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“Group empowers women: let the light shine”
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“Group empowers women: let the light shine”

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Carole Nyemeck picWith International Women’s Day in mind, Carole Nyemeck, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Yaounde in Cameroon met with Hawaou Adamou, the president of AFHADEV, an association that helps ostracised and abused girls and women become educated and financially independent.

What is AFHADEV and what does it stand for?

AFHADEV stands for Hausa Women Association for Development. It was basically a group of women I created in 2000. We moved to a legalised association in 2006, when I brought my fellow sisters to realise that the main problem of Hausa girls and women is that they are under-educated.

What is the state of schooling, socio-economic autonomy, and gender parity in access to opportunity for women in Cameroon? 

Globally, the state of girls and women regarding gender equity is still very low in Cameroon, considering access to school and to relevant jobs, which influences individual level of income and affects women autonomy. But within some cultures, women are the result of illiterate and frustrated girls, constantly kept in the status of the one who doesn’t need much investment for she is meant to be married.

What does AFHADEV do to enable Cameroonian girls and women to be agents of peace and channels of development, especially in times of terrorism?

Through sensitisation campaigns and educative talks, we lay emphasis on the role of girls and women in development. It can only be achieved in a country where people behave like good citizens. We also talk to them about issues like insecurity, peace and protection, and the theme of the National Youth Day was an occasion for such exchanges.

Could you narrate to YourCommonwealth the story of one girl with whom AFHADEV worked and who particularly touched the association?

Her name is Lamana. She is about 23 years old. She was sent in a forced marriage at the age of 15, from which she escaped four years later. Lamana, like many other girls, was destined to be married and so did not have the chance to complete a secondary education. She suffered maltreatment and hunger, forced and premature sex during her marriage. Inexperienced in life and far from her family, she had to bear this in silence, quietly and desperately accepting her condition. One day she had the chance to return to her family and explained all she suffered there. She wasn’t sent back to her husband. When I heard about her, I decided to bring my contribution and she followed a professional training as an office secretary. She completed it and started learning English so as to enhance her chances of getting a job. In 2012, Plan International Australia visited a project that AFHADEV was implementing with Plan International Cameroon. Lamana’ s story led them to choose her for the first edition of the international day of the girl. Unfortunately, she couldn’t travel to Australia but her story like the one of so many girls, is known.

How did the association help her, and how did she turn out?

We helped her completing the training as office secretary and also to learn English, though she couldn’t complete it due to a long trip to her village when her father was sick. She hasn’t yet had the chance to get a steady job, but she performs part time jobs.

A new approach in gender advocacy consists of empowering boys to defend the rights of girls around them and promote socio-economic equality, whether at home or at school. Does AFHADEV use such form of advocacy?

Of course, we promote gender equity by sensitising boys on the major role they have to play supporting girls and helping to enhance their capacities. We focus on girls because they are more affected, but we bring both genders to work together in order for girls’ rights to be respected.

What are the issues that still need to be mitigated in order to further ensure girls and women’s rights in Cameroon?

On one hand, habits like early and forced marriages or ostracizing girls have to be banned and even punished, as well as girls’ education has to be promoted. In addition, women and men should have equal access to job opportunities and important positions. On the other hand, women themselves should believe they can be the change and act consequently.

What message can you address to girls and women in Cameroon and throughout the Commonwealth, at the occasion of the International Women’s Day 2016?

They say behind a great man is hidden a great woman, but do we have to remain behind? We should give ourselves more chances to be seen, not in terms of comparison but more like those who make the change, those who think and make their actions to be successful. Women lead families, families make nations and nations are the world. If women are great behind, then they will be greater outside.

Photo credit: Image URI: http://mrg.bz/Tc3k3A

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About me: I am a policy blogger who launched an online journal called The Journal of Policy Innovations to diffuse policy briefs that identify market and/or government failures and propose innovative models to address them.

I feel deeply interested by the whole process of researching, devising, implementing, evaluating and analysing public policies and programmes that cater for society’s needs. To concretize that, I hope to join academia and to become a policy professional with an enterprising and practical mind.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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