By Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo, Founder/Exec. Director, WFAC Cameroon, November 2013
Happy Birthday Women for a Change Cameroon!
"As we celebrate WFAC's birthday, I wish to take a moment and send out Huge Thank you to all our friends and supporters – who continue to show support and love for our works. Your encouraging words and comments continue to serve as our string for strength."
Dear WFAC friends, supporters, and members,
Today makes WFAC four: four years of unique experience, self-sponsorship, and impeccable grassroots activism with great impacts on several lives – particularly women and girls.
WFAC (Women for a Change Cameroon) at four comes with much joy and huge achievements – the most recent being the prefectural order that authorizes it to function as a non-profits Association NGO.
Following, over the weekend, WFAC through the generous support of Stop Street Harassment will be offering life skill training to some 30 adolescent girls and boys on saying no to gender violence, particularly, street harassment and sexual violence.
Whenever I sit to write anything about WFAC – be it an article, a post, report, project. or programme, I realize I am always drown in words and emotions. A feeling I can hardly control.
It is at times like this, when I look back and see how far we have gone, the number of persons reached, lives touched and transformed with our small team of four in just four years, I believe furthermore to the infallible leadership of women and girls: the key role women would always play in fostering development and social change.
Since the creation of WFAC on Nov 26, and it’s launch on November 28, 2009, over 100 young men and women – majority from the University of Buea, have benefited enormously from our offers – capacity building and empowerment schemes, which continue to create safe spaces for both members and young people to exchange, gain, and enhance their knowledge of their rights and responsibilities, and how to keep themselves and others safe from violence.
Each 16 Days' observance therefore to me serves as a renewal of the engagement and commitment I had made on November 26, WFAC's birthday:
“That I shall stand up for myself and for all women, and work selflessly towards ending the inequalities women and girls faced within my community and across the globe”.
Four Years of Greatness in All Its Complexity
Like a sister recently posted on her wall:
“The journey may look good on paper, but it doesn’t show the bumps and bruises on the road. It doesn’t show the detours and the traffic. You can’t map out how many times your GPS will announce that you must 'recalculate'…”
Olutosin Adebowale, November 2013
WFAC has gone through all the multilayers of intimidation, jubilation, and tribulation.
We have had members come and leave because we can’t pay for their time and services. Some members have broken up with partners, distanced themselves from family and friends because of the choices made to devote their lives and work on women’s [humanitarian] issues and not look for ‘white collar’ jobs that earns more, or write public exams into government service.
We have even have been called names, to the extent of being referred to as ‘briefcase NGO’ workers, simply because we can’t afford to rent an office space.
On countless occasions, I remember how I and the small team would trek to workshops and sometimes forgo our lunch or basic needs or use our house rents, personal savings earned from or side-jobs, just so we pay for our community outreach services, printings and photocopying, internet and communication cost, campaign materials and training resources.
For four years, this is what we have been doing repeatedly. And always people would ask:
“Why go to this extreme?”
“What do you stand to benefit?”
“You’ve got so much good ideas, why not look for huge funding?”….
Till date, I still haven’t had a better way to respond to all the questions– but what I know is: In all, it makes us happy and empowered! The little and small gestures we do with all humbleness make us grow stronger and wiser each day. It has enabled us understand the world better and also to discover our own unique persons. It has also made us to see deeper, how society’s organized form of suppression – especially on women and girls, works and the daily challenges and fear of a common girl/young woman – whose life continues to be a nightmare as a result of all these constraints and norms backed by ancient socio-cultural and economic practices.
So, if today we remain steadfast and continue to serve as the loudspeaker for women and girls' issues, particularly sexual reproductive health rights, it is because we have lived to witness and experience firsthand what it means to be a woman and a girl in a high patriarchal society.
And it is my hope by WFAC’s 10th anniversary, we should be proud to have meaningfully impacted the lives of at least 1,000 girls, helped improve healthy behaviours and knowledge around women and girls' sexual reproductive health rights – including access to comprehensive sexuality education package, build strong alliances among young people for women’s rights, and establish mechanisms and strategies on data collections, record tracking and progress made towards ending sexual gender-based violence in this community.
And above all, WFAC should be that safe haven and recovery home where girls and women victims of gender-based violence can seek help, advice. and directions to justice – making violence against women and girls history!
As we celebrate WFAC's birthday, I wish to take a moment and send out Huge Thank you to all our friends and supporters – who continue to show support and love for our works. Your encouraging words and comments continue to serve as our string for strength.
Thank you to Safe World for Women, who has been with us since the start, especially for generously offering WFAC a space on your website. Thank you!
Thank you to all our partners, whose contributions have enabled us to reach out and impact several young people's lives. Special thank you to Stop Street Harassment organization for making it possible for WFAC to be able to train these adolescents during this critical time in history, where the world is saying 'No' to violence against women and girls.
Thank you to my small team of WFAC – one of the smallest team of persons I have ever worked with.