The Art of Creating Traditional Wear to Advocate for Gender Balance in the Northwest

Veronica Ndi Ngum
Posted May 19, 2017 from Cameroon
North West Cultural outfits ready for sale
Lillian with a complete female outfit
Lillian with a complete female outfit (1/1)

The traditional North West attire is known to be worn by notables and traditional leaders in the North West region of Cameroon. The culture is that which has norms which are discriminative and tolerate gender inequality. The woman is subdued and made to understand that her place is far behind the margin and cannot be among the men.

As a changemaker who is a woman with a disability, I face the same stigma and stereotype like Lillian and have developed the interest to integrate art in my works. Meeting Lillian gave me a strategic direction and focus on the type of arts (Handicraft/Embroidery) to be integrated in my field of work.

Lillian is a house wife and a mother who took upon herself the challenge to take the bold step and make a change in her community. She took the initiative to empower herself from others who were already experts in the art of creating the north west Cameroon traditional wear, who of course are men to break the barrier and bring a change in her community.

This potential in Lilian has greatly open up new ways for her to relating to others, in that producers of the traditional wear network with tailors, seamstresses, fabric sellers, wool sellers and needle work equipment sellers. She is able to leave the kitchen, home chores and unpaid home work and go out to meet other business partners, share ideas and improve on her talents. This is because her nature of business requires her to be very creative and bring out new designs that can be very captivating in the market. To herself, she has greatly improved on her self-esteem and her challenges she face as a woman due to cultural barriers have been greatly minimized.

This art makes a difference in my community because perceptions have been changed. Gender discrimination has reduced and the dress is now universally used by men, women, boys, girls and whites who come from the western world as tourist, missionaries and volunteers. Poverty has been reduced and livelihood improved for Lillian and her family because it is a business that she generates income for herself and family. Her husband now also advocate for the rights of other women to be fairly treated and have freedom of interaction, communication and networking. The women of my community now have the opportunities to be economically empowered.

This art has helped heal trauma in Lillian and many other women who are victims of gender based violence. It requires a lot of thinking and creating new designs. It has help the victims especially Lillian to heal psychologically because instead of being idle and thinking of her experiences in violence, she spends more time now creating designs in her mind before putting them down with needle and thread on fabric.

The community has been brought a together through networking with business partners. Men and women are more united and most men are now advocates for gender equality in my community. Lillian is now a trainer and has also brought in the community for women with disabilities who suffer triple jeopardy. The society of notables, women, men and persons with disabilities are fully bridged. Awareness of the potentials of the marginalized minority has been created and all the aspects of things which culture considers being a taboo can now be said in public.

Lillian used Arts to create a change of perception and cause her husband to be an advocate in my community. She has been able to build a community where men respect women's rights.

Her story has made her a role model to other marginalized women.

She has use the art of making the North West traditional outfit to build a resilient and sustained community the North West region of Camerooon.

How to Get Involved

You can be involve by contacting Veronica to share more stories and how she is creating change in her community. [email protected]

This story was submitted in response to Share On Any Topic.

Comments 4

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Jill Langhus
May 20, 2017
May 20, 2017

Hi Veronica. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story. So, Lillian has taught you to create these garments as well to generate income? What is triple jeopardy?

May 31, 2017
May 31, 2017

Dear Vero,

I love the "tongho" because it gives Cameroon an identity. Remember it earned Cameroon a gold medal the the commonwealth games.

It is definitely a source of income to many families and I am happy it has changel Lilian's story and has inspired you to join in making it.

Good luck and hope to hear how it progresses 


Clodine Mbuli Shei
Jun 13, 2017
Jun 13, 2017

Dear Vero, thanks for sharing about Lilian. Traditional attires in the North west Region is good business. Am glad women like Lilian are in to it. it will help break the vicious cycle of poverty 

Tebi Honourine
Jun 15, 2017
Jun 15, 2017

Great Job Veronica.

You change peoples lives, peoples mentality, cover peoples bodies with beautiful North West Fabric and creating wealth for your self and others like Lilian. I encourage the work you do especially as schools are not functional in this part of the Country. Am sure you should be having more apprentice in your place now. 

Please where is your place located.

How can one get to you.