My Journey

Edelquine Manka
Posted December 15, 2016 from Cameroon

I was born and raised in Cameroon although I have had an opportunity to live and study in a few European countries over a span of six years. Blessed with two adorable siblings and a loving mother, my family is not exactly a ‘normal’ one because my parents are divorced. The awful memories of the physical assaults my dad meted on my mother still haunt me. Yes, mom was a victim of domestic violence. It’s applaudable that my mum was courageous enough to leave an abusive marriage especially in an era where marriage was the ultimate goal for the Cameroonian woman and divorce was seriously frowned at; yet we the children had no choice than to live with the consequences. It was very frustrating living from hand to mouth since my dad outrightly disowned us and went unpunished thanks to the ineffective social welfare and biased gender laws in Cameroon. While growing up, my siblings and I had to be extremely careful and work extra hard to validate ourselves and to proof that children from broken homes were not cursed after all. My mum did same by sacrificing all to ensure that we had quality education.

My personal trauma, which is experiencing an abusive home environment in childhood ingrained in me the passion to fight for the rights of women. As early as my teenage years, I envisaged that violence against women was all shades of wrong and I would always advice my peers to avoid potentially violent situations like dating guys with a violent track record. At this juncture, I was ignorant and limited violence against women only to inflicting physical pains on a women. This perception changed when I was severely abused emotionally by my boyfriend to the extent that I lost my sense of self-worth and dignity before seeking help. Aside my personal experiences, I know at least five women (relatives inclusive) who have lost their lives to abusive spouses as well as several others who are either shy to speak up or take action against their abusive spouses. Rape is also very rampant in Cameroon, a form of violence that is normalized by the society along with physical violence and verbal abuse.

Violence against women was so common in Cameroon that I took initiative to start sensitizing women in little ways. This obviously influenced me to pursue a master’s degree in Gender Studies during which it gave me a deeper understanding of the phenomena and how to decipher its causes in Cameroon; poverty ranks as the number one cause. It dawned on me that sensitizing and educating women was not enough as women also needed to be economically empowered so as to reduce their vulnerability. After volunteering in many organizations of women empowerment for a period of three years, I finally summoned courage and partnered with a few other strong women to create Cameroon’s Association for Social and Economic Empowerment of Women (CAMASEEW) whose main objective is to fight poverty amongst women by empowering them both socially and economically. Our areas of focus include but are not limited to promoting the education of the girl child, fighting violence against women, promoting entrepreneurship as well as encouraging women in areas of agricultural and technological innovation.

I have become extremely passionate about gender issues and I am so excited to join this platform where I hope to meet and network with many other women who share same interests and similar visions with me.

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