"Coffee bangfen". I heard that statement a couple of times which at some point drew my attention. So i decided to find out what it meant. My findings let me to discover a phenomenon that realy saddened my heart. This is the name given to girls from rural areas of the North west region of Cameroon who have moved to towns to prostitute. It means "coffee is ripe here". So they follow where they smell money, "coffee".
It is a phenomenon where teenagers in rural areas who get pregnant, deliver, after sometime because of hard life, abandon the child to their old mothers in the village and move to town hoping to find a job, then end up on the streets as prostitutes. It is a trend that kills the dreams of the girl child and render women especially from the rural areas hopeless and desperate. This situation is overwhelmingly a draw back to our fight to shine our light as women who want to move from the social background to the forefront of where things are happenning.
So, i had to find out how this vicious cycle works. I spoke to some girls and identified promenent villages where these girls were from. Ngoketunjah and Menchum Divisions. So i went to the field to do field studies. 7 out of 10 teenagers in this village was either pregnant or was already having a child. 3 out of this 7 drop out from school, 2 may continue school after giving birth, 1 had never been to school. They later abandon the child to their old mother who practically has no energy or time to take care of a child. They come back from the farm and just take the children who have been roaming the village, eating from thesame plates with pigs and stray animals and they sleep without bathing. The child may become malnourished because of one or two factors and if or when they grow up, they follow thesame trend and the cycle continues. Some less fortunate of these girls contract aids in the cities just to go back to the village and die leaving the child with their old mother.
What are we doing as women to see that we help our women folk to move to a level where the most of us are not seen as vulnerable? We as change makers, we have an obligation. Shining as a star alone doesnt mean success. Success is when you empower others who inturn can empower others and all of us grow as a group, as women.
Challenged by this situation i spoke with Mrs Katherine Martins, another sister on world pulse from USA. She adviced i find out if these girls can learn some kind of craft. I was amazed when i spoke to a few. Some were really talented in making sandals, slippers, shoes, handbags. It was enough talent that one could earn a living out of. We decided to provide some finance to see what they could realy make. I should not leave out the fact that it was very difficult convincing a few to agree to do this. When i saw what they could make out of the small material we provided, i cried. Hidden talent, wasting on the streets, mistreated as gabbage. It was one thing getting them to believe they could actually make a living out of their handcraft or learning a craft and another, actually getting them off the street.
So, what is the plan;
We have identified some girls to follow up
We provide what we can, to buy material, they produce what they can and we market and give them to reinvest. I have a dream, where a small center is created for girls from rural areas who want to get off the streets can learn a craft, produce articles and i market for them. I have also identified raw material like banana that is in abundance in menchum division that can be transformed into chips and supplied to super markets. It will employ only girls and mothers in the rural areas. Here they can earn money to take care of their babies and therefore see no need to move to town. Profits from this venture could be used to organise adult classes for those who are not literate, to learn to read and write.
I believe little things can grow to big things, sister holding sisters hand and all climbing the ladder to a more powerful and influencial ecomically empowered woman bringing even the forgotten along, no one left behind.
I also have a dream that someday, no woman will have to sell her body to provide for her child.
Sister, we can dream this dream together and see how far we can help each other to be the best we can be.