‘Living the Legacy’: Yonga Nelly Shella Inspires Change for Girls' empowerment

By Zonziewoh Mbondgulo, Founder/Exec. Director, WFAC Cameroon

Eighth in the #KnowHerStory series by Zoneziwoh

“Serving humanity is the best work of life, and regardless what profession, permits us to be of service to others - this always gives so much gratification” says Tchaptcheut Yonga Nelly Shella, founder and coordinator for Rural Women Development Center (RUWDEC) and winner of the 2013 Africa Regional Commonwealth Youth Workers Award.

Born in October 1987, Nelly Shella says, growing up, never would she have imagined advocating for women's issues would become a cause she stands for so passionately. Inspired and motivated by her mum’s continued zeal and desire to empower women and girls, Nelly tells how this gradually gave her an interest working in women’s issues. Being a woman, living and witnessing some of the social injustice faced by women and girls in her community, also inspired her.

Nelly holds a BSc in Banking and Finance from the University of Buea, Cameroon, and a diploma certificate in Small Microenterprise & development, from the Casey Institute, University of New Hampshire, USA. She is a trained community mobilizer and microfinance entrepreneur, with particular interest in women’s economic empowerment and youth development.


Yonga-Nelly-Shella-3Nelly's commitment and contributions to the lives of women, youths and other vulnerable groups, as well as sustainable community development, has led to her receiving 2 great recognitions.

One was an award as one of the 28 most outstanding and promising young African leaders from the Moremi Initiative, Accra, Ghana, in 2011. The other was from the 2013 Africa Regional Commonwealth Youth Workers Award.

In her vision, Nelly sees “a world where women and young people have equal rights and opportunities; a world where investing in women and girls’ lives is part of a national development agenda.”

Rural Women Development Center

In 2010, after the death of her mum, Nelly founded the Rural Women Development Center (RUWDEC). This grassroots organisation seeks to promote women’s and young people’s empowerment, community health development and natural resource management.

Nelly recollects, “I took up the challenge as the coordinator, embracing the responsibilities and keeping her [Nelly’s mum’s] legacy alive”.

“All which has ultimately refined my career path. My mum was the source of my inspiration. Her dedication and commitment for gender justice, a cause she stood so strongly for, was exemplary and admirable”

Nelly’s dynamism and unique skills don’t only influence her community but the whole region. With her professional knowledge in accounting and finance management, she created opportunities that enforce gender inclusion as well as bringing women a voice on the socio-economic issues of the country. 

Today, Nelly is proud to have improved some 100 rural women's access to micro-credit through collateral free loans. She has also helped enhanced their literacy and small business management.

Advocating for eco-friendly energy

RUWDEC-2Besides all of this, Nelly is also a strong advocate for eco-friendly energy. Four years ago, she led a solar energy project which aimed at training mothers to become solar engineers.

The project gave two local mothers scholarships, and the opportunity to study solar energy at Barefoot College, Tilonia, India, for six months.

The solar project lasted for two years, and brought electricity to 98 households, benefiting over 500 people – particularly those in Montagne village, one of the many rural Communities in southwest Cameroon. To date, these communities in the southwest region still benefit from this expertise.

‘D’Girls Initiative 

Nelly’s work, however, isn’t only limited to micro-credits, financial literacy and entrepreneurism. She also works with young people living with HIV & AIDS via community empowerment programs.

RUWDECIn 2013, Nelly launched the ‘D’Girls Initiative for girls between the ages of 10 and 25. This consists of a peer mentorship program for adolescents, helping them to gain inspiration and life skills; the tools to combat poverty, break gender barriers, support their families and participate in community growth programs.

Ciara, a trainee says, “D' Girls is the best thing that can happen to someone at the start of a career, [in terms of encouraging] independence, building proficiency etc....”

This initiative has, so far, reached out to 120 young girls in Nelly’s area, giving them an incredible opportunity to harness their leadership skills and serve their community.

RWUDEC on the social media

RUWDEC on Facebook  

Twitter @RUWDEC2000

Know Her Story Series

Part 1: 'Peaceful Pekokeh' - Award-Winning Cameroonian Mama is Role Model for Grassroots

Part 2: Mama Commy: 'I Refused to Die; I Lived to Tell'

Part 3: A Woman of Faith - “I Once Begged to Live. Today, I Give so People May Live”

Part 4: Imprisoned for Claiming Land Rights - Namondo Alice Ekema Wilson

Part 5: Young Cameroonian Social Entrepreneur Helps Bring Clean Water to Her Village

Part 6: Shared Challenges - Empowering the Deaf in CameroonShared Challenges - Empowering the Deaf in Cameroon

Part 7: Breaking the Silence: Abused by My EmployerBreaking the Silence: Abused by My Employer

Part 8: Yonga Nelly Shella - Empowering Women and Girls in Cameroon


Zoneziwoh-4Regina Zoneziwoh (Mbondgulo) is a global Citizen DAWNS Digest award winning humanitarian reporter and storyteller, working in Cameroon to interview and give voice to women's perspectives on the country's development.

She is also founder of WFAC Cameroon - Safe World for Women Field Partner.

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