In her own words. Voice. Writing: 14-year-olds explain comprehensive sexuality education

In a class discussion early this week with WfacgShe facilitators on gender, sexual and health education (gShe), over 100 adolescents were asked to explain their understanding on the subject comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). Since often people speak for adolescents and seldom do they speak for themselves or do the “Others” take a moment to listen and understand what young people, adolescents girls and boys thinking around those taboo subjects such as CSE, which continue to attract contentious from some conservatives who argue that CSE is about encouraging sexual practices when in reality it is otherwise.

In a bit to find out what adolescents actually think about CSE. Here is an excerpt from the 14-year-old essays explaining what they understand by CSE and the impact of the program in their lives. It is important to note here that majority of the respondents have participated in one of Wfac’s gShe training, an annual capacity and leadership development program for young people in/out of schools.

14-year-old explains CSE in their own words

Joyce, 14, form 5 in the questionnaire explained that the WfacgShe training has now made her well informed about her rights and to understand the difference between a healthy relationship from an abusive relationship

 

 

According to Blessing, 14, form 4, she explains:

“ CSE has help me to be able to know that unprotected sexual relationships can lead to girls becoming pregnant or contracting STIs/STDs”.

Finally according to Joe, a form 4 student, aged 14 also explained that CSE has taught him to be empathetic, tolerant and responsible in life and towards everyone.


Published date: October 29, 2018

43 years of Compulsive Sexism in Cameroon

“Africa in miniature” is the historical term often used to refer to Cameroon in high schools and other arenas. It is a term that adopts the culture of characterizing Cameroon as having a little bit of everything we find anywhere on the African continent, be it in terms of culture, economy, and resources.

But what is in Cameroon that we will not find elsewhere is the compulsive sexism of its government.

Cameroon is one of the last 50 countries out of 189 to have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) more than 10 years after it came into force on 3 September 1981 with aims of accelerating gender parity and fight discrimination in all its forms against women.

Some of the 50 last benchers include Bahrain, Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea, Lebanon, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, countries reputed for their harsh policies against women, the high rate of trafficking in women, and other forms of gender-based human rights violations.

In Cameroon, since 1982, year of accession to power of President Paul Biya, there have been 7 Prime Ministers who till today have held a cumulative year of service of 29 years, but no woman has ever been qualified to occupy that position. Since 1960 however, there has been 16 Prime Ministers in Cameroon accumulating about 53 years of service, without there still being a single qualified female to perform that function.

Similarly, in a sixty-nine-man government of Cameroon in 2018, only about 10 are females, representing less than 15%.
There are over 243 political parties in Cameroon and during the 2011 Presidential Elections, out of 52 who submitted their candidacy files, only 23 were finally selected to contest but only two of them were female-led parties, the Branch for the Integral Reconstruction of Cameroon (BRIC) and the Cameroon People’s Party (CPP) of Dang Esther and Walla Edith Kahbang. In 2018, the latter declared that it was needless to participate in the 7 October 2018 elections and only 9 candidates finally took part – all males.

Since 1982 once more, only two women have been appointed to the position of Senior Divisional Officer (SDO), the first being in 2016 and the Second in 2017. It should be noted that in Cameroon, there are 58 divisions in total governed by SDOs, and 360 sub-divisions governed by Divisional Officers (DO) but there are only 7 female DOs in Cameroon, representing less than 2% females. Since 2008 after the presidential decree transforming provinces into regions, no female has ever been governor of any of the 10 administrative Regions.

The document on “Government’s Major Accomplishments during the 2011-2018 Seven-year Mandate” at page 15 showing on gender policy only states the improved figures and does not also state the total number of people within the particular functions. It does not also show the wide gender gap between males and females in a given position.

The figures of the government concerning female representation in the Senate and Constitutional Council cannot be considered an improvement because both institutions did not exist before 2011. The figures also do not show the statistics of women before the 2011-2018 period in functions like councils, territorial command, the military, gendarmerie and national security command meanwhile such positions have been existing for decades. Absence of data on these issues can only be interpreted as a disregard or denial of the inclusion of women into the political affairs of the government.

On 12 April 2018, the President appointed 30 senators to join 70 others elected on 25 March 2018 for a five-year mandate ending 2023. Among the 30, only 4 were females from East, North, North West and South Regions, meaning that 6 regions were unrepresented. Five years ago, on 8 May 2013 when the Senate was created, out of 30 senators, only 3 females were appointed senators, with 7 regions still unrepresented.

The post of President has been held by two males since 1961, date of independence, totaling 65 years by the end of the current mandate. The first spent 22 years in power while the second was reelected and will spend 43 years in power till the next voting season, in 2025.

According to the World Population Prospects of 2017, the male to female ratio in Cameroon is 50:50 but less than 30% females are seen in positions of responsibility.

By 2025, the newly elected president will be 43 years in power since 1982. These problems of women empowerment in Cameroon highlight only the tip of the iceberg.

According to Cameroon’s National Report submitted for consideration to the Human Rights Council’s Periodic Review on 16 May 2018, their strategy does not take into account the fact that if women are empowered economically, educationally, politically, culturally and socially, certain ills and wrongs targeting or affecting women will cease.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in September 2000 and had as goal 3, the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment by 2015. The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are already in their 3rd year of execution, and 12 years left. It is evident that the MDGs only had 8 goals and most or all of them have been transposed into the 17 SDGs, meaning that MDG3 and SDG5 (on gender equality) have been existing since the year 2000, and for 18 years since then, Cameroon has not yet implemented the decisions it endorsed.

Gender empowerment or parity has never meant appointing women to feminine-related positions. It could mean considering women as being equal to perform any function of responsibility like any qualified man to achieve common goals.

Pursuant to Article 9 of the Maputo Protocol of 2003 to which Cameroon is party since 28 December 2012 and last of the 36 to have ratified the protocol, the State of Cameroon has an obligation to ensure that:
a) women participate without any discrimination in all elections;
b) women are represented equally at all levels with men in all electoral processes;
c) women are equal partners with men at all levels of development and implementation of State policies and development programs.

2. States Parties shall ensure increased and effective representation and participation of women at all levels of decision-making.

The Cameroon Constitution is a replica of universally-agreed fundamental rights and the 70-years-old Universal Declaration on Human Rights serves as an important instructive manuscript which hails that “everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his [or her] country.”
The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms is a competent national human rights institution created by the Head of State to ensure the implementation of international human rights instruments and receive complaints and seize any competent authority in case of violations of human rights instruments duly ratified by Cameroon.

The Constitutional Council is another competent body according to the Cameroon Constitution, charged with the duty to rule on the constitutionality of laws, treaties and international agreements. It can be seized in cases where laws passed by the parliament or the president are not in conformity with the Constitution.

A non-litigious mechanism for claiming women’s rights is passing through the continental route of seizing the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, a position created by the African Commission since 1999 in a session in Burundi.

There exist other continental and international litigatory bodies where women’s rights to political participation can be claimed. The first is before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights based in Banjul, Gambia, the second is the CEDAW Committee, and the third is the Human Rights Committee. Finally, the Human Rights Council’s complaint procedure is a crucial mechanism through which complaints for gross and reliably attested violations of human rights can be tabled. The only pre-condition for communications to be looked into by these institutions, is to ensure that basic rules on admissibility and exhaustion of domestic remedies have been complied with.


Written by Salim Sango Aliyu, a human rights activist, researcher, political analyst and pan-Africanist.

Salim holds an LLB Law degree from the University of Buea as well as an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Notre Dame in the United States of America.

published date: October 28, 2018

Let’s talk SexEd in Cameroon

Early this September, you must have read or listened or be among the people talking about the form two textbook “L’Excellence en Science 5eme“.

The question is: what is particular about this textbook? Well, apparently module four of the reader (for those who didn’t follow the conversation) talks about sexual and reproductive health.

And as you know, we live in a society whereby discussions related to SEXUALITY is often attacked or faced with strong resistance from the public. Which is why the textbook, according to some parents and teachers who protested against the textbook says, the information in module four on sexual and reproductive health was not appropriate for students that aged – 12 to 15 years and above. Yet, we know that recent studies show that in Cameroon, 22.7% of adolescents under 20 are mothers of at least one child, and the prevalence rate of HIV is high among adolescents.

Chatting towards a common understanding on the importance of SexEd in Cameroon

As a sexuality educator, I believe in the power of positive dialogues and I feel that it is important we step up with our sexEd education and activism, bring it to parents and teachers as they have a great role to play in the lives of students and young people.

So far, one of the easiest ways to help bring this education to the classroom can be through regular non-structured chats such as the SexEdChatCmr series, which we at Wfac recently launched on September 28, 2018, in response to the fuss around the textbook and also to clarify and raise public awareness about human sexuality, including teachers themselves as well as curriculum developers.

For instance, after perusing through the said textbook, it was clear that its development didn’t respect the International  Technical Guidance on Sexuality nor did the content makes a case of the intersectionality between sexual and reproductive health issues with gender, human rights, and students’ academics.

The twitter chat #sexEdChatCmr was attended by more than 17 young people, women, and girls including college administrators and SRH advocates, all sharing individual experiences and views on the importance of sex education. Some of the issues raised and discussed during the 90-minute twitter chat ranged from the need for a public awareness around sexEd to ensuring women and girls access to comprehensive SRH services care and support.

Also of interest was the danger of poor sexuality education to young peoples’ wellbeing and future.  According to one participant’s to the twitter chat, it is imperative that leaders take keen interest to ensure that a comprehensive approach to observed in delivering sexuality education and curriculum development.

Another participant said: ‘There is the need for the adoption of new and stronger methods of SRH education by the government to combat these misconceptions and provide the youths with the required information to life-changing choices’.

From the responses, it was evident that there is the need for more public dialogues to deliberate on those pertinent issues surrounding sexuality education in Cameroon as well as suggest steps in addressing these misconceptions and the primary need for quality SRH education in and out of schools.

 


Written by Emmanuel Ndabombi (@EmmanuelNMOffic), Volunteers Manager and Coordinator for the #WfacgShe program, an annual SexEd program to adolescents in and out of schools

Human rights defenders in Cameroon call on all to Commit to gender equality principles

With the continuous violence and need for humanitarian interventions in the English speaking regions of Cameroon, notably the Northwest and southwest regions, there could not be any better time to call for all to commit to gender equality than now.

“Every single individual has a key role to play in making gender equality and justice a reality in Cameroon,” says Wfac ED, Ms Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondieh

June 20 – 21, 2018 – Buea, Cameroon, over 100 WHRDs across the country, including youth activists and champions for gender equality gathered at the Pan-Afrique Institute to discuss on the state of gender-based violence (GBV) including the rising GBV incidences across the two conflict-affected regions of the country. Together they proposed a couple of practical solutions and the best ways to contribute in ensuring gender equality principles and values are upheld in the country.

Among some of the actions suggested included but not limited to the establishment of a National GBV coordination mechanism and cluster, who will regularly meet to assess the state of women and girls in the communities including those affected by the armed violence. There were also proposals on initiating a gender-based violence minimum package of prevention and response which consists of four core services. This include:

1) A first-line response service, an open line always such as the ops4women app, available, and accessible to offer referrals services to victims and GBV survivors identified and in need of assistance;
2) A clinic service, to provide rapid and emergency medical services including mental health screening, emergency contraceptives, and post prophylaxis as well as the medical treatment of GBV cases;
3) Social support services, to provide psychosocial counselling to survivors and GBV victims;
4) A justice service, to ensure victims and all persons affected by GBV get justice.

Organised by Lukmef and partners, Women for a Change, community outreach manager Nancy Makeoh Mafor participated at the two-day summit on the National CSO Forum on GBV in Cameroon. The workshop which according to the organizer Mr Christian Tanyi is CSO-led draws on participation from a broad sphere of works including those from the private sectors, religious groups as well as traditional and community leaders.

Written by Nancy Makeoh Mafor

Standing with Internally displaced women and girls from South west and North west regions of Cameroon

As violence continues to consume the regions of north-west and south-west, young people, women and girls are forced to flee and be displaced from their homes, communities, and cities to a much more presumedly safer communities. The crisis which began in 2016 has over the years, according to records from the United Nations, witnessed over 200000 persons internally displaced and or become refugees in neighbouring Nigeria. A displacement which has left many with limited resources and money to cater for their needs including feeding, shelter, clothes, and medication.

In an effort to respond to the on-going humanitarian situation in the anglophone parts of the country, June 21, 2018 – members of Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac) together with SNWOT (South West and North West Women Task Force), a group of over twenty women human rights defenders and leaders from the English-speaking parts of Cameroon paid a solidarity visit to one of the communities at Muea which is said to harbour over 20 internally displaced families, women and girls included, providing them with humanitarian supports such as food, essential medication, kitchen kits and among others.

As explained by a member of SNWOT, “Today’s visit is to share in the pain and grief of all the persons displaced, women and girls as a result of the ongoing violence in the SW and NW regions of Cameroon”.

The sad ordeal of one female IDP

“I was in Ekondo when I heard that the military was descending down on us, I thought of running to the neighbouring village but on reaching there, I realized that it has been turned into the military based[…]. As a result of fear, not to be arrested, I entered the bush where I stayed for a couple of days before finally trekking to Muea” said an internally displaced lady.

Like this lady, this is a similar fate of hundreds of thousands of persons, women, and girls living in the Northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon. An experience no human should ever faced. Together with SNWOT, Wfac will continue to stand with all the women and girls internally displaced in the SW and NW until the day when no person, woman or girl will ever have to be forcefully displaced for fear of insecurity. We will continue to stand with the women till peace reigns in these two regions.

 

Raising my voice for young women’s rights and empowerment

Each day, I raise my voice so that young women and girls are counted and heard in this crowd of toxic patriarchs. I also raise my voice so that, laws and cultural norms that discriminate against women can be eradicated.

As part of Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac) Staff Capacity Strengthening Policy, in 2017, I was recommended to participate in a three-month online course organized by Women Thrive on fundraising, communications, and advocacy, especially around successful advocacy campaigns and visibility for SDG5.

The online training was grouped into four clusters and each ran for around four weeks, culminating in three months for all four. The four clusters included:

  1. RAISE YOUR VOICE which Prepares advocates to understand the advocacy process and develop a feminist advocacy campaign.

In this first training, I learned the power of storytelling, not just personal stories but organizational stories. And as a young feminist organization, we too have a story. And that story is all about uplifting young women and girls and ensuring their active participation and involvement in decision-making processes, nationally and globally.

At this first segment of the training, two things stood out very strong to me. These include The power of storytelling through photographies and the used of hashtags in amplifying young women’s voices and informs and influence policies and change.  For a hashtag doesn’t only tells stories but is capable to offset patriarchy – just like the #MeeToo campaign and women’s march which continues to connect, support and empower women and girls as well as influence and advance women’s human rights.

2) RAISE YOUR VISIBILITY equips activists with the skills to build their presence online to effectively communicate impact and reach new supporters.

As an organization with a huge online presence, we are never shy to bring visibility to the remarkable works of young women and girls across the country including sharing experiences and challenges faced working and advocating for change.  Taking this training was strengthening as it simply reinforced the work we do at Wfac and also how with the support of digital technology,  grassroots are able to connect people, feminist groups, young women, and girls, reach out to new audiences, as well as creates alternative platforms for young women and girls to find empowerment and be heard in places where they were often marginalised.

3) RAISE YOUR FUNDS empowers organisations to identify and reach donors to fund their gender equality work.

Before joining Wfac some years ago, I had limited skills and experience in fundraising for nonprofits or social justice. Though I had participated in fundraising for church activities. This training was definitely important for me especially in terms of identifying potential donors and private partners who can support our girls and young women’s human rights projects in and out of schools.

The big lesson learned here is that having a unique voice to tell your story is very important as any reader could be a potential donor.

4) SPEAK THE SDGS prepares organisations to further their visibility, fundraising, and advocacy by leveraging the new Sustainable Development Goals.

Given Wfac’s significant role over the years in popularising and mobilising public participation, particularly engaging youth and women in the post2015 process – both at national, regional and global levels. This training was very instrumental to my role and work at wfac as it did not only help improve my skills on identifying donors and writing successful grant proposals, but also on creating and developing campaign strategies, organise “give-back” internal capacity building training with Wfac staff/ volunteers and most importantly keep the engagement and momentum on the popularisation and campaigning for the full implementation and realisation of the SDGs (especially SDG5).

In conclusion, the training helped me gain more knowledge as it challenged me to be more proactive and engaging online especially within the gender equality and feminist movement.

Women for A Change – Strengthens capacities on Reproductive Health Rights and Education

Wfac Staff at the Capacity Building Workshop on M.A

February 26 – 28, 2018Wfac staff received training on ensuring “Access To Reproductive Health Information”. The training was designed to build capacities of activists, support access to quality and accurate education and information around reproductive health services, products and resources. Organised by GIWYN Nigeria, Women Help Women, TICAH & VIAC, under the generous sponsorship of Amplify Change.

“Staff training and capacity building is an essential part of Wfac’s program implementation and SRHR advocacy “, says Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondieh, Wfac Executive Director, “This training could not have come at a better time than now when we are expanding our Comprehensive Sexuality (CSE) in schools outreach across the national territory. Currently operating in three of the ten regions of Cameroon. And as a leading CSE feminist organisation in the country, our CSE in schools programs does not only limit to a weekly educational talk to school girls and boys, it also provides counselling and referrals to SRH-friendly clinics and facilities “.

The training which brought together almost twenty reproductive health leaders, activists and professionals, had practical sessions on Reproductive Health and Rights, protocols and frameworks, Prevention of postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) which constitute to almost 30% of maternal deaths in Cameroon (Minsante, 2018). In a recent Ministry of Health report, it is estimated that about 6000 women lose their lives each year resulting from reproductive health complications such as PPH, unsafe abortion and pregnancy-related complications including pre-eclampsies, and eclampsies etc.

The training also taught all present practical skills on how to use mifepristone and misoprostol to prevent PPH, which is the loss of more than 500ml of blood following childbirth. Which can also be severe if the loss exceeds 1000ml. If not controlled it can cause death within 24 after bleeding starts. As reproductive health activists working most at times in very remote communities, which is often faced with multiple health complications and challenges, this education was very important to the activists and community health workers present at the training. 

Another aspect of the training included information on the various family planning products and contraceptives such as the IUDs, Pills, Condoms (female and male), injectables, patch, rings, diaphragm, permanent sterilisation (such as vasectomy), spermicidal, and implants.

According to Ms Agbor, Wfac Staff, she says: ” the training provided participants with new knowledge and understanding on Misoprostol, a gastric medication but can also be used to save women’s lives and address PPH”.

Both medications (misoprostol and mifepristone) have valuable health benefits and are life-saving for women and girls, she adds; To wfac, the information on misoprostol and mifepristone will be disseminated to the students during the CSE outreach as well as providing the information during Wfac’s referrals and counselling.

Wfac in Addis for the #CSW62Africa meeting

Buea, Cameroon – February 19, 2018, Representatives from Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac) will be participating at the pre-CSW62 regional meeting, conveyed by FEMNET and partners. This is following the national pre-CSW62 meetings across 3 African countries, Kenya, Malawi and Cameroon (led by Wfac in collaboration with UN Women, Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family (Minproff) and FEMNET).

It is our belief that if you want to influence policy, be present when policies are formulated – the more reason at Wfac, we don’t just answer present. Rather we make sure we are present at all times & at all levels & most importantly, leave a feminist stain on the policy #PutWomenfirst.

Stay with us as we will be sharing live / commentaries from the #CSW62Africa meeting. We will also be engaging key policymakers including those from Cameroon to commit to delivering the outcomes of the #PRECSW62CMRconvening “rural women’s declaration”.

Empower

Empowered 50+women and girls on SRHR advocacy and leadership development.

Support

Supported 20women and men to speak out on VAWg.