Community service by RuWCED's youths at the Ndop District Hospital
Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) 2015
Thank you to the many youths who turned out for this year’s GYSD week, with whom we embarked on a mass community work to fill up pot holes and cleaned the Ndop food market to ensure a better sanitation for all. We appreciate the Ndop Divisional Officer and the Mayor who gave RuWCED their full support. It was a difficult task filling up pot-holes with gravels, sand and stones, but we made it thanks to the passion we have for service in our community! Health and sanitation is and wil remain one of RuWCED's priority areas in making a different within rural communities.
The Rural Women Center for Education and Development - RuWCED’s Youths Working Relentlessly
A woman battered by her husband
Her hands broken because she wanted to speak out as a woman
In Isaibal Quarter in Fundong Sub Division of Cameroon, a woman of about 50 years of age has been a victim of a barbaric act of violence from the husband. She saw her two hands fractured in addition to backache. Barely three weeks after the celebration of the International Day of the Woman that was celebrated last March 8th, 2015. The Day was adopted by the International community to denounce the condition of the woman in general and violence in particular.
During these years, campaigns to sensitize communities on the need to eradicate violence against women were carried out. Despite these actions, some community members continue to give deaf ears to messages. It is the case of this business man of the Fundong Commercial Street who deals with wrappers and clothing materials. During the night of 26th breaking Friday 27th, he used a strong material to hit his wife who was as sleep. As a result of this aggression, the woman endured two fractures on her left hand and ...
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As the morning peeps through the blanket like a baby rising from the cot, so does the rural woman gets up from bed to gain possession of her day.
A task she carries, a responsibility she bears a wife to a husband, and a mother to children.
Her hoe she takes, her bare feet soaked with morning dew carries her to a land of green fields, but, she returns with a basket of plenty.
Father will eat, children will eat, the joy of the rural woman to see her family blossom with health. Aaah! Mama rural, the hidden treasure from despised eyes!
But misfortune hunts for her unblemished soul, attacking the pureness of her blood with HIV/AIDS. Ooooh! A victim of ignorance and simplicity
To dust she returns, rubbed of her glory by the ravaging cruelty of this dreaded disease. But her eyes will be opened, and her mind enlightened if passion conveys strategies to prevent or live with the enemy of her soul and forever remain the trunk of her society.
Aaah! Mama rural, our despised treasure leader of tomorrow.
In this pattern of succession, the wife and children of a man do not have the right to inherit his property upon his death. Rather, it is his nephew, brothers or uncles who have the right to inherit his property and asset. Most often, women try to be very kind and submissive to the person (nephew, brother or uncle in-law) who will presumably succeed their husband in a bid to create a cordial relationship and secure assistance/care when their husbands finally die. However, in most cases, this subordination often proves futile once the man is death.
Upon the death of the man, these nephews claim everything and sometimes, they even request to have sexual relations with the widows. During our recent field interviews, one woman reported that a child (nephew-in-law) whom she stayed with in the house when her husband was alive requested for sex after she lost her husband and when she refused, he chased her out of her compound. This widow and her children became beggars while he lived in the luxuries of her late husband. This practice is commonly called searching your “Uncle’s bag”. In most of such cases, the female orphans are given to work as house mates in bigger cities or go into vagabond sexual relations to help sustain their widowed mothers and siblings.
These processes have left most rural widows and orphans from these communities terribly tangled in the web of poverty, school drop outs, urban child trafficking, forced child marriages, unwanted teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS just to name a few.
Also, during our community outreach with some widows, they reported that, their late husband’s brothers who inherited their property sometimes went as far as using their orphaned daughters for money making (force them into child marriages against their wish) so as to get money and sponsor their own children. Other widows reported the sale of family land and other properties. Sadly, since most of the women were never in school and went into marriage following customary law which is not recognized by the statutory law, they were unable to recourse to the state justice system. Even in cases where the marriages were legally recognized, it was extremely difficult for widows (who have not attained a significant level of education) to legally benefit from their late husband’s property unless the succeeding nephew was kind.
Considering that most of these widows and youths are school drop-outs with some not even able to spell their names, it becomes difficult for them to negotiate access to basic social and health services without a third party (who may not even protect the privacy of their health status). In this light, most of the widows and youths die in silence rather than get their privacy exposed. More so, being ignorant about basic reproductive health education, these women are unable to detect basic symptoms of STIs, ways of engaging into safe sex, as well as avoiding unwanted pregnancies.
Nonetheless, widows who had graduated from secondary schools and had solarised jobs and or could always do part time jobs did not suffer as much as rural women who depended only on agriculture because, when the land was seized and sold, they could earn income from other sources.
Majority of women and girls in rural areas cannot afford sanitary pads during menstruation. We offer health talks every week to different schools and demonstrate to young girls how to use pads. This project aims at improving the level of health and sanitation within primary and secondary schools.
Reproductive Education for Rural Girls and Women
The Rural Women Center for Education and Development (RuWCED)-Cameroon is a community led grass root not-for-profit organisation that works with rural women and girls in the areas of reproductive health and STIs, agriculture, girl child education, violence and discrimination. We provide sanitary napkins to primary school pupils, give small scholarships to underprivileged girls and orphans whose mothers passed out at child birth or related event (children orphaned by maternal mortality), organise reproductive health education lessons and also give transport assistance to women and girls living with HIV/AIDS to go for antiretrovirals. We are also trying to get connections with doctors to come to the villages where we work and do monthly consultations for women and girls since access to proper health care services is yet a dream for most of these rural women and girls.
Problems this project is trying to address
In most parts or rural Cameroon, there is a culture of silence around sex. Talking about sexual education among young unmarried girls is even considered perversion and a taboo (spoiling the children). Worst still, there are no lessons on sex education in most rural primary school since they do not offer domestic science lessons. The topic Human Reproduction is only taught in the last two classes of secondary schools and to those studying sciences (Biology/Human biology). However, sexuality related issues continue to top the list of factors determining rural birth rates, adolescent pregnancy, crude abortion, maternal death and other related reproductive health challenges which most governments are facing. Teenage pregnancy and school dropouts, crude abortions of unwanted babies, extremely large family size are among the population challenges facing rural girls and parents who even try to educate their girl children pass primary school level. Our research on this topic in most rural communities where we work suggest that:
- Most primary school girls are already mature by the time they and in their last years. However, they have no idea about what puberty is all about. Most of them are not even aware of sanitary napkins and the few who know cannot afford. This pushes them to use dirty and infected old cloths.
- Since girls are not taught in primary schools (their highest level of education for those who even attain) and at home, their mothers do not talk about it with them. Sex education “Is a thing you discover” and most women go into marriage without even being able to understand their menstrual cycles properly. Out of 200 women interviewed, only 25% of them knew how to count their menstrual circle and had heard of a family planning method outside the use of condoms (which their husbands refuse to use most often). Of this 25%, only 10% could explain how at least one family method works bought contraceptives from street vendors which often lead to further complications. The rest of the women depended on traditional herbs, abstinence during breastfeeding. This was further found to be a cause of most of the unreported domestic rape occurring in most rural families since husbands turned to feel deprived. Also, such sexual deprivation caused some husbands to go in for polygamous marriages which has been seen as a cause of further infidelity, increased STIs, large family size, violence and poverty just to name a few.
- Our research found that the major cause of this is the fact that in rural areas (where majority of Cameroonian population reside, larger family sizes are found and increased rate of maternal mortality prevail), girls are not educated or at the most, they leave school at the primary level where reproductive health is not part of the curriculum and at home, their parents do not educate them on how to manage sex and reproductive health. In this way, it was observed that the rural girl goes into marriage unprepared and ignorant about many reproductive health issues which further pave the way for more social troubles.
- More so, in the rural communities where we work, the labelling of HIV/AIDS to promiscuity and the stigma of being HIV positive has gone a long way to frighten women and young girls from going for tests. Following a recent survey that we did in some villages of the Northwest Region, 70% of the women refused to go for tests quoting that" knowing that you are HIV positive kills more than the disease itself" meanwhile, the virus is claiming many lives.
How this project is making a difference within communities
We have started a mobile rural reproductive health education program in our organization where our nurses offer intensive 2-3weeks courses to both already married women and girls. Women who excel well and spread the knowledge gained while encouraging other women to join benefit educational assistance for their girl children in secondary schools. Also, already menstruating primary school girls (who are seen as ‘ripe’ for marriage) are offered sanitary napkins and those who excel well and influence their peers through peer education to join our program receive educational assistance in secondary school. Also, women and girls living with HIV/AIDS who open up are given financial assistance to get antiretroviral since it is very difficult for most of them to access it either due to shame and stigma, or its accessibility or due to poverty.
Hygeinic situation of most rural communities in Cameroon
Majority of women and girls in rural areas cannot afford sanitary pads during menstruation. This lack compromises menstrual hygiene since they resort to used cloths etc. Most especially, it affects the general confidence and psyche of women especially girls in primary school who get stained and shy away from school during menses. Also, there are few or none existent sanitary facilities for the disposal of faeces which further compromises community health. This is because, there are generally no safe water sources available in most rural areas and inhabitants have to share the streams with livestock and other wild animals. When it rains during the rainy season, faeces disposed in the fields are washed down into the streams which serve the household water needs. During the dry season, the faeces dry up and are transported by the wind to the water sources.
We offer health talks every week to different schools and demonstrate to young girls how to use pads. This aims at improving the level of health and sanitation within primary and secondary schools.
We run a sanitation programme that deals with the drilling of wells (bore-holes) for primary schools, construction of pit toilets and the giving of sanitary pads to girls in schools.
See what one packet of sanitary pad worth 2 USD can do for a girl!
-It will prevent her from using old dirty cloths which are infection pruned,
-It will prevent her from staining her uniform and shying away from school
-It will create a working relationship between her and our health educator thus, erasing ignorance and infection while opening a door for reproductive hygiene!
In cash, your gift of 20 USD can buy her pads for one academic year!
In kind, you may volunteer to give an educative talk or dig a pit toilet for a family (especially one in which there are no able males)!
You can also fund or help us raise funds to drill wells for schools.
How will these actions solve the development puzzle of the rural poor?
-It will reduce the rate of virginal infections for young girls; reduce the spread of water borne diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery and cholera, thus reducing expenditures on health. It will also boost the morale of girls in school thus offering an enabling environment for learning.