"The ideals of the International Women’s Day Celebration are far from the reality in rural Cameroon."
Round table conferences, radio talk shows over the national station, weeklong activities carried out within urban areas, women dressed in beautiful IWD fabric, and beautiful and meaningful themes characterize the celebration of the IWD in urban Cameroon. However, in rural Cameroon, the picture is quite different. The beautiful IWD fabric which is distributed for free in the urban areas is sold to rural women at an exorbitant price. According to radio reports from local stations, it is believed that this period accounts for high rates of sexual abuse since most women and girls are under a lot of pressure to get the money to buy the fabric and to go drinking and merrymaking. Many vulnerable women and girls get infected with varied diseases during this celebration because they prostitute themselves to have money.
As a social activist within my community, I wonder all the time why such a well conceived international celebration for the empowerment of women should be misconstrued within my country in such a manner. The only way rural women within my community know it is celebration time (8th March) is the IWD fabric that is being sold everywhere and different fees charged in their meeting houses for entertainment during the celebration. The local event organizers, the delegation of women’ empowerment and the family, does nothing really impactful on the life of a rural woman but to collect registration fees from female groups.
It is not normal for a day like this, intended to empower the underprivileged, to be turned into a weapon of exploitation. Creating Awareness and Empowerment of Women is what makes the celebration have value. It is for this reason I feel a celebration of this magnitude should be characterized by outreach programs: health campaigns, talks on important topics, economic empowerment activities, exchange visits and more. I believe if this is done, it will go a long way to reduce the vices cited above and leave the women and girls empowered and educated as well. There are moments I feel those in charge of the celebration have not had time to think on how much money is being wasted on renting five star hotels and fueling of cars for round table conferences from which a rural woman gains nothing. I think it would be beneficial to the celebration if such money is used for a weeklong training of rural women to empower them with knowledge and skills to survive their daily challenges. I dream of a period in my community when the IWD celebration will mean: free screening of women from different diseases, counseling of women and girls on their pressures from the society, networking with other community women to exchange views on common issues affecting them, and a period of frank discussions between men and women to ensure better family settings and more. The government of my country should therefore realize all of what I have mentioned above can’t be achieved just by the efforts of local community organizations for development but with a combined effort of all stakeholders. The celebration of the IWD in my country Cameroon should be for a rural woman’s empowerment instead of a time where rural women are cruelly taken advantage of in their purse and in their bodies.