Sexual and home violence against women and girls, especially those living with disabilities is a fight that should concern everybody. This was the main thrust of the launching of this year’s 16 Days Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the North West region. The event held at the Baptist Center in Bamenda on November 25, 2022 under the auspices of the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
This year’s launching in the North West region witnessed the presentation of findings from a research study on why women and girls with disabilities find it difficult to report sexual violence against them.
In her opening statements, Mrs. Esseni Cordelia, Mezam Divisional Delegate of Women’s Empowerment and the Family, sitting in for her Regional Delegate who was unavoidably absent, said, GBV affects everyone, irrespective of age, colour or status, especially for women and girls with disabilities. She said due to inhibiting factors, data around GBV is grossly limited, reason why she hailed the CBC Health Services for carrying out the first ever inclusive research on why women and girls do not report GBV. The Mezam Divisional Delegate of Women’s Empowerment and the Family stated that the state alone cannot achieve as much. She was optimistic that with the involvement of partners such as the CBCHS, UNFPA and other right based organizations, much will be achieved during the 16 Days of Activism that runs from November 25 to December 10, 2022.
Speaking for the Director of Health Services who was also called to other duties, the CBC Coordinator of Services for People with Disabilities, Mr. Awa Jacques Chirac who doubles as Program Manager of the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (SEEPD) program applauded the research team for a job well done. The astute Program Manager disclosed that the major difference between the former Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the current 17-point Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is its inclusive nature, which for the first time in Cameroon has been employed into a research methodology. He challenged stakeholders at the launching ceremony not to take the research findings as another document for their archives, but rather as a basis to redesign ‘our’ goals for greater impact.
Presenting the methodology used, Nsono Josephine, CBCHS Gender and Child Protection Supervisor revealed that they used the qualitative method using purposing sampling for 23 participants and 3 teen girls.
The lead researcher, Wango Julius outlined 11 factors from the findings why women and girls living with disabilities do not report cases of sexual and home violence against them. These include: fear of perpetrators, stigma from family and community, communication barriers (lack of community knowledge for sign language), self pity, complicity of other women to support abusers against them, indirect encouragement/inappropriate behaviour from victim (poor dressing), false promises from men, discouragement from friends, protection of family name especially when the perpetrator is a family member, slow judicial and expensive procedure and lack of knowledge of where to report (referral pathway not known).
The research recommended the creation of robust awareness through education, sensitization, and involvement of family and community members to love and support women and girls with disabilities by naming and shaming perpetrators against them. Without everyone coming on board to take action, the research concludes that the incidence of sexual abuse will continue to be on the rise.
A Round Table discussion on how to remove barriers to increase access to services by GBV services by women and girls concluded the launching ceremony in Bamenda. Participants came from MINPROFF, UNFPA, National Human Rights Commission in Bamenda, the Church, and UN Humanitarian services. Boyo Maurine from the CBCHS moderated the panel discussion.
All unite against GBVIt should be noted that the United Nations is marking the 16 Days of Activism against GBV under the global theme set by the UN Secretary General’s UNITE campaign, “UNITE: Activism to end Violence against Women and Girls”.
This is a significant time to scale up activities that protect particularly women and girls from violence and the effects of the crisis in the NW/SW regions.