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Violence Against Women in Cameroon

On November 26th, Thanksgiving, Americans across the country were enjoying their turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, hardly giving a second thought to the previous day, November 25th.  And what holiday might that be, you ask?  Well, it is no holiday (and there is no turkey eating), but November 25th happens to be the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a day to remember, as, according to the UN (2014), one in three women experience physical or sexual violence during their lifetime.  

Peace Corps Volunteer Haley McLeod talks with students in the village of Nzong about violence 
















In Cameroon, it is a reality that that violence is often an acceptable part of everyday life; hitting animals, children, and in some cases, women, will result in no consequences for the person who commit these acts.  Additionally, violence against women is often intensified by the already existing dynamic of gender inequality.  In general, women are considered to be “inferior,” and are supposed to align with certain cultural roles and norms, or risk being socially outcast.  This gender inequality also exacerbates several health problems concerning women, including HIV infection rates and the level of domestic violence; with an inferior status, women are less capable of negotiating safe-sex practices or contributing to important family decisions.

So, in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25), Breaking Ground teamed up with Memorial Flavia to educate our local partner community, Nzong, on violence and, in particular, violence against women and girls.  So, our team of three (Carole, from Memorial Flavia, me (Haley), a Peace Corps volunteer working with Breaking Ground, and Joseph, a nurse at the Nzong health center) went to share our perspectives and experiences on violence against women, and increase awareness of violence in the Dschang community.  The lessons, taught to over 150 students ranging from ages 12-18, included topics such as 1) What is violence 2) What is sexual violence and how does it affect women and 3) What are some alternatives to violent behavior?  At the end of the session, Joseph spoke about the physical and mental effects that sexual violence can have on the wellbeing of women and girls.  And then everyone received an orange pin to help spread the word! 

 At the end of the day, though we left the high school bone-tired, our voices raspy from speaking over hundreds of students, our work was a great success.  In order to tackle complicated issues such as gender equality and violence against women, the first step in social change is awareness.  That day, every student in the high school walked out with a small orange ribbon to represent the fight against violence against women.  We can only hope that, will time, our efforts to raise awareness will translate into tangible changes in the life of Cameroonian women.  

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