My Journey

Avera
Posted July 26, 2016 from Cameroon

Hello sisters,

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.

Comments 7

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chimdirimebere
Jul 26, 2016
Jul 26, 2016

Dear Sis,

I am very proud of you and the work you are doing in Cameroon from Addis Ababa. I think the whole continent of Africa is infested with this wickedness.  The annoying thing is that women are there own problems.  It is the women that will ask widows to drink the water from their dead husbands body, roll in mud water etc; i don't know if what they want to achieve is 'revenge'.  Yes, it was done to me during my own time, now i must do it to the next person. 

My dear, sister, i believe so much that education of the girls and women will put a stop to most of this rubbish.  Girls must be encouraged to go to school. Bet you me, that any woman your status will not be subjected to such inhumane treatment.  So education is the answer to most of this problems.

Keep up with the good work you are doing. I encourage all sisters in addition to whatever their work is to train a girl child in school.

Long live world Pulse community. Long live Jensine, the visionary Champion!

Chimdirimebere

Jul 26, 2016
Jul 26, 2016
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
Avera
Jul 27, 2016
Jul 27, 2016

Thank you dear Chichi, hoping that you would'n mind me calling you that.

You are very correct. We are starting a programme to educate men and boys on the ills perpetrated against widows. We hope that in the near future, this programme will bring lasting change to our community and will have a ripple effect on those other communities with same practices.

I wish you success in all what you are doing

Avera

Tathy
Jul 27, 2016
Jul 27, 2016

Hi Avera,

May the Lord give you strength in your venture. Change of mind set and change of behaviour is the name of the game for both men and women. We need to take responsibility and stop confining ourselves. We need to know and understand who we really are.Thank you for what you are doing.

Regards

Tathy

Avera
Jul 27, 2016
Jul 27, 2016

Hello dear Tathy, a million thanks for those words of  encouragement. Yes dear. Behavioural change is what we need. Until  then, all our efforts may only go down the drain.  One way to  succeed will be for us (different organisations working on the same or similar issues to partner with one another and give training, sensitisation campaigns etc to the target communities ) in different countries at the same time. In this way, it will impact all or most of those concerned.

Regards,

Avera

BarbaraP
Jul 30, 2016
Jul 30, 2016

Dear Avera,

It is wonderful to read your story.  Being a diplomat's wife and not being allowed to work or volunteer in Ethiopia didn't stop you from doing something about the conditions of widows that you witness.  The disparity being married and widowed women is striking and even though you say some politicians recognize the problem they aren't working in the trenches like you are.  Congratulations on not being hindered in doing what you know is right.  Keep up the hard work with Green Planet Association.  I look forward to hearing more good news of what you are accomplishing with your hard effort and good skills.

I wish you much luck!

Barbara

kaitlinl
Aug 03, 2016
Aug 03, 2016

Dear Avera,

I am really inspired by your drive and passion to make the lives of women and children around you better. You are absolutely right that these practices that are forced upon widows are denying their human rights, and I admire the action you've taken to aid in their empowerment. I hope that the community on World Pulse will inspire you as well and give you some ideas for developing strategies for growing your organization!

Kaitlin