|Cross-section of students at the 'creative arts' project launch|
Supported by the US Embassy in Yaounde, the project uses dramas, songs and debates to fight school-related gender-based violence and empower the young girls.
“Through this project, we are working with students, teachers, parents and community members to respond to and prevent gender based violence in and around schools–building a safe environment for all, especially girls to learn,” Christelle Bay, director of a local nongovernmental organization, Hope For the Needy Association (HOFNA) Cameroon that is championing the project said.
Besides debates by students from some schools of the Northwest Region, educative talks on child early and forced marriages and other Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), the event also featured a panel discussion under the theme, “The Effects of School Related Gender Based Violence on the Socioeconomic Empowerment of Women and Girls.”
|Students doing a debate on marriage and education of the girl child|
Achaleke Christian Leke, Commonwealth Youth Ambassador for Cameroon and one of the panelists said gender based violence does not only refer to beating a girl or woman. “Just smiling at her [in a seductive manner] constitutes violence” he said.
“The male gender sometimes discriminates over females because of their chauvinistic beliefs in and out of the school milieu,” Christelle Bay said adding that “we all must strive to elude this belief in order to foster the education of the girl child.”
Victims of violence according to Justice Kimbeng Glory, can seek redress by putting up a formal complaint to the nearest investigating unit or legal department. The Mezam High Court judge advised that victims of any forms of violence should not close their eyes to the hostilities of perpetrators.
“Students who suffer school-related gender-based violence, be they psychological or physical should be assisted by their immediate custodians; parents and teachers to seek redress. There are many legal provisions that take care of gender-based violence, but unfortunately parents and students do not make use of them. That is why workshops and seminars like this [one organized by HOFNA Cameroon] are very important,” Justice Kimbeng said.
‘For Girls Abused’
The official launch of HOFNA’s new project which marked the end of the 2015 edition of the “16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence,” campaign was also an avenue for the rights group to screen a drama piece titled, “For Girls Abused.”
The piece depicts mistreatment that young girls experience in schools and communities and which ruins their education and the realization of their dreams.
It draws attention to the hurdles Beri, a young girl from Nkambe, struggles to surmount in her quest for an education. She’s forced to marry her Geography teacher, Mr. Tantoh a man twice her age and already a husband to two wives.
Though Beri's mother feels her pain but can't help because of the abject poverty the family is wading in. The teacher assaults and sexually harasses the young lady serially, using her family’s poverty as leverage.
School Related Gender Based Violence experts say, is a major hindrance to achieving quality education for all and girls empowerment in particular. This is often in the form of threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of social norms and gender stereotypes, and enforced by unequal power dynamics.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi in Bamenda