From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Gender-Based Violence’ – 16 Days of Activism
Colbert Gwain, CEO of A Common Future, Bamenda-Cameroon
Today marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence under the theme: ‘Together, Let’s Invest for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls’, for which a more fitting theme for Cameroon would be ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Gender-Based Violence.’
Officially recognized by the United Nations December 17, 1999 resolution, the day is aimed at raising awareness against gender-based violence.
A Common Future organization, in partnership with other like-minded organizations and the media, has decided to focus its attention throughout the 16 Days of Activism period on highlighting the disproportionate impact of the seven-year-old conflict in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon on women, girls, and children. We do this with the understanding that identifying and highlighting the resilience of women’s violence survivors would in one way or the other, appeal to parties to the deadly conflict to quickly bring it to an end. We also do this to emphasize the fact that militarism has never solved a problem in society and that we can individually and collectively challenge the militarization that has characterized life in the restive Anglophone regions that have been torn apart since 2016.
The violent conflict has increased the vulnerabilities of women and girls in local communities in the two English-speaking regions, where rape, sexual slavery, mutilation, forced impregnation, and forced “marriage” occur against them at a higher rate than obtained during times of relative peace. Vulnerabilities have increased especially for women and girls who are collecting water or firewood, tending to fields, living as refugees or internally displaced to other communities, or in areas overrun with fighting between militias or state military.
Sexual violence, in its various forms, is used as a weapon to instill fear and maintain power over communities by armed militias and State authorities. Local women who work or live near military bases experience sexual violence at the hands of combatants.
The proliferation of small arms in local communities in the two English-speaking regions, which include guns, machetes, and knives, increases the threat of injury or death for women and children and normalizes masculinity with acts of violence. Statistics show that having a gun in the home increases the risk of someone being murdered by 41%, while for women in the context of domestic/intimate partner violence, the risk is increased by 272%. State actors use the threat or act of violence to maintain their stay in power. They claim a need to protect state security by unleashing violence on those deemed a threat, and they sexually and physically assault women protestors and dissenters fighting for political power.
Given that many men have disappeared or died due to the raging conflict, many more women who largely depended on the men for a livelihood are barely struggling to survive. It is estimated that there are 5000 war widows in the North West and South West Regions. Most of them are very young and have children to take care of. This adds to the thousands of suffering female Internally Displaced Persons in the other eight Francophone regions.
Many women continue to feel the effects of their abuse in psychological, physical, and social terms after the official end of violent conflict. While praying for a definite solution to be found so this violent conflict comes to an end; we urge survivors of the violent conflict to seek psychosocial and medical support from Mbeng’s Diagnostic and Therapeutic Clinic, official sponsor of A Common Future 16 Days of Activism campaign. You can reach out to them for your quality health care and tailored services at 677848842/698979112/654171135 or visit their offices at Yaounde-Nkolbison, behind l’hopital Irad and in Bamenda on the 2nd Floor, Quiferou Building, one way into Nkwen market