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The Cameroonian TV host committing her media career to addressing social issues

WHEN Cameroonian TV host Jocelyne Fotso started a safe space for women to debate and share solutions to periods of doubt and trouble, it was meant to be an in-person experience. But the regular event has become so popular she's now eyeing a radio show.

GATHERED in a room in the heart of Douala, Cameroon, almost two dozen women are busy exchanging views and debating topics of common interest. The dynamic engagement is not just a chat session; on this April evening, a speech trainer is conducting a training exercise. In the coming week, a psychologist will be on hand to advise on mental health during crises.

Share Hub, as the meetings are labelled, is the brainchild of Jocelyne Fotso, a prominent Cameroonian TV host and journalist looking to balance a media career with social commitment.

The platform provides a space for women to feel free to debate and also benefit from mentorship and training sessions in “public speaking, self-esteem, psychological support” according to Fotso.

While the space has become wildly popular, Share Hub has been years in the making.

Fotso, now 47, didn’t follow a regular media training path to become the TV personality she is now, regularly bringing national, regional and international news to the people.

“My path to journalism started when I was still a teenager, from what was more of a hobby, after winning a reading contest in school,” Fotso explained.

Attendees listening closely to an ongoing Share Hub session in Douala, Cameroon. Photo: Share Hub

As the contest winner, she was picked to read some news that she gathered from her school campus in a radio programme which aired every Wednesday on Suellaba FM105, then the most popular radio station in Douala.

“I heard my voice aired for the first time on a radio station, it was back in 1994,” Fotso remembered, smiling. “But it was essentially still a hobby and nothing more,” she added.

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Fotso would never have envisaged then that just a few decades later she would have attained the status of a national media personality. Her involvement with radio, which continued after the competition, seemed more of a hobby.

“I was just going to the radio every Wednesday afternoon, as the other youths used to go to the cinema or somewhere else,” she explained during an interview in her office with bird story agency.

Her job was to gather news from her high school campus in Douala.

“Senior journalists and reporters would then mentor young authors in the writing process,” she recalled.

But her weekly radio volunteer sessions were becoming routine.

During school vacations, a growing commitment and passion led her to learn more about radio production and to train in both hosting and reporting.

“After 3 or 4 years of learning and training, I started to co-host radio programmes in the same station as an external contributor”, she said.

In the early 2000s, Cameroon’s government authorised the operation of privately held radio stations. The first station to obtain a licence for Douala and its vicinity was RTM. Fotso was hired by the station and in a quick jump in 2002 was entrusted with the position of head of programmes.

“At only 25, I was the youngest person to be entitled to such a position in the Cameroonian media”, she remembered, beaming.

Although radio listeners had become used to Fotso’s voice, it was only during the late 2000s that she broke through to TV.

Attendees listening closely to an ongoing Share Hub session in Douala, Cameroon. Photo: Share Hub

Fotso’s TV host career was ignited with an entertainment show introducing the latest music Cameroonian and African hits to viewers. The show included an interview with popular musicians.

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Her prominence was entrenched with her daily talk show labelled in French, “C Comment” which translates roughly as “How are you doing?”

The show, which continues to run today after launching ten years ago, is a mix of entertainment and conversation on societal and social behaviour issues.

“I was seeking a formula that would both address social issues and attract young viewers. So in the middle of the latest show business news which the youths appreciate, the show promotes discussions on issues such as education, family, behaviours, social issues” she explained.

Share Hub was born from her desire to give back. It is a place where women are invited to participate in free discussions and the debate focuses on how women should build self-confidence and confront periods of self-doubt and trouble in daily life.

According to Ariane Akono, a Cameroonian digital entrepreneur, such platforms remain scarce and represent a huge opportunity for women, “as they open ways to enhance self-improvement and fulfilment in any fields of their daily lives”.

“We learned how to speak in front of an audience, it was a very enriching experience. It really helped me in my daily life. I would definitely attend another session,” Tatiana Bilong, a participant who visibly loved the experience, declared.

“When a woman listens to another woman’s testimony, a woman who has gone through some troubles in her personal life, she feels encouraged to confess and seek relief”, Fotso further clarified.

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In a new development, she is now working to transform the Share Hub meetings into a radio programme, eyeing a further transposition to TV.

“The initiative platform is now gaining traction and is very soon expected to extend its reach by morphing into a radio programme,” she said.

Cameroonian TV host Jocelyne Fotso (in a purple outfit) posing for a picture with Share Hub participants in Douala, Cameroon. Photo: Share Hub

By PATRICK NELLE, BIRD STORY AGENCY

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