting High-Level Health and Social program by mobilizing the international and the local community to partner and participate at the events. To expose members of the international communities at the United Nations, High Level, Social and Economic Forums. To build Ngo’s skills and provide them with more tools that will reinforce that knowledge, especially with the SDGs. To create a global network that brings people from around the globe. To travel to different countries to address public health issues. As an author of a book entitled CLARISSE BLANCHE released on March 5th, 2019, I get to talk to people about my book which is found in Amazon and other major book stores around the world.
What advice would you give the younger ones?
My advice for young people is that the most important thing is to build faith, hope, and trust yourself. Focus on your education and be positive and stay away from trouble. Respect your parents, your elders, your teachers, and yourself. Invest as soon you begin to work because this one thing lacking especially in the Black and African Communities. We must advise our children to invest earlier to minimize financial stress. Not to be strained financially as you grow older.
Thank you for sharing with us.
You are welcome!