Being girl or boy – college student interrogate gender norms

Before the gender lessons: This was 11 & 13 year old understanding of what it means to be female

In a group exercise in one of Wfac’s gender, Society and health education (gShe) programme with students at Master Bilingual College (MBC) , some thirty 11 and 13-year old students were tasked to create a gender word webs, reflecting on their own understanding of gender and construction as well as the type of words they often hear people in their communities, families, neighbourhoods would use in describing a girl or boy, man or woman.

11 & 13 year old social construct of males ness

The whole idea of this exercise was an attempt to enable the  30 young adolescents debunk as well as interrogates gender norms and stereotypes and hopefully as they grow into adulthood empowered and knowledgeable about these injustices and effects of gender roles and norms to societal growth and the wellbeing of the human race, they would be conscious of the need to stand for equal opportunities for all. Such an exercise was therefore paramount, a step towards challenging gender constructs and re-correcting the wrongs and years of inequalities against women and girls.

We are humans first

After a series of exercises around deconstruction and reconstruction of a gender word web drawing of who a woman or man is and is NOT.  It became evident to the adolescents that apart from the socially constructed traits, as purported by an 11-year college boy, “we are all humans first”. And that the only difference is biological that is “males are born with a penis, and produces sperms”, while females are born with a “vagina” and at a certain age in their life they “menstruate”.

adolescents gender web of maleness and female

 

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Written by Nkongho Chantal, 

Wfac gShe Volunteer Facilitator

Published on November 20, 2018 

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

African Ministers agreed on a Common Position at the AADPD5 Review Process in Accra, Ghana: Translating women’s voice and stories as Data and indicators for change

“We must meaningfully invest in developing and owning our data…produce data that transforms lives, informs and shape policies as well as developmental programs across the continent” — a view expressed by most African ministers at the AADPD5 Review process.

As a feminist civil society participant, I could not agree less with the African ministers. For our lives and realities as young people, women and girls are our own data, our own evidence which if explored by policymakers would not only help to inform them on our demands for sexual and reproductive health services and care, the demand for empowerment programs, education and complete eradication and zero tolerance of any forms of violence against women and girls, but would definitely serves as a major drive for Africa towards the future it wants.

Throughout the first week of October, I attended the ADDPD5 Review meetings in Ghana. A gathering which began with the CSOs pre-consultations (September 30 – 1st, October 2018), and was immediately followed by the experts meeting (APEC) and finally the Ministerial (STC-HPDC2). The meeting had as main objectives to; review and evaluate the five year continental implementation of the Addis Abeba Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD); Identify challenges and gaps impeding its implementation; as well as sharing of best practices. It also aimed at identifying areas of collaboration in terms of addressing the current Africa’s population issues; and most importantly to agree on an African Common Position on the Population and Development issues for the continent, which will fit into the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) as well as the 52nd session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) in 2019.

The Journey for Change: What it means attending Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development five years after

There is nothing so delightful compared to be present when history is made. Five years ago during the adoption of the AADPD in October 2013, I recalled vividly the process and the strategic contributions of Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac) in the formulation and finalization of the AADPD (also referred to as the African common position to the ICPD). The AADPD comprises of 88 articles, grouped under six pillars: Dignity and Equality; Health; Place and Mobility; Governance; Data and Statistics; Partnership and International Cooperation.

This year, exactly five years after, I am once again privileged to mark present together with over 100 civil society participants, women’s rights organisations, youth leaders including representatives from government agencies, International Organisations such as IPPF, UN Systems, Ipas – from across 50 African countries, for an interactive and intensive two day consultation and the AADPD+5 review process meeting in Accra, Ghana.  An experience, I find great delights in doing.

Translating women’s voice and stories as Data and indicators for change

Like African ministers, civil society participants at the AADPD5 called for evidence based policy,  investments and the importance for peoples, especially women’s and adolescents well-being, education, health as well as mitigating measures of climate change and shrinking civic spaces.

Perosnally, I believe that fact of the several recommendations made, data and statistical evidence were among the core issues expressed, finally shows the interest of African leaders in evidence-based research to inspire actions and achieve meaningful impacts in the people it serves, in an era where the people, as well as leaders, are moving towards the vision of the Addis Abeba Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD) and the realization of the demographic dividend and ultimately sustainable development in line with Maputo Plan of Action (2016-2030), Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda.

Advocacy is not just about being present in meetings

Last week,  September 4, 2018,  Wfac gShe facilitator Ms. Donkeng Vanessa participated at a national strategy meeting and working session on youth participation and inputs in the development of the National Strategic Plan to fight against AIDS 2018 – 2022.  Organized by the Ministry of Health (MINSANTE) through the National Aids Control Committee (CNLS), in collaboration with UNAIDS.  Also present were representatives from government ministries like the Ministry of Youth (Minjec), representatives from international and national organizations including youth-led and women’s-led organizations.

Ms. Donkeng rapporteuring for the CNLP-UNAIDS meeting

As a young feminist advocacy organization who have continually advocated for more young people, women, and girls in such spaces, it was somewhat encouraging to observe that over 60% of the participants at this meeting were all young. A representation we found worthwhile, though we know it is just not about being present in meetings but being able to contribute and engage meaningfully in developing and informing decisions on those issues that matter most to young people. A journey Wfac has led and continues to lead to ensure that more young people, women, and girls get a seat at the table of decision making to ensure that their rights are safeguarded and met.

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.

 

Mobility of Youth Workers: Wfac at the Ghana Permaculture Institute

June 10 – 20, 2018, Wfac Volunteer Manager and CSE Facilitator, Ndabombi Emmanuel and Armstrong Bobvala represented Women for a Change, at the second Phase of the 22-month partnership project on Sustainable Foundations for Sustainable Partnerships in Techiman, Ghana. Drawing from the “Kick-off” meeting which took place in Germany in May 2018, this project has eight partners from Germany, Malawi, Kenya, Ghana, and Cameroon. Sponsored by the EU Erasmus with the aim of strengthening the capacities of all partner organizations in implementing sustainable volunteering possibilities for young people from Africa and Europe by volunteering abroad.

Given that at Wfac, volunteerism is core to the work we do – and as an institution, grounded in feminist principles, we are constantly making conscious decisions to provide our volunteers with necessary professional development opportunities both at home and abroad to build their knowledge, capabilities, and skills needed to move towards career goals. As such the training on permaculture provided Wfac an opportunity to therefore interrogate and integrate new concepts that advocates for fairness and alternative lifestyles and career prospects.

“Attending this exchange program on permaculture was a life changing experience…I remembered when I was delegated by Wfac to participate and represent the organisation in the 2nd phase of the project on Permaculture in Techiman, Ghana, I couldn’t stop asking myself what the linkage was between Permaculture and Feminisms or women’s rights activism besides an element of career prospects. But after attending the exchange program, I quickly found out that there was actually a closed conceptual linkage between the two concepts, Permaculture and Feminisms. As the definition goes, permaculture is a way of life grounded in the principles of fairness, inclusivity and respect for diversity, likewise is feminism, which is the radical notion that all humans are born equal and free to decide their way of life”, said Ndabombi Emmanuel.

At the training, participants were introduced to life skills teachings around the use of moringa & orthodox medicines, in addressing Urinary Transmissible Infections, STIs, skin disorders, shocks and malaria. In addition to Ultra modern quantum analyzers for accurate results without blood samples. The team was also taught and introduced on the ethics of permaculture and its principles in relationship to our daily lives, its design processes and methods. Other skills learned included Waste Management with focus on mushroom cultivation, composting of sawdust and “bagging”,  moringa harvesting, planting and also its preservation. The processes of trees and plants crafting and budding, recycling and transformation of waste plastic bags into rain coats, handbags & other useable materials to the value eco-chain. As was taught, nothing in permaculture practices goes to waste.

One of the biggest myths deconstructed at this exchange program was that permaculture is not about “agriculture” rather it is a way of life – said Armstrong Bobvala.

According to the founder of Permaculture, Bill Mollison (1970) – there are three core ethics of permaculture which is: the care of the people, care of the earth and the fair share of resources. These ethics and principles have been adopted by everyone into permaculture as an aspect of live and not mere words written down in books. In permaculture, the principles can be briefed to the “5Rs which entails – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Repair‟.

While permaculture is  way of life, it also can be a source for employment and sustainable development for all.


Written by Emmanuel Ndabombi and Amstrong Bobvala

Strengthening capacities, building networks for sustainable volunteerism

May 2-11, 2018, Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac) together with eight other NGOs from Cameroon, Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, and Germany took part in the “Kick-off” meeting in Frankfurt Oder, Germany. A 22-month European Union Eramus+ program on “Sustainable Foundations for Sustainable Partnerships,” funded by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency for #Eramus + Sport, Youth and EU aid volunteers for the European Commission.