Free Dorgelesse, a single mother in prison after attending her first protest in Cameroon (W4R 2022)

Do you remember the first time you attended a protest or spoke out for the first time on social media about something you cared about? Peacefully making a stand, for something you believed in. This is what Dorgelesse Nguessan did.

What happened?

Dorgelesse is a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a brave woman, whose only ‘crime’ was standing up for what she believes in. Her dream has always been to open up a thriving beauty institute to help the women of her community in Cameroon and to provide for her family.

Two years ago, the challenge of running her hairdressing business started to intensify against decreasing profits. Providing for her family, including the medical bills for her son, was becoming near impossible.

When a protest was organised about the state of the economy, Dorgelesse decided to peacefully take part – her first protest ever. Her decision to go to the protest was a spontaneous idea sparked by a desire for change within her country.

“What led me to protest that day?… Life was getting harder and harder… Everything was falling apart… I said ‘well – if my voice can help inspire actual change in my country, why not?’…That was what motivated me”

Dorgelesse Nguessan

At the protest, security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters. As Dorgelesse ducked into an alleyway to seek safety, the police followed her. The authorities arrested her and took her to a police station, where she was detained in a single cell with 22 other people, in abysmal conditions.

Dorgelesse spoke up for freedom. And now she’s lost it. Exercising her right to protest landed her in jail, where she remains to this day.

A letter from Dorgelesse

“My name is Dorgelesse, and I’m a single mother from Cameroon. In 2020, my dream of opening a beauty salon was shattered when I was arrested for taking part in my first-ever peaceful protest.

I had never been politically active before, but I was really worried about Cameroon’s economy and I was struggling to make ends meet, so I decided to join a demonstration in Douala. Despite protesting peacefully, security forces targeted us with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons. I was then arrested and taken to a police station, where they forced 22 of us into just one cell.

Following my arrest, a military court sentenced me to five years in prison for “insurrection, assembly, meetings and public demonstrations”. Without me, my family are struggling to provide medication for my teenage son, who has sickle cell anaemia. I’m desperate for us to be reunited.”

“I’m writing to you because your words have power. Each year, thousands of people like you help people like me, by taking part in Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign. Please take action and help us – you might change someone’s life.”

Dorgelesse Nguessan

People power works – how you can help

Millions of compassionate people like you take part in Write for Rights – Amnesty’s annual global campaign, which is on right now. For more than 20 years, we have seen the power of collective voices in action. People unjustly imprisoned freed, trumped-up charges dropped, and those who abuse human rights brought to justice.

Right now, Dorgelesse is separated from her son and mother and worries about what will happen to them in the future. She is being unjustly imprisoned simply for standing up for what is right.

Together, we can appeal to the authorities in Cameroon to release Dorgelesse. Together, we can help reunite families torn apart by injustice and protect the right to protest.

When courageous people protest, they make the world a better place. We must protect the right to protest wherever it is restricted and whenever it is at risk.

For Write for Rights 2022, we are taking action for brave individuals from around the world, who have all paid a great price for speaking truth to power. We run Write for Rights every year because it works – real change happens when ordinary people come together to take action.

Learn more about Write for Rights. Write a letter, change a life – including yours.