Cameroon: Supporting widows and single mothers through education

 

MiA, in cooperation with Buddhist Global Relief  and our local partners from CCREAD Cameroon, is continuing to support the education of widows and single mothers in Cameroon. 

  

CCREAD is a non-profit organization that works to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by promoting universal education, inclusion, and gender equality within the framework of environmental sustainability. Marginalized and disadvantaged women and girls, in particular, will be supported through education, health, and community empowerment projects. 

  

Many women are affected by sexual and domestic violence, suffer trauma from cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), or breast beating, are married early, become pregnant quickly, and are often abandoned by their husbands and left alone because they cannot return to their families. Many of these girls and young women have been unable to finish school. In the case of unintentional pregnancies, they are usually abandoned. In order to survive, they often resort to illegal sex trafficking.  

Only by acquiring professional skills can they become economically independent and overcome poverty. The project further helps them integrate into society by teaching additional skills that facilitate their integration into society and their entry into working life. 

In partnership with Buddhist Global Relief, we are supporting vocational training for impoverished, marginalized widows and single mothers, as well as local girls and youth, in Bolifamba, a community in southwestern Cameroon. Ninety-eight percent of the residents of this area are farmers, and more than 85 percent of households live below the UN poverty line, with less than $1 a day to live on. 

Your donations helped finance the construction of a training center, where more than 600 women and girls are now being trained every year. They receive free vocational training in a variety of fields: tailoring, design, hairdressing, beauty care, weaving, and agro-food processing. The training usually lasts at least six months and includes learning to read and write. At the end of the training, the participants receive a diploma as well as start-up funding and all other necessary support to start their own small business. 

 

In 2021, special emphasis was placed on educating women and teenagers who have been internally displaced by sociopolitical violence, so-called internally displaced persons. Many of them have lost members of their family and spouses to armed conflicts.   

Last year, the training center was outfitted with a functioning water system. It was also possible to install a permanent source of energy through solar electrification and to provide additional training rooms for the trainees. 

  

Two graduation ceremonies were organized in 2020 and 2021 for more than 150 graduates. Within this most recent funding cycle, the following individuals were served:183 single mothers with no alternative livelihood were enrolled and received a degree, including:

  • 97 widows without gainful employment or outside support, who, on average, had 3 children to care for on their own and without other support
  • 230 adolescents, mainly young girls, who had dropped out of school to work
  • 163 internally displaced persons 

Three women describe their stories below: 

 

Ms. Eunice Etakem, a recent graduate, got a job two weeks later at a fashion company in Douala. She recounts: "When I got pregnant and my mother sent me out of the house, I was devastated. I left Bamenda and came to Buea. A friend told me that CCREAD could solve my problems. When I finally came to CCREAD and asked for help, they took me in and took care of me. I was able to enroll in the training center. Nine months later, I am now a proud graduate. I'm a certified dressmaker and designer and happy to be earning a salary and in charge of my own life. I will always be grateful to CCREAD and their partners for this opportunity that changed my life." 

  

Nzelle Edie Queenta, 2020 graduate says: "I was amazed that I was able to start the training without paying a dime. This motivated me to finish this fantastic training program. I am happy that I was able to open my small beauty care business with the seed money provided by CCREAD-Cameroon. I appreciated the kind and skilled instructors and I will continue to recommend that other women who are struggling come here. This training changed my life." 

 

Enguly Manga Likkove, a 2021 graduate, explains: "This was a unique opportunity for me, and I am a living testimony of the power of the program. My life has changed dramatically since the first day I came to CCREAD. I started sewing clothes for people and received money for it even before I graduated. I am confident about the future. I promise to come back and support this project in the future."

  

Text: Susanne Goemann, MiA Project Lead for Cameroon