In Conversation with Women’s March Bamenda
Together with women and allies around the world, Women’s March Bamenda, Cameroon joined the #WomensWave Global Anniversary in January to stand up and activate change in their communities. The following is an article by Ngwa Damaris, the Chapter Ambassador, who tells us about their #WomensWave event and circumstances that drove them to establish a local chapter.
The current situation in Cameroon and the climate of insecurity and violence drove us to create a community event with the theme Women in Conflict Standing Strong.
There were three main points on our agenda:
1) To educate women on the various types of Gender-Based violence
2) How to care for women (our friends, family and ourselves) physically and mentally during the said crisis period so that we stay safe and healthy
3) How we can serve as advocates for peace to resolve the current situation in Cameroon
Although English and French are both official languages in Cameroon, there are policies in place that discriminate against English speakers, particularly in judicial and in education systems. The English speaking regions have been in a state of war since 2016 because of this marginalization. Their demand for more say in government was denied by President Paul Biya and resulted in strikes, demonstrations and an uprising. In response, leaders of the movement were arrested, the government blocked the internet and installed a curfew as part of repressive state measures to control the situation. The crisis intensified in October 2017 when peaceful protests to proclaim independence in Bamenda, Buea and dozens of towns and communities ended with at least 40 dead and over 100 injured due to the excessive force of defence and security forces. Bamenda is the capital of the North West Region which is part of the English speaking regions and has been seriously affected by violence and bloodshed.This situation has internally displaced people, especially women and children. Some have sought safety and refuge by living in the bush.
Because of the high level of insecurity, we could not establish a long march, however, on the day we marched around the neighbourhood, followed by our presentation and something to eat and drink. We used my family home for the event, raising funds as a family for the event with support from Supreme Master Ching Hai.
In line with our theme — Women in Conflict Standing Strong — one of the reasons for organizing this march was for women to come together in unity and support and take a break from thinking about the trauma taking place around us. Our presentations were open for everyone to contribute, it was a lively discussion and we were all able to connect with one another through this participation. It was a wonderful experience and we had a great turnout.