African Social Entrepreneur Walks the Talk on Overcoming Adversity
Monique Ntumngia Founded the Green Girls Organisation to Support Women and Fight Climate Change
Devin: Monique, what is your superpower?
Monique: My ability to just get through the worst challenges. Trust me; I can get through just about anything. Trust me. I personally don't know how I do it, but I've been through thick and thin. But there's—I don't know how my brain works—but there's always a solution to everything. That's my superpower. If that's a superpower, I just could get through the worst of scenarios. That's me.
You can watch the full interview with Monique here: monique.s4g.biz.
Monique Ntumngia was orphaned as an adolescent and has grown into a tech-savvy social entrepreneur, working to empower women and girls in her home country of Cameroon even as she fights climate change and poverty. She founded Green Girls Organisation as her vehicle for change.
Using Green Girls, Monique provides rural and semi-rural communities with solar electricity, just enough for lighting, and biogas from agricultural and human waste for cooking. She helps the women and girls in the community learn to assemble solar lamps from kits she provides. They then share revenue on a 70/30 basis, where the local women keep the majority of the revenue. The women also sell the biogas on the same revenue share program.
Now just 31 years old, Monique’s work is reaching scale. The organization has trained over 4,500 women and girls and has created solar electric or biogas systems or both in 48 African communities. Yet, ironically, some of the residents she helps with solar live below power lines they cannot access.
Along the way, the organization has created 3,500 jobs she describes as “eco-sustainable.” Her efforts have improved literacy by 65 percent. Health outcomes have improved 70 percent. Sexual harassment has dropped 75 percent. Finally, deforestation in her communities is now at an all-time low. Understandably, she has received numerous international awards and recognitions.
Overcoming adversity is the appropriate superpower for one who endured so much at such a young age. Monique experienced “tribalism” and conflict among various ethnic communities. At age 12, when her father died, her mother “lost everything” because she was not of the same ethnicity. Not much later, her mother died of breast cancer.
The odds were against her. That she survived is remarkable. To have become such an influential leader is extraordinary. Monique’s superpower is worth emulating.
How to Develop Overcoming Adversity as a Superpower
Can you think of a challenge you’ve faced and overcome? I’m confident you can. At the same time, you may live your life—as almost everyone does—constrained by fear of present or pretended challenges. Learning to overcome adversity better can be powerful for you.
In a follow-up conversation you can watch here, monique2.s4g.biz, Monique provided some insights into how you can strengthen your power to overcome adversity. Here are the ideas I extracted.
1. See the positive. Monique’s first rule is to see the positive and focus on that. Imagine how she felt as an adolescent who had lost her parents and whatever financial resources her family previously had. Circumstances forced her to face challenges most people don’t overcome. One aspect was focusing on the positive.
2. Find supporters. As an extension of the above, Monique has identified people who support and help her. She nurtures her relationships with them. She’s not talking about mere fans or followers. As a sign of her wisdom, she sees that helpful people offer her positive criticism.
3. Ignore naysayers. At the same time, she sees that some people cannot share her vision or mission. They want to see her stumble, fall or fail. She ignores them. You likely have some of these in your life, too. Take her advice. Ignore them. Some could be family members or friends you can’t cut out of your life, so you may need to find the courage to ignore their negativity even as you maintain a relationship.
4. Know yourself. Monique emphasized and re-emphasized the idea that you must know yourself. She describes it as the beginning of wisdom. Here’s the real gem. She says, “You cannot change what you don't know.” That profound insight can help you develop every superpower in this book.
5. Accept yourself. While she hastens to add that she has changed, she suggests we start by accepting ourselves and our limitations. You can’t be two people. There are many facets to who you are—some you love, some you wish to change—but the reality is you are the composite of all those things. Still, accepting yourself does not mean you cannot change or should not change. You start where you are, not where you wish you were.
6. Take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty vessel. You can’t overcome adversity if you don’t take care of yourself. Monique struggled so much during the pandemic she entered therapy and is grateful for it. She’s learning these principles of self-care strengthen her ability to keep doing good.
7. Find purpose. Monique had developed a passion for changing the world to better provide for women and girls from an early age. She credits this passion or sense of purpose with helping her to overcome the challenges she faced then and the ones she faces now. You can find your purpose in the depths of the challenges you face. Seeing her mother treated unfairly when her father died helped her find her feminism. That kept her going. When you find your passion, it will help you overcome your challenges, too.
Everyone is different. Some of Monique’s ability to overcome adversity may be circumstantial. Still, you can learn to overcome more significant challenges than you’ve faced. You can do things you may not believe. Even if you can’t make Monique’s superpower your defining characteristic, you can learn to do better by taking her advice. Increase your human potential by lifting the limits that constrain you.
This post is a sample chapter from my book,Superpowers for Good.