|Christelle Bay Chongwain, Executive Director of HOFNA|
The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations at its 2018 Regular Session, held from January 29 to February 7, 2018 made the recommendation which was endorsed at ECOSOC’s Coordination and Management Meeting held on April 16-18, 2018.
According to Christelle Bay Chongwain, Executive Director of HOFNA, the status that has been granted the organisation four years after they applied is a milestone in the journey of the nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping the most underprivileged and marginalized youth in Cameroon achieve lasting positive changes in their lives.
“This status is like a voice calling on us to do more; to empower more women and girls in the communities that we serve,” Christelle Bay told NewsWatch.
After taking part in the post 2015 development agenda, mobilising women and youth groups in the communities, getting their assessment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and their priorities for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), HOFNA had hoped to the UN General Assembly of that year but the dream was quashed for lack of accreditation.
Christelle Bay explained that attending the United Nations general Assembly at that time would have offered them an opportunity to join their voices on a global platform to present that which women in the rural communities wanted and not to have attended the GA motivated HOFNA to continue pushing for the status which was granted last month.
With the status granted, HOFNA can now communicate directly with the NGO branch of the United Nations and host side events during UN General Assemblies. The organisation has to also designate its representatives to UN Headquarters in New York as well as to the duty stations in Geneva and Vienna.
“Anything that concerns the UN we have a special place to present our views. This is actually an opportunity for us to represent the voices of the women and girls in those rural communities at the UN platform and also an opportunity to get more people engaged in the work HOFNA is doing in Cameroon. It entails a lot and I think that it is actually the beginning of bigger work,” Christelle said.
Education for all
HOFNA was created in 2010 and registered in 2012 in the North West region with base in Bamenda. On creation HOFNA’s primary activities centred around poverty alleviation, access to education for all, human right’s education, environmental conservation, sustainable agriculture, youth and women empowerment as well as hygiene and sanitation.
With a mission of helping poor and vulnerable people in society to achieve positive and lasting changes in their lives, HOFNA has over the years succeeded in creating a positive impact in society, especially in the domain of eradicating gender-based violence through training, education and sensitization of stakeholders in the domain.
It is worthy to recall here that since its creation, HOFNA has succeeded in training over 30 traditional rulers and traditional title holders in Donga Mantung division on responding to and preventing gender-based violence. During the training emphasis was placed on the prevention child trafficking and its attendant ills.
In the same vein, over 100 taxi drivers, bike riders, barbers and hair dressers were drilled on how to respond and prevent child trafficking and gender-based violence in their various communities in the North West region.
In order to drive home their message of fighting gender-based violence, HOFNA used theatre and debates to reach out to over 6000 students, parents and teachers. The participants were sensitized on child trafficking, the ills of early and forced marriages and other forms of school-related gender-based violence.
HOFNA has been able to curb teenage pregnancies and school dropouts by encouraging over 200 girls to stay in school over the past 6 years through leadership development programs and scholarship awards. Equally the NGO has over the years donated benches, textbooks, pens, drinking pales, charts, didactic materials and materials for extracurricular activities that are benefitting over 500 children in 5 schools in rural communities in the North West Region.
Preaching tolerance through poetry
In an era of religious extremism, HOFNA has been able to level the ground by engaging over 3000 young people to use poetry, oral literature and the unifying power of music to promote religious tolerance in Cameroon.
HOFNA in a bid to alleviate poverty has equally engaged over 200 youth and women in agriculture as a business. They have been trained on sustainable agriculture best practices for income generation through their Certified Coffee Nursery Initiative and the HOFNA Farm that has been established.
HOFNA’s activities in diverse domains have impacted positively on the society. This has been so because HOFNA has help vulnerable people acquire self-reliance development through the participatory approach. This has been possible due to the fact that HOFNA implements its activities using the sustainable community-based approach. This approach which uses low technology is sustainable and motivates communities at the grassroots level to be propellers of their own socio-economic development. The overall impact is that the populations have a say in the policies that govern them and their families. In this wise their socio-economic development is community-driven and achieves the greatest good for the greatest majority.
It is worthy to note that along the years HOFNA has worked with UNDP, Albany Associates and over 15 Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, from Sub-Saharan Africa to develop an application that guides CSOs and individuals plan and run effective campaigns to prevent/counter violent extremism.
With all these palpable benchmarks, it is therefore not surprising that HOFNA that plans to run a girls’ empowerment centre in the North West region gained Special Consultative Status to the United Nations ECOSOC.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi (First published in NewsWatch N° 022 of Wednesday May 16, 2018)