Of all the activities of the Community Association for Vulnerable persons (CAVP), writing inspirational stories has been very touchy. The stories and photos are part of the activity “Let the light shine”. The goal of presenting these stories is to create better awareness of how the rural woman/girl due to their vulnerability is exposed to all kinds of dangers. When we hear the stories of vulnerable women/girls from their own words we are moved. Women have experience sexual and domestic violence at different levels and communities in their lives. Some have died and their children are stranded while others have acquired a disability, and are unable to provide for the up keep of their children and grand children.
Helen is a victim of domestic violence in the village of Awing, Santa Subdivision in the North West Region of Cameroon.
This is a very dark but powerful and real story about a woman named Helen who became disabled from gender-based violence. Her step son cut her arms with machetes because she said “no” to his requests for sex and reported him to the fon of her village.
Helen’s story in her own words
“I am a disabled woman today because my husband died. Before he died, he shared his property among us. I was the last wife of five wives. Our husband shared us land. I constructed on my own land before he died. After two years of his death, my stepson, the child of the second wife, 37 year old man was in Sangmalima, a village in the Central region of Cameroon, he came to my village, Awing. As he came back, he came in my compound. So he said before I continue to live in my own compound, I must be his wife. Before I use any of my husband’s property I must be his wife or else ‘I will kill you and your children.’
After he said that, he was doing all possible things to have a sexual relationship with me. He will try his best to force me to have sex with him. I refused the first day and ran to the palace and complained to the fon of Awing that my step son is coming and forcing me to have sex with me. When the fon called him to the palace and asked him, he refused and said he did not do anything like that. Then the fon said to him, ‘We know she’syour father’s wife but you don’t have to force her to be a wife because you don’t force a woman to be a wife.’ But he did not obey the fon and kept coming after me. I went back to complain to the fon. The fon said I should go to the police station and give a complaint to the police. Even though I took the complaint to the police, he kept coming after me. He set my farm on fire to burn me and my children in the house. The police came and saw everything. But he doesn’t stop coming.
On the 19th of December 2013, he came and hid in my compound on top of a tree and watched my children leaving for school. I was alone at home. He jumped down from the tree into the house and told me, ‘since you refused to be my wife and you have exposed me, I will cut your head and put in my bag.’ When he came to attack me, he had a machete, dagger, and a bag. ‘If I am able to kill you, I will be able to kill all your children. And will own everything my father gave you.’ As he was speaking to me, he was cutting me at the same time. Because I was protecting my neck from the machete, that’s how I got injuries on my hands,” Helen holds her arms up and waves her arms across her face.
“He was cutting me and I was shouting, ‘Jesus I am dying alone.’ Nobody was around to help me. When I fell down and unconscious and bleeding, he thought I was dead. He took my phone and left. When I gained conscious, I was lucky to find myself among people. At the technical school where my children attended, one of the teachers came to me using first aid box from the school but it was not enough because of the bleeding was very serious. As the bleeding was very persistent he went to the police station to make a call for emergency. One of my daughters went to the palace and told the fon, ‘My mother has been butchered”. I was lying there with one of my daughter. As I was lying, I died. My soul came out of my body and flowed to our compound. Then my soul entered my compound and met my father and presented myself to my father, ‘I am presenting to you myself how my step son has violated me.’
Then my father said to me, ‘Go back and meet your children. You are abandoning them to whom?’I was standing and still looking at my father, ‘Do you know how much pain I am feeling?’And my father turned and told my mother, ‘Close the door and don’t allow her to enter.’
Then he said to me, ‘Go back.’ My soul flowed back into my body.
I got up. I see people crying. I said, ‘Why are you crying.’
They said, ‘We see you dying.’
I said, ‘Did you see my father.’
They said ‘No.’ Then I was thirsty. One of the children gave me some small water to drink. They put some water in my mouth. So after that the police come with a vehicle and took me to the Awing health center. That’s when they stitched me to stop the bleeding. They believed if they didn’t stitch me, I would die. After that, they transferred me to the People’s Clinic Ngomngaham in Bamenda. I was taken to operation and properly treated. I stayed at the hospital for three to four months. I then had plaster for one year. The bones are still not yet joined. That’s why I still have bandages on my arms.”
“What happened to the stepson?” I asked her.
“He’s now in prison at Up-station Bamenda, Cameroon. But his family is against me and thinks I’m lying.”
Today Helen lives in a home temporary given to her by a family at the out sketch of Bamenda central town in the North West Region of Cameroon. She has ten grand children and some of her own children living with her. She still has effect of the violence and her grand children needs basic needs and a sustainable livelihood.