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”.

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