By Glory M. Nchimenyi, Founder/Executive Director, RuWCED. October 2015.
Computer Literacy & Secretarial Skills for Girls & Women in Rural Ndop
Earlier this year, RuWCED (Rural Women Center for Education and Development) was recognised as a training center for dressmaking, computer software, and secretarial duties by the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training.
In a bid to contribute to skills improvement and the employability/self-reliance of young girls and women who are out of school, we are running training programmes in dressmaking, computer software and secretarial duties. These programmes target young female orphans, girls who dropped out of school, women who want to get income-generating skills, and victims of gender-based violence (GBV) who are either out of school or escaped abusive marriages.
In our training module, we also include English language as well as sexual and reproductive health education such as to enable our trainees to be able to communicate fluently with their prospective clients, as well as have the knowledge and skills needed to take informed decisions about their bodies and/ or participate in determining their family size.
During one of our computer courses on the internet, one of the women attending the course asked our German volunteer who was teaching the course this question:
“Please madam, is Yahoo a village in Germany?”
Our volunteer said she felt so sad about the limited knowledge of some of these girls and women in rural Ndop, but more importantly, she saw the need to expand the programme for all girls and women in the community.
On the 4th September 2015, we graduated our first batch of computer and secretarial duties students who went through a nine months intensive computer studies with one month of internship (in documentations, schools, and government offices as secretaries). Two of our recent graduates are already employed and this makes our joy!
We look forward to reporting back when all the 13 students get jobs.
Sexual and Reproductive Health Education in Schools
This programme aims at breaking the silence surrounding menstruation, sexual, and reproductive health education and rights, which exist in the villages where we operate. From January to September 2015, RuWCED provided sexual and reproductive health and rights education to over 4,500 young girls in 32 senior primary and secondary schools in Ngoketunjia Division of the North West region of Cameroon.
Through this programme, we have also received questions from 51 young girls about how to manage improper sexual behaviours and harassments from peers and teachers.
We are still evaluating the impacts of our programme on the reduction of teenage pregnancies in schools, the incidence of crude abortion-related deaths, as well as the reduction in the rates of adolescent pregnancy-related school dropouts.
In this programme on sexual and reproductive health education, we also educate mothers on the topic and how to discuss it with their young adolescents.
During a recent dialogue with women, some of the women said that, as mothers to more than three kids each, they had never known about basic sexual and reproductive health issues such as the female reproductive health system and how it functions, auto-infections from poorly managed sanitary towels, etc.
The women have told us:
“We are very interested in these educative talks which will now help us to know how to tell our daughters what happens to them when they start to menstruate and how they can manage it.
RuWCED teaches the topic in a very practical way such that, it is now very easy for us to talk to our daughters about menstruation, pregnancy and many other things that are particular to women”.
We must also highlight that, during one of our workshops on training parents to discuss menstrual hygiene and other related issues with their adolescent daughters, the head of the village traditional council – a man – appreciated our work and stated that he is:
“so happy with the work that we are doing because on the one hand, the parents do not feel comfortable discussing these issues with their daughters, and on the other hand, teachers in primary schools do not teach on the subject whereas, most of the girls leave primary schools and go to get married directly. Therefore, children are left to discover the issues on their own, which often turns out bad".
Crafts and Self-reliance
Through the initiatives of one of our international volunteers who served from September 2014 - July 2015, RuWCED now has a craft programme in which we recycle waste from the sewing department and beer covers [the lid of a beer bottle] – where we go around and collect these lids from bars and friends, and then proceed in making and producing table mats which will be sold in the local and international markets. Production is on-going and we have not yet started selling in large quantities as we hope to.
We are thrilled to share with you that, this year, we were able to get additional financial support to expand our girl child educational sponsorships.
Two recent beneficiaries are female 8 year-old twins. Their mother gave birth to them when she was not yet married. One year later, the children’s father died and three years ago their mother died.
These children had to live with their grandmother. Unfortunately, their grandmother does not like them because their mother gave birth to them when she wasn’t married. So their grandmother regards them as “bastard children” and maltreated them so badly that another good-willed woman took the children and the girls lived with her but she did not have the financial means to support them in school.
Through our call for sponsorships, one of these children came forward and we are happy that both of the twins are back to school on a RuWCED full scholarship which includes school fees, examination fees, school bags, notebook/exercise and text books, sportswear, umbrellas, and writing materials including pens, pencils, sharpeners, colour pencils, etc.
We are currently sponsoring 22 girls. The cost varies between 20 GBP and 100 GBP per academic year (depending on whether the student is in a primary or secondary school).