Last month, April, I left my little city, Buea, for New York to attend the 47th session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD). Joining over 300 youth activists across the globe, together we spent a week hopping from one UN building and/or corridor to the next, to one government leader/head to the other, exchanging thoughts and opinions, and / or contributing to inputs on language around the negotiated document. There were moments that we spent several hours and sometimes staying up till 2am or 7am, monitoring each move for opportunities to share our voices and imposed our presence and negotiated language to government authorities at the outcome documents. Which were either written on paper, text and / or narrated orally. And when we were not at the corridors lobbying, we were either attending side meetings or were active on social media, engaging with young people around the world, garnering their local support and urging them to amplify our voices locally and widely.
This year’s CPD marked an important moment in development history. Firstly, it is 20 years after Cairo consensus of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action (PoA). Secondly, it negotiated outcome document shall play an important role in influencing the post2015 development review. Like most of my colleague, particularly those in the civil society, I had great expectations and hopes on the outcome document. I knew for sure that world leaders, including Cameroon government will be more progressive and positive in articulating strong human rights language, especially that which addresses youth and women empowerment, adolescents and young people’s sexual and reproductive health rights and services.
Having realized that, the regional outcome documents - Addis Abeba Declaration was quite progressive in the promotion amongst other, young people’s sexual and reproductive health rights and services, access to comprehensive sexuality education. I was very confident of the CPD47 negotiated outcome document to be a landmark of the century. Sadly, my expectations were a little shattered when Cameroon (negotiators) were far from admitting to existing commitments that were agreed upon at the ICPD, 20 years ago in Cairo, as well as last September 2013 in Addis Abeba. They rejected every language that had sexual rights and reproduction that it was a masked for SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression). And instead aligned and led a team of conservative groups of some African countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Sudan (excluding the Holy See, Rome), all under the banner of "African group" to reject on any language on rights. It was very devastating and at the same time surprising for me, seeing Cameroon of all nations leading an African Revolution against Rights at the UN headquarters suddenly becoming friends with countries that have got little or no mutual relationship.
Inasmuch as I do recognized Cameroon’s timid approach towards advancing gender equality, youth and women's empowerment rights, particularly in women's political leadership and education, With the experience at New York, I wonder if it indeed cares about the people, especially the women, youth and girls, and whether it is ready to realizing vision 2035 that seeks to make Cameroon an emerging, democratic and united nation in diversity by 2035.