Cameroonian Girls stand up for their Security, Health and Education

Two girls enjoy their time at school Two girls enjoy their time at school © Riccardo Lennart Niels Mayer on iStock

8 November 2021

This article is a brief presentation of the Plan International’s report on Cameroonian girls and their rights to security, health and education

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organization committed to advancing children’s rights and equality for girls worldwide. It mainly focuses on girls to ensure their success in life, work, decision-making, and control over their bodies. In this report, Plan International draws attention to the rights and needs of Cameroonian adolescent girls living in the North West and South West (NWSW) regions, forced to deal with both conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The conflict crisis in the NWSW regions of Cameroon has escalated since 2016. The report emphasizes that approximately 3000 civilians have lost their lives. Moreover, about 750,000 people fled their homes resulting in 60,000 refugees in Nigeria. In this context, not only the conflict but also the Covid-19 represented a major threat to children. According to the data gathered, early in 2021, less than 30% of schools were viable as many of them closed. Because of the pandemic, education was not available to 1,033,000 children. Furthermore, according to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, armed groups and state security forces injured, killed, and abducted more than 1,000 students and teachers between 2017 and 2019. The UN Secretary General has listed the conflict of Cameroon in the annual report of 9th June 2020 to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). On this occasion, the tremendous amount of rights violations and the gravity of the actions was presented as “Situation of Concern” for children.  

In other words, Cameroonians suffer a two-fold crisis. On the one hand, the conflict rages; on the other hand, the spread of the pandemic causes instability in any aspect of their lives. It is against this background that Plan International adopted a multi-sectoral assessment. It aims to extract valuable information from men and boys and adolescent mothers, married and pregnant young women. The goal is to give voice to girls who have been silenced for a long time by demonstrating their needs in terms of life, food security, health, education, and work. 

The assessment exercise provided by Plan International includes a range of tools and techniques to gather and evaluate the experiences and opinions of these young people. The research methodology implies a multi-method qualitative approach. Minors were split into two single-sex groups of six to ten adolescents according to their age (10-14 years and 15-19 years). Three main tools implied in the exercise are: the Girl Empowerment Star (GES), the Visioning Exercise, and the Day in a Young Person’s Life (DYPL). Moreover, the groups of minors were complemented by a group discussion with parents and caregivers (Focus Group Discussions – FGDS) and with Key Informant Interviews (KIIS). The assessment found out that adolescent girls continue to be ambitious despite adverse living conditions. Furthermore, not only did civil war and Covid-19 deprive girls of their rights, but gender inequality also worsened their situation. In particular, the report points out three priorities to implement. The first one refers to peace-building and conflict resolution to eradicate the fear young girls feel from any perspective (violence, killings, rape, threats, abduction, etc.). The second one relates to the importance of education. Many factors prevent girls from going to school. From Covid-19 to the early pregnancy, from the civil war to child marriage or sexual exploitation, education for girls is a challenge to take up. Despite the difficulties, these young women want to be able to return to school to preserve their right to education. The third aspect concerns health. Providing information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is essential for preventing early pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. Likewise, parents and adults have a crucial role in the girls’ empowerment. For example, parents must be able to increase dialogue and raise awareness about SRHR. In other words, information and empowerment are complementary to guarantee these girls the fulfilment of their ambitions and a decent livelihood. 

In conclusion, education is the common thread of all aspects of young women’s life. Therefore, it must strengthen and improve as effectively as possible. In this vein, the report sets out several recommendations. In particular, Plan International urges the Member States to take steps to prevent attacks against schools, but also against the six grave violations against children. Likewise, peaceful solutions and increasing advocacy are crucial against the obstructed access to communities in the NWSW regions. Similarly, the organization calls on the Government of Cameroon to reinforce such steps by listening to the girls’ calls, reducing violence, supporting teachers, and promoting dialogue and peace. Finally, the organization expects humanitarian actors and donors to remove barriers to education for children and to implement a development strategy, especially for young mothers, pregnant and married girls.

 

To read more, please visit:

https://plan-international.org/publications/listen-us-adolescent-girls-conflict-and-covid-19 

https://plan-international.org/publications/listen-us-adolescent-girls-conflict-and-covid-19#download-options 

https://plan-international.org/100-million-girls 

 

Author: Valentina Di Carlantonio

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