The project coordinator of the Association for the Fight Against Violence done to Women (ALVF in French) in Far-North Cameroon shares the main lines of her action.
Ms. Coordinator, tell us what does your association do
It should be said that the Alvf is an association of lobbying that aims at a change of behavior in relation to certain practices that expose women to various dangers. The aim is to eliminate all forms of violence experienced by women and girls. For this, we work on the problem of early and forced marriages. Our work revolves around awareness-raising, sensitization and follow-up.
To carry out this kind of fight, you must first be close to the victims, who are in the “saré”?
We work in constant touch with our targets through a dense network that has been built around the homes in the neighborhoods of the Far North and the surrounding areas. It is also thanks to their dynamism that we manage to have information about what happens in these neighborhoods.
How do these early and forced marriages become a factor of under-schooling?
In fact, one has to emphasize first on the characteristics of the marriage to demonstrate it because the girls are withdrawn from school and we found that this happens very often in August. The cases we receive here are during the holidays. They are therefore sent at the beginning of the school year, we realize that there are girls who do not return to their school after that. Why? Because they were married. Those aware of the issue and who have seized us, have found an accompaniment that has allowed them to return to the educational system.
Speaking of violence against women, should we see here the only cases of beatings?
The reality of the Far North region shows us the typology of violence against women. We very often receive cases of violence like: abandonment of pregnant women, abandonment with dependent children and abduction of minors. That is to say that in Women Life Center of Maroua, the cases of beating are rather very rare, or the girls do not come to denounce these cases. We can therefore conclude that the violence is much more cultural: cases of early and forced marriages as well as sexual violence … are listed here.
And what is the place of man in your struggle?
They are our partners; we do not put them aside because it is not a war between sexes. We are working hand in hand to lead this fight.
Can we say that there are regions where this violence is recurrent relatively to others?
Violence is experienced in all regions. But an exploratory study makes us say that the Diamare and the Logone and Chari are very high in prevalence in matters of early and forced marriage.
Are there fights where the outcome allows you to draw some feelings of pride?
Yes, very much. There is the case of this girl forced by her parents to go into a wedding and against her will. Through our actions, we have been able to convince the parents and today she has returned to class. This year, the girl is in form 5. It is one of our great prides among many others. There are some who have regained autonomy through us and have joined forces to lead the fight.