To many families, the present political unrest in Cameroon resulting from Anglophone Cameroonians staging a longstanding resentment demonstrated in civil disobedience and mass boycott is strange. For others, the trauma is enormous and yet to be overcome. People are expressing pent up anger to what they consider the marginalization of the English-speaking minority. Because of the unrest, many women are left to head their households due to the arrest of partners/fathers.
The burden of the marginalization and the outcome of resistance to the phenomenon is taking a toll on women. While, the crisis has persisted for about five months now, some women have resigned to destiny and have given up the struggle for survival, others weep and wonder how they will meet family demands, while another segment wallows in despair. But there is another category of women that has made the choice to keep their heads above the waters. Despite the impending hardship, they labour every day, risking their lives as they explore other strategies for survival. My mother belongs to the latter group, a group which to me epitomizes resilience.
The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon has been around for five decades and like other crisis often has peak periods when unrest would grip communities resulting to mass arrests and sometimes deaths. For close to three decades, my father has been living in obscurity and often going into hiding whenever the turmoil erupts. He had been earmarked as a believer in the secession of Anglophone Cameroon from the Republic of Cameroon, and thus has always been targeted for arrest.
Growing up, we were too young to understand why our father was constantly going into hiding sometimes for long periods allowing our mother to struggle to sustain the family. No one told us what was happening not even my mother. As I will later understand, she thought it inappropriate to tells us what was going on, never wanting us to become victims of worry. She also thought that as children, we would naively tell outsiders our father’s whereabouts. So, this struggle persisted and my mom had to bear the stress and pain all alone.
Although my mother worked to supplement family income, my father was the bread winner in my family and we could hardly appreciate my mother’s support until when our father was away. He provided our needs, paid our school fees and made strategic decisions in the family. My mother was sidelined and voiceless, surrendering her worth to Manhood until she had an opportunity to head the family. She fitted so well, filling all the gaps, working relentlessly and providing for all eight biological children and other relatives. She was indeed a square peck in a square hole.
In the early 2000s, my father was arrested during one of the many raids and placed under police detention. I remember visiting him, and surprisingly, I didn’t sink into depression. My mother had mysteriously filled the gap so much so that I no longer saw manhood as the pillar of existence. This was a turning point for me as a woman as it catapulted my empowerment and inspired my independence. I told myself my life should not revolve around men as was the norm in my community.
My mother became a role model to me and looking up to her gradually deconstructed the myth of male head of household, the man as the King and women just voiceless ‘property’. She taught us that women are heroes and great home managers. She taught us to fish and not wait for men to provide or depend on men for survival. She instilled in us the ability to believe in ourselves as women, not perceiving ourselves as less humans and not allowing anything or anyone to unduly relegate us to the background. My mother became a foundation for our success and bravery. Today I am an empowered woman because my mother braved the odds and gave us a future.
Today I celebrate the bravery of women like my mother who did not give up.
I celebrate the heroism of women who stand still in times of danger.
I celebrate the maturing of women in times of insecurity.
I celebrate the mystery of women, they are saviors in time of need.
I, therefore, challenge families who have been victimized by political instability in Cameroon and elsewhere in the world to rise never to fall.
To sisters whose husbands are in prisons and to those who don’t know the whereabouts of family heads and bread winners, be strong.
It’s time to fight for the family and not to give up.
It’s time to hope and not to fall into despair.
It’s time to fill the gap and not to widen it.
You are a victor, the solution in times like this.
Oh, arise dear sisters and become the backbone of your families and communities.
Cheer up, victory is not won in despair but in hard work.