1. Tell us about yourself.
My name is Ruth Abunaw Besong and I am a wife and a mother of three. I am currently the Programs Officer for Africa at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, an international coalition of over 100 women’s rights organizations and civil society groups from around the world, focused on women’s rights, youth rights, gender equality, peacebuilding, conflict resolution and conflict prevention. I am a development proponent and a gender, conflict, and trade professional as well as a Pan-African and Intersectional feminist.
I am the visionary behind the Cameroon Women Network for Cross Border Traders (CAWONCBOT) and Co-Founder of a community-led organisation in Cameroon called Investing in People Worldwide (IPW) Cameroon.
2. What is your fondest memory of Anglia Ruskin University?
I greatly appreciated the entrepreneurial fare of the University. I had the opportunity to attend a session in Cambridge, together with other students from the Chelmsford and Peterborough campuses, where we shared innovative ideas and I was part of a community of think tanks that had valuable insights and contributions to business and development. My team conceived a business plan to produce the “Tod”, a baby toy, with an in-built camera and microphone to monitor babies and act as their companion, in addition to being a security gadget aimed to foster the protection of toddlers.
3. What has been your favourite job?
The job I am currently doing. As Programs Officer for Africa at GNWP, I work with professionals from different countries and continents, which allows me to learn about diverse cultures, and working styles and be part of bringing solutions to real-time issues such as conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
4. In one word, how would you describe Anglia Ruskin University?
The entrepreneurial university of the millennium. A university that constantly probes the minds of young professionals to develop imagination and creativity. The university sharpens the skills and abilities of professionals to communicate effectively, and reinforces their social cohesion skills with a transformation mindset for positive change and global development.
5. How did your time at ARU help you?
Studying at Anglia Ruskin University broadened my view of life. It built a foundation on which I was able to build the success I have had in both my professional and private life. Skills and knowledge I gained prepared me to face the world and to be able to convincingly share my thoughts and ideas on any given platform. This has enabled me to work in multicultural environments, appreciating life from the perspective of others and not invalidating their experiences, which I feel has helped me maintain healthy work relationships and hence enhanced my work productivity.
I returned to Cameroon after studying and actively participate in conflict management through the support of the local organisation I co-founded. I encourage and inspire women cross-border traders to advocate for their inclusion in regional integration and policy-making processes in Cameroon because of the international business knowledge I acquired whilst studying at Anglia Ruskin University. I am now working with a multi-national network representing this network in Cameroon.
In Cameroon, I am also currently supervising the implementation of a project titled “From Global to Local: Localizing the WPS Agenda to Sustain Peace and Empower Women” supported by the United States Department of State Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) all thanks to the exposure and knowledge I amassed from ARU.
6. What did you love about your chosen course?
Financial analysis was a tough part of the course but it did prepare me for the role I currently occupy. I was afraid of figures and did not like any course which was related to mathematics but through this, I was able to acquire knowledge in finance, which helped me to draft budgets for project implementation. I was trained on how to become analytical with strong interpersonal skills for decision-making and sustained organisational management knowledge.
7. What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
Being an alumna of a renowned university does not immediately guarantee your career success. However, being able to effectively internalize, assimilate, and constantly practise what was studied during your time at the university will help you build your dream career.
8. What do you know now that you wish you had known whilst studying?
Outstanding academic performance with zero people management skills can be a great limitation to career progression. The world has become super smart with the advent of Artificial Intelligence but what the world now appreciates is having people management skills such as empathy. A blend of IQ and emotional intelligence produces outstanding and balanced professionals and it is very important to create good relationships and networks. These act as social security and may speedily propel us towards our desired career destination. If I had known this before, I would have capitalized on building networks with other professionals at other ARU campuses.
9. Who was the biggest influence on your career?
Mme Somo Jaire epse Moutcheu has had a big influence on my career development. She has acted as a mother, friend, and a senior sister to me and is one of the most inspiring and remarkable female mentors I have come across in my life. She has played multiple roles in my career growth, as a coach, a mentor, a friend, etc and she helped me draft my first CV. She brought in a male ally to support me in starting job training after my LLB in a reputable INGO in Cameroon and I was able to shadow her professionally, which encouraged me to do better. She has held my hand and placed me on the path on which I am treading. She is one of the most transformative feminists I have come across after my late mum - her unwavering support for me reaffirms the existence of genuine sisterhood.
10. What advice would you give your younger self?
Believe in yourself and believe in God!
11. Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
I used to suffer a lot with imposter syndrome. I always felt like I was not deserving of my successes and achievements and I always felt out of place in influential spaces. I used to question why I was here, how I got here and whether I was really relevant enough to be here, but I was able to overcome this by telling myself “I am enough, I am here because I need to be here. If I was accepted for this opportunity, it means I have some valuable contributions to make”. With the help of some of my social connections, I was able to out-grow this feeling of limitation. Although this feeling causes self-doubt, for me, my thirst for learning and growth seemed unending. I kept on learning for self-actualisation and was able to grow and achieve my short-term objectives and milestones because of this behavioural health phenomenon – Imposter Syndrome.
12. What’s next?
I'm hoping to complete my PhD and continue to advocate for peace and sustainable development, gender inclusion in international business and regional integration in Africa.