Widows' rights trailblazer receives standing ovation at Graduation 2018

  • Date

    Tue 17 Jul 18

Francisca Biaka

Widows' rights trailblazer Francisca Biaka was given a standing ovation today when she received an Honorary Degree from the University of Essex.

She has overcome considerable cultural barriers, in her home country of Cameroon, against a backdrop of a highly patriarchal society, to dedicate her life and career to ensuring significant, positive change for her country and its population.

In a rousing acceptance speech Dr Biaka urged the graduates to “be a voice for the voiceless, a defender of the vulnerable and an advocate for the helpless - these are values Essex stands for.”

During the ceremony, Senior Lecturer at the School of Health and Social Care, Sarah Lee, described how Dr Biaka was also a great advocate of the rights of Cameroon’s widowed population – one of its most neglected social groups.

“Francisca works to actively support widows through knowledge-sharing schemes, and by providing tools, machinery and financial support to help them help themselves,” she said. “She also organises workshops to teach widows how to maximise their opportunities in life and share knowledge on how each woman might improve her personal circumstances. More than 350 widows have benefited from Francisca’s knowledge and support to date.”

She has dedicated her life and career to ensuring significant, positive change for her country and its population, as leader of an established healthcare complex, which, under her leadership, has developed into the thriving Biaka University Institute of Buea. Since 2000, 3,485 health professionals and cohorts of highly-trained nurses have graduated.

Dr Biaka said she was “overwhelmed” that the activities she was carrying out to empower widows in Cameroon had been noticed thousands of miles away at the University of Essex.

Praising the graduates from the School of Health and Social Care she said: ”These are special students who can make a difference to people in their care.”

She added: “You are celebrating a giant achievement in your careers today. You have earned it and you should wear it with pride – mostly because it has come from a highly reputable university like Essex.

“I urge you to take every challenge head-on. In every walk of life, in every place you set foot, let everyone who crosses your path have reason to feel thankful that they met you. Add value to wherever you go, keeping in mind that some little things that you take for granted remains an elusive dream for millions of others in the world.

“So many young people cannot have access to basic education, so many are discriminated against, so many have been forgotten on the fringes of society and yet so many have forgotten what it is to look forward to a new day. So don’t say there is nothing you can do, there is so much difference you can make with your knowledge and skills but always begin with a smile.”