We had the opportunity to monitor a group of women in Elemighong village of North West Cameroon, in collaboration with a local NGO with whom we regularly network in villages, to improve women’s access to income generating activities with basic bookkeeping skills and financial literacy courses.
It is difficult for women to be autonomous in our rural communities if they are not economically independent. Many abuses faced by women are related to the lack of economic independence due to poverty and a lack of access to opportunities that can enable them raise funds to sustain themselves and their families. We encourage them to be financially independent, we help foster individual freedoms that seek to recognize women as capable members of society that are able to live and operate at an equal level to men.
We meet the women in their monthly meetings to empower them through peer mentoring, and leadership focused on gender equality and access to socioeconomic rights. We discuss and share on the problems they face in their community, how they can support each other to effect change. The women also developed a small financial solidarity scheme through which they contribute money at each meeting. The money contributed by the whole group is given to one member to support this member to carry out a project. Each member benefits until everyone benefits and the chain begins again.
The group we met was created in 1998 and was first a 100% female group. Six years ago, they decided to include some men in their membership, the traditional chief and some of his counsellors in the village are members of the group. This has tremendously improved the social conditions and rights of the women in the village. It has greatly help to reduce the cases of gender based violence in the village. Though the change of mentalities is a gradual process and it is still difficult for women to be considered as equal to men in Elemighong village, there is a gradual change since women and men meet in that forum regularly. They are equal regarding financial contributions or financial matters in the group. The women can use this forum to share on their challenges with men and the women testify that being financially empowered, they have an added social value in their male dominated community.
We have hope that such examples, replicated in other rural communities of Cameroon will bring change on the situation of women in those areas.