Monday, March 23

Protecting women and girls at risk of gender-based violence during corona-virus pandemic is critical

Understanding the implications and risks of the coronavirus in general and on women and girls and other vulnerable populations, in particular, is amongst some of the steps needed in flattening the curve. Since the outbreak of COVID19, we have witnessed a complete lack of attention on the effects on women's and adolescents' wellbeing. In monitoring the situation as well as following official announcements from W.H.O and our state officials – in particular the Minister of Health, we note with regret that the burden of COVID19 has many times felt on women and girls yet remains the less reported. Women are the ones serving as caregivers - at their homes, in the communities or hospitals in their roles as nurses. They are the ones most exposed at risk of getting coronavirus virus and equally being victims of violence during such times of crisis. The reason a careful analysis of the impacts of COVID19 is critical in informing the policies in combating coronavirus. 
In other to keep abreast, we subscribed to regularly receive updates on the current state of COVID19 in the country and the different precautionary measures to stay safe. Some of which we have shared across our different contacts and listserv. Added to that we have initiated free online webinars that bring in experts across different sectors including from the medical field to share important safety tips and advice on how to stay safe during such hard times. All these seek to complement the laudable initiatives from all the stakeholders working restlessly, especially the government through the Ministry of Health in ensuring that the health and wellbeing of the people are safeguarded and secured. 
However, while the coronavirus might be a threat to global public health, it is important to realize that for women and girls, the threat is in multiple forms; As it further exposes women and adolescent girls to gender-based violence notably domestic and sexual violence, including intimate partners’ violence (IPV).
Worldwide 1 in 3 women suffer from some form of intimate partner violence and in Cameroon statistics suggest that 1 in 2 women have been physically or sexually abused by an intimate partner. While data remains a huge challenge around IPV because of many barriers including the culture of silence, cultural norms that impede on access to justice and imagine this is in a non-crisis or humanitarian settings. With COVID19, and all the lock-downs and shutdowns of offices, schools, parks, shops as well as mobility restriction and the many other restrictive measures put in place to curb the rapid spread of COVID19, there is a high tendency that many cases of gender-based violence would be experienced especially as many of these shutdowns cases didn’t have to go through a sort of proper transitional processes, with sufficient education, information, and counseling to psychologically prepare for this sudden twist and shift in lifestyles. And thus not only exposing women and her entire family at risk of getting infected by COVID19 but also victims of domestic and sexual violence. 
As a feminist organization working for and with young people to address gender-based violence as well as building leadership and development capacities, we call on all stakeholders during such crisis moment to see that policies and measures that seek to combat coronavirus in Cameroon must be holistic and comprehensive as it must provide the relevant support to women and girls at risk of violence during this crisis moment. 
Research shows that the side effects of violence against women and girls especially IPV range from depression, HIV/AIDS infections, unwanted pregnancies, severe physical harms or even end up being deadly. And we cannot emphasize enough the implications of COVID19 on women and girls including the internally displaced persons as well as host communities and families, many of whom are living under the most unhygienic and unsafe conditions with little access to proper quality medical support, sanitation, potable water, and other essential services.
While this is such a crucial moment that meets Cameroon, more than ever, we must not forget that gender-based violence remains a national emergency that must equally be addressed especially now. This is because the rapidly changing preventive and reactive measures considered by the state to manage the spread of the coronavirus, which includes but not limited to self-isolation, and home staying will offer welcome tools for domestic violence to further escalate, and equal increase women reproductive and caregiving role. Therefore, such measures must be accompanied by gender-responsive support for victims and survivors of violence.
In such unprecedented times, we also call on all to be cautious, calm and follow the guidelines provided by the health professional and experts including that from the World Health Organization (W.H.O). However, to also recognize that in difficult times like these, information is always generic and doesn’t necessarily underscore gendered implications especially the impact on women and girls including nursing mothers.  
At Women for a Change (Wfac), we equally urge the government and policymakers, in particular, to take concrete steps to ensure the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence is integral to government’s COVID-19 preventions and control measures. We call on all relevant stakeholders, most importantly, gender organizations, women’s rights activists, and financial partners to increase support to women, girls and most vulnerable throughout this crisis period.
Lastly, Wfac also commits to continue to share with all the right information and relevant resources to help you all – especially women and girls stay safe and together let’s beat COVID19.

stay connected with me on twitter at: (@ZoFem)

Sunday, January 22

Why I marched on January 21, 2017

Wfac Staff showing their feminist power. Pic taken by IWHC 

Exactly 22 years, four months ago, when the fourth International conference was held in Beijing, China in September 1995. One which has been described by activists, humanitarians and academia as a groundbreaking action towards advancing women rights as human rights, a phrase coined by Senator Hillary Clinton.

Why I march...

I marched for myself, my safety and voice for change 
I march because I am tired of hearing promises in meetings and events and very little actions are made in bringing these promises to fruition.

I march for the millions of women and girls who live under the worst form of dictatorship and tyranny and are unable to freely exercise their constitutional and democratic rights to freedom of expression and choice.

I march because I know it is time to be visible and let the whole world know that they are failing in advancing and ensuring the fullest respect of women’s rights.

I march because I was not present in July 1848 during the Seneca Falls in New York, said to be the first ever women’s convention as well as the Women's conference in Beijing in 1995, nor Mexico Conference in 1975.

I march because it is my human and democratic rights to march against injustice.

I march because at the moment, my government is legalising and normalising State-sponsored violence, policing of women's body as well as the imprisonment of people for speaking truth to power and social injustice.

And lastly but not the least, I marched for the millions of women and thousands of women's human rights defenders who continue to receive death threats, jail sentences and being killed for speaking out against patriarchy as well as challenging tyranny and dictatorial regimes.

The Power in a Protest

There is power in protest, especially a protest that seeks to advance a just cause
It was a great feeling to participate in such a global protest - though my march was mostly virtual. Still, I could feel the physical energy of the over 3.5 millions women, estimated by the organisers to have joined the protest from the various global cities, communities and neighbourhoods.

The Protest that Changed the Global Sisterhood Discourse

While I know after this protest, there is going to be lots of conversation among feminist activists and researchers on the whole notion of global sisterhood.

Personally, following the march live on social media as well as CNN, it somewhat made me to rethink my position around global sisterhood - whether or not there can be a global sisterhood. While, my answers to this is usually argued in “Yes” and “No”.  I must say that yesterday women’s march brought to mind a new perspective.

WOMEN'S MARCH is a Freedom march
Yes - we all marched out the gender injustice dust and inequality mud off our feets and body.  Yes, we shook the world once again like 1995. Seemed like after Beijing, world leaders were almost forgetting their commitments. But our numbers of yesterday is clear indication of where we stand as an institution. Reports estimated that Beijing 1995 had over 3000 women participants. Unlike 1995,  the year Jan 2017, the struggle saw over 3 million. For sure the message is clear that over the years, government officials have relaxed.

No More time for relaxation - until all women are free
I am sure by now, world leaders would all begin to rethink as well as revisiting their commitments on women's issues, most importantly about women's sexual and reproductive choices and decisions.
May governments hence be aware that we will no longer keep quiet - until every single woman in any part of the world is free.

Governments and leaders with the power to influence change, also know that besides closed-door meetings and conferences, we shall continue to hold global public massive marches for anyone who dares disvalues and disrespect women and their rights.
For - I will continue to march because I believe in the power of WOMEN.

originally posted this article on

Thursday, November 17

“This Made Me Courageous” Girls Find Their Voices in Cameroon

Victorine, is from a small, farming village in northwest Cameroon. Few girls there go to school, and those who do are usually pulled out before they graduate and are married off before they turn 18. But Victorine has different plans for her future. She wants to be a lawyer.
Victorine is part of a club run by Women for a Change Cameroon, an organization that empowers girls and young women. The club was started three years ago so that girls—and some boys—could get information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Victorine has been a part of the club from the beginning and is now one of its leaders. IWHC staff recently visited the club and saw firsthand the impact these initiatives are having on the lives of girls and young women. They advised the club’s leaders and facilitators on their comprehensive sexuality education lessons.

Friday, March 18

Laquintinie Incident: Time for Quality Health Care for ALL.

UN Women
Can someone tell the Cameroon government that they have completely missed the point. 

It is one thing to quickly blame a helpless woman for trying to deliver a dying sister’s twins but another to accept the blame as an institution for failing to protect women, ensuring their complete safety, and also that they can access quality health care and services. 

Recently, the Minister of Health;  Mr. Mama Fouda, held a press meeting disclaiming the public views on “medical negligence”, rather blaming the deceased 31 year old pregnant, Ms. Monique Koumate, for not attaining ante-natal (maternity) care. The Minister in his press statement also condemned the amateur surgical procedure of the relation of the deceased in attempt to save the twin, in which he described the act as “barbaric and an attack on the dignity of the body of the deceased”. 

The Governor of the Littoral region, on the other hand also held a press conference, accusing citizens for propagating false information  and that Monique Koumate’s dead is “just an incident like many others”.  

“… people die everyday” he added.

Sunday, March 13

Wfac strongly condemns the incident that resulted of the death of a pregnant woman at the Laquintinie hospital

Buea, Cameroon - March 13, 2016;
Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac) strongly condemns the incident at the Laquintinie Hospital in Douala, that resulted to the death of 31-year-old pregnant woman named, Ms. Koumate Monique and her twins.
Maternal health is human rights. No woman should be deprived of this rights. There is no excuse to justify the negligence of medical personal of Laquintinie, who deliberately abandoned a pregnant woman to die because she could not afford to pay for the deposits for delivery.
According to an eye-witness and posts on social media, Ms. Koumate Monique was refused medical attention “…because she couldn't pay a hospital deposit which often ranges from 50 000 - 250 000 FCFA…as such she was abandoned by the health personnel, and moments later, she died”.
Based on one journalist’s recollections “ ...after confirmed death by the doctor, it was then that one of her relatives rushed to a nearby pharmacy, bought a razor blade and struggled to save the babies. The twins however died shortly after because they were not also given medical care”, he explained.

Wfac strongly condemns the incident that resulted of the death of a pregnant woman at the Laquintinie hospital

Buea, Cameroon - March 13, 2016;  
Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac) strongly condemns the incident at the Laquintinie Hospital in Douala, that resulted to the death of 31-year-old pregnant woman named, Ms. Koumate Monique and her twins.
Maternal health is human rights. No woman should be deprived of this rights. There is no excuse to justify the negligence of medical personal of Laquintinie, who deliberately abandoned a pregnant woman to die because she could not afford to pay for the deposits for delivery.
According to an eye-witness and posts on social media, Ms. Koumate Monique was refused medical attention “…because she couldn't pay a hospital deposit which often ranges from 50 000 - 250 000 FCFA…as such she was abandoned by the health personnel, and moments later, she died”.
Based on one journalist’s recollections “ ...after confirmed death by the doctor, it was then that one of her relatives rushed to a nearby pharmacy, bought a razor blade and struggled to save the babies. The twins however died shortly after because they were not also given medical care”, he explained.

Sunday, January 10

My encounter with male chauvinists

My encounter with male chauvinists: "According to the Transportation law, women are not allowed to sit by the door of a car. Only men are allowed". This is the word of a park guy who wanted to convinced me to give-up my seat in a public car for a man.
In response, I immediately asked him: " order words, that means women in this Country aren't allow to drive too?"
"No! No!", he replied. "..women driving is different but in the public transportation, women are not allowed to sit by the door/windows". "This is for their protection"
"Protection, you say", I replied. " this man is boarding this bus because he wants to protect all the women in this bus. What a charitable job!".
It was Friday, January 8, 2016 at around 3pm at Tiko bus station (Park) when one man came towards me and arrogantly asked me to leave my seat for him because he is the man and must be the one to sit by the door. When he told me that I should leave my seat for him, I asked him if it was written on the seat that "door / window seats for Man".
Man 1: "hey - you cannot sit by the door because you are a woman while a man should sit in the middle.... shift inside because you cannot put me inside."
Me: "..I think seats are taken according to they who cames first. And if you wanted to sit by the door, maybe you should have come earlier".
He was not the least happy with my reply and decided to look for a different seat behind.
While I thought, I was done with the seat debate, behold, here comes another man, who in his defense told me that it was his rights as a man to sit by the door.
After almost 4-5minutes of him cursing me on how bad and disrespectful I was, how I dare insist on sitting by the door he finally got inside.
As we drove to my destination, I couldn't stop thinking about the irritating experience and how each day, women will have to pull up with such arrogance, discrimination and abuse from men taking public transport. My experience of Friday also made me to reflect on how in the 1990s, women couldn't travel without the consent or permission of their husbands, whereas there was no law or a written text which said that women must take permission from their husbands in order to travel and yet, it was practiced until research by some gender activists revealed that it was not written anywhere.
It is high time we begin to challenge some of these stereotypes - no matter how little our efforts may be, we need to put an end to women’s oppression. Inasmuch as I felt relieved by my reaction but I was somewhat unhappy because these men didn't still understand the point and the reasons for my behaviour / reaction. They were all blinded by the fact that as a man, they are the ones to seat by the door/window and this was a right. While l, being a woman, I had no right but to succumb to their perspectives.
The journey for equality in Cameroon is still far and until we take a stronger stand and act boldly against all these injustice at all levels, women and girls in this country will continue to be oppressed.
This is why we need feminism every day.

Tuesday, December 15

WfacAt6! Happy Birthday to Wfac for six years of continued work and actions to EndVAWg

Dear friends, supporters and partners of Wfac Cameroon (Wfac) , it’s hard to believe that Wfac is already 6 years old.

Looking back and counting our accomplishment and impact of our work on the lives of youth especially women and girls, I feel more than proud and humbled at the number of lives touched, empowered and saved.

Since 2009, Wfac has connected around 100 grassroots voices to policy markers, platforms and networks for positive change; supported 20 adolescent girls and boys with life skills and trainings as allies and agents against violence on women and girls! Last but not the least, Wfac has empowered about 50 women and girls on SRHR advocacy and leadership development!

The truth is - all these won’t have been possible if not of the generous support and contributions from supporters and friends like you, including family members, volunteers and staff! I wish to also indicate here that your comments and Likes on our facebook, Twitter/@Wfaccmr and Instagram/@Wfaccmr, has continued to be of great inspiration to all!

To mark our 6th anniversary, below are some highlights on What Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac) has done in six years.

  • More than 2000 people informed and voted for the ‘My World’ Survey (2013)
  • 100+ community actions, advocacies, campaigns, leadership trainings and programs for gender justice and the empowerment of women and girls (2009 -2015)
  • Popularised the post-2015 process and mobilised public participation through the action2015 campaign, reaching out to over 100 000 young people, including top government officials. (2013-2015)
  • 50 young people received intensive trainings and practical capacity building skills on SRHR advocacy (2014-2015)
  • 50 15-year old supported to take ownership of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. (2015)
  • Increased discussions both online and offline around CSE and SRHR, care, services and education
  • Effective use of social media and SMS for change 
  • October - November 2015, Wfac ED was recommended by the UN agencies to lead the UNCMR4U campaign (both online and offline)
  • September 2015, Wfac entered a partnership agreement with YES Program Cameroon team.
  • Wfac co authored an article with UNFPA Cameroon that got featured on UNFPA Global Site

Upcoming events

  1. November 28, Wfac and student of St. Monica University will be holding a public parade to call on the government to adopt a climate just agreement for all. ( )
  2. November 30, Wfac and Stop Street Harassment founder will co-host an e-chat on twitter under the harshtag #Sayfty (
  3. December 4, Wfac will be holding an Interactive dialogue with UN System / UN Women Cameroon on “Ensuring Gender Equality : Making Education Safe for All!”,as well as an gender fair   ( )

WfacAt6! What it means to staff, friends and supporters of Wfac

It has been a wonderful time with Wfac, seeing wfacAt6 has been so inspirational, motivational, and a life changing opportunity and above all impacting in my leadership values that will last forever. Thank you wfac for giving me the skills and making me to know my rights as a woman and as a young girl. I am forever grateful to Wfac! Happy birthday Wfac. The sky is not our limit but just our stating point.
- Lydwina Mesang, Wfac Volunteer. 

Community Outreach and Capacity Building are two separable activities. But an Impacting and sustainable organisation is that which incorporates both in its respective scheme of activities/operations. I have seen this trend in Wfac Cameroon, most especially the focus on People Development in both Internal and during Community Outreach activities. This is essential in enabling the achievement of desired impact. Among many others, this is one of the key traits used by Wfac to stay coherent to its objectives and impacting the community.
~ Pekwekoh Leonard, Social Entrepreneur

Dear Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac),

Congratulations on your 6th Anniversary and each member directly or indirectly linked to Wfac as a staff, a sponsor, a volunteer should be proud on this occasion. The work you undertake is one that is at the heart of building a society, community and a country for today and the future. I recall a member of Wfac telling me about her experience of interacting with a young girl of 13 years old the same age as my second daughter who has been raped and hospitalised but unfortunately passed away a few days after the Wfac member's visit. This touching story and the pains it brings is what Wfac is working to prevent.  ~
Kwabena Asante-Ntiamoah ( ( @Kwabena_AN) 
Deputy Representative,UNFPA Cameroon ( @UNFPACameroon) 
This message is sent in a private capacity and not that of UNFPA.

Happy 6th anniversary, Wfac

Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondieh (@ZoFem), Founder & Executive Director Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac) (@Wfaccmr)

This was originally published by Women for a Change Cameroon (Wfac) on 26 November 2015 at 22:58

Violence survivors find compassion, care at Cameroon's Listening Centre

Violence survivors find compassion, care at Cameroon

The Listening Centre refers violence survivors to a local health centre for medical care. Here, women wait to be seen at a health centre in Cameroon. © UNFPA Cameroon

YAOUNDE/BATOURI, Cameroon – How does one comfort the family of an abused adolescent girl, or assist a pregnant survivor of sexual assault? In Batouri, in eastern Cameroon, these difficult tasks are the responsibility of two Catholic priests, Abbe Onto Victor and Gregoire Assiene, who have created a centre to support survivors of gender-based violence.
The Women’s Centre for Information, Listening, and Psychosocial and Legal Assistance – often simply called the Listening Centre – is managed by a dedicated team of seven catholic priests.
“The doctrine of the church talks of dignity for all,” said Mr. Assiene, 60, adding, "No one has to experience such cruelty of humankind."

Violence tragically common

Violence against women and girls is tragically commonplace in much of Cameroon.
According to the most recent general population and housing census, among women aged 14 to 49, at least 34 per cent had experienced physical violence, 8 per cent had experienced sexual violence, and 21 per cent had experienced both.
The Listening Centre was established three years ago in the Diocese of Batour, and each month it handles at least 15 cases, said Mr. Victor.
Women are referred to medical professionals or the justice system, depending on the nature of their case. They also receive counselling, clinical care and other assistance.
The care available has also expanded to include support for pregnant adolescents and women suffering from maternal health complications – such as obstetric fistula, a traumatic injury that can occur during childbirth.

Raising the level of care

UNFPA began supporting the Listening Centre in 2014. During the course of the year, UNFPA helping to train 55 centre workers, all based in different communities in Batouri. Many of them are now in charge of efforts to end violence against women and to assist survivors.
Before UNFPA partnered with the Listening Centre, “we, at the Centre, didn't use to offer psychosocial support and counselling,” said Mr. Assiene. “Cases of violence received at our centre were referred to the police or social affairs.”

All that has changed, he noted.
“We get to have a psychologist visit the centre twice every month to offer support and services to clients.”
Centre staff have also learned about the needs of survivors and how to address them sensitively.

Reinforcing care skills

Last month, in partnership with UN Women and the Government of Japan, UNFPA held a two-day training for 35 community members, health and legal experts, and civil society workers. Listening Centre staff were among the attendees at the workshop, which covered counselling skills, medical referrals and other crucial support for survivors.
“The purpose of the training was to reinforce participants’ capacities,” said Angelique Dikoume, a UNFPA gender specialist.
Other attendees included staff from groups that support orphans and at-risk young people.
Secondary school teacher Christine Mayina, said the skills will help her better assist the vulnerable youth she works with. “I feel very empowered, and more equipped,” she said.
– Olive Bonga and Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondieh (@ZoFem)
This is article was originally published on October 22 at UNFPA Global page via
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