I would like to introduce myself as part of the Digital Change-Making 101 training.
My name is Avera. I am a Cameroonian who’s been living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the past 24 years. I am a psychologist, professional teacher, teachers’ trainer, and entrepreneur. I was born in Limbe, Cameroon (formerly Victoria) but come from a small town (Mamfe) in the South West region (Manyu Division) of Cameroon (about 70 kilometres from Nigeria) where the main occupation of most inhabitants is subsistence agriculture and small-scale trade. I have been married for 30 years and my husband and I have four lovely children.
I have been in this group for a little while, usually just commenting on some of the amazing and wonderful articles written by my fellow World Pulse sisters when the internet connection permits.
I have been a stay-at-home mom during my entire stay in Ethiopia. As the spouse of a diplomat, I am, unfortunately, not allowed to work in Ethiopia - not even to do voluntary work. In spite of that, I have always found a way to keep myself busy. Hahahaha!!!
Professionally, I have varied work experience including leadership, event and conference organisation, teaching, being a rapporteur, and a businesswoman. I have also worked with both national and international organisations.
I have organized conferences for the United Nations Department of Gender in New York; The United Nations Economic commission for Africa; International Organization for Migration(IOM); The International Labour Organization (ILO);The African Union Commission; The African Development Bank, International Plan Parenthood Federation (IPPF), to name but a few.
I realised that our standards and values are fast deteriorating. You enter a super-market or shop, the reception is very poor; the hairdressing salon set up, staff etc. In brief, service provision be it in public or private sector, is very poor.
I will therefore start an e-Institute for Ethics and Social Development as soon as I have the funds, to revamp our ethics and customer service in both the private and public sectors.
In our traditional setting where husbands are basically the sole providers or bread winners, their deaths are often followed by extreme financial hardship on their respective families, heightening the psychological, emotional and economic stress of those they leave behind.
Their Widows and children disproportionately suffer from malnutrition, poor health, and physical insecurity and are often at high risk of rape, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and being ostracized.
Cameroon, like most African countries has an impressive number of legislations that seek to protect widows. However, field evidence as to what actually happens in reality shows that these laws are but mere words on paper that have no practical effect. The point here is that all the international, regional and in particular Cameroon domestic laws have fallen short of protecting widows and their children against derogatory, dehumanizing and discriminatory customary widowhood practices and rites at the implementation phase.
Though the treatment of widows varies across various communities in the world, the treatment meted out to widows within the Manyu community and Cameroon in general,is largely abhorring and discriminatory; one that calls for a sustainable effort to ensure that the human rights of widows (and women in general) and their children are acknowledged and respected, not disregarded. In an environment where superstition, suspicion and witchcraft are rife, the following practices are far too common:
Widows are forced to drink the water used to wash the corpses of their dead spouses to “prove” their innocence of not having a hand in their death. Water is thrown on muddy ground and widows are forced to roll in it like pigs. Widows are not allowed to bathe for a certain period, usually until after the burial of her deceased husband or longer. Are forced to shave their hair. Forced to wear only sackcloth (black attire) for the one year mourning period or longer, that they have no say in. Some widows are even forced to remarry their brother-in-law and should they refuse, certain rights and privileges would be unjustly and illegally taken away from them by their husbands’ families - including their children, cars, houses, and any other tangible property, just to name a few.
During my work with these widows and their children, about 90% of them have moved back into their father’s houses. With the aging and poor parents, and some blind or deceased, there’s very limited provision on a daily basis. Some of the children have been forced to drop out of school and help out with farm work to help feed their families. Some even end up having children out of wedlock from a lack of education, thereby compounding their families’ problems.
In some families, you have 19 people living in a two-bedroom house (i.e. grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren). Some of these houses do not have toilets/ latrines or water systems in place, and residents have no choice but to walk long distances to fetch drinking water and wood for cooking.
After reading and experiencing first hand all the above-mentioned issues, it’s clear that there’s a denial of fundamental human rights and violence against widows in my country.
And that is why I started Green Planet Association.
Currently, I am the CEO and founder of Green Planet Association, an NGO/non-profit organization in my home country Cameroon that caters for Widows and their children as well as school dropouts.
Our projects/programmes range from Education and Training, vocational Training, Professional Training, Health, Agriculture, entrepreneurship and Human Rights.
Since I started, every day gives me a reason to keep going on. In due course, my intention is to expand to other parts of the world where this practice against widows is prevalent. You may want to know how I manage it living in Addis Ababa.
There’s a passionate and committed team of workers on the ground and I shuttle between Addis Ababa and Cameroon two to three times each year to make sure that things are done as planned.
We have a real challenge with funding. Since its inception, my husband and I have been the sole financial investors, so we are constantly looking for donors. We would also appreciate the services of a project writer.