Exchange alumnus Besong Bawack Mallet is a champion of diversity. He embodies this trait in his own professional life, as a development administrator, peacebuilder, career coach, educator, and mentor. On top of that, Mallet can now add project coordinator to the list. Besong Bawack Mallet, an alumnus of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), recently wrapped up his project as part of the Mission Driven Alumni Outreach Program (MDAO) small grants competition. Mallet’s project, entitled Youth United For Peace in Cameroon, seeks to prevent conflict, hate speech, and misinformation.
As these issues have become prevalent in Cameroon, combating them effectively involves a multi-pronged approach. Recognizing this, Mallet utilized the power of diversity to bring together youth influencers across several spheres of influence – including popular comedians, musicians, bloggers, poets, movie writers, journalists, teachers, politicians, and community leaders. Through this online campaign, Mallet equipped 75 individuals to speak up against hate speech on their own platforms. These participants took part in three workshops with topics like identifying fake news, preventing gender based online discrimination, and understanding the drivers of violence. Mallet also organized a comprehensive online social media campaign, featuring graphics and hashtags that discouraged fake news. By the conclusion of his project, Mallet and his team have reached 200,000 people through their online campaigns and community events.
Mallet, who is from Yaounde, Cameroon, originally realized the need to create awareness for these issues years ago while witnessing the escalation of conflict in Cameroon. He saw that the rise of hate speech, fake news, and propaganda led to the radicalization of young people.
“I took upon myself, as a responsibility, to engage in actions that… inform policies on the effect of hate speech and misinformation on the conflict and… pave the way for sustainable peace.”
Thus, the project was born in 2018, with the creation of Mallet’s “Spread Love.” In an effort to create awareness against hate speech, Mallet campaign featured the phrase, “Spread Love” as an alternative for hate speech. His background made him a perfect candidate for the MDAO Program in 2020. Mallet was nominated by the US Embassy in Yaoundé to lead a group of other exchange alumni, which eventually became Youth United For Peace in Cameroon. The project ran from September 2020 to August 2021, during the COVID pandemic. While that created a unique set of challenges for Mallet, leading the MDAO project allowed him to experience personal growth and recognize the value of diversity.
“The program enhanced my abilities to lead a diverse team, to make decisions in difficult situations especially as the project was awarded amidst COVID-19 tensions and the fact that the project team was comprised of people with different skill sets and motivations.”