Cameroon: Initiative to Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women and Children in Cameroon

As part of activities marking this year's #16Days of Activism against gender-based violence under the theme: “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect”, the Dignity Television Project is rebooting its activities. It is doing so by rather revisiting the 16 Days'  2013 theme: “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women”, which theme is more fitting and appropriate to the present Cameroonian context. 

 

The national conversation on challenging militarism and ending gender-based violence (GBV), shall consist of initiating, sustaining and animating campaigns through social media and using hashtag #16 Days to share facts. It would also be a moment to pose and answer questions on how both men and women, boys and girls, could each play a role in making sure that every woman, girl and child, have the fundamental rights to a life free of the type of violence we have witnessed in the last four years.

 

Our conversations would, for the upcoming 16 Days, that is, from November 25, which is the International Day Against Violence Against Women, through December 10, which is International Human Rights Day, be axed on four primary area. This would include violence committed by state actors, abuses committed by none state actors, the role of small arms in domestic violence, and sexual violence committed during and after conflict. Through these four thematic areas, attention shall be drawn to the link between militarism and violence committed against women, which violence continues to pose serious threats to women's physical and emotional safety in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons in particular, and the nation in general.

 

The 16-Day campaign conversations would also highlight the economic underpinnings of violence against women, pointing to the fact that improved economic and social conditions could enhance women's rights and prevent gender-based violence. 

 

The project is also encouraging well-meaning Cameroonians to take action on calling for #EndSouthernCameroonsCrisis by wearing the white ribbon, which symbolizes the commitment of the wearer to never commit or condone violence against women and children. 

 

We would also be encouraging citizens to volunteer in support of NGOs and community groups who support abused women and children. Given that many of such organizations need assistance from the public, we would be engaging with individuals and groups who can sponsor even plastic tables and chairs for kids and trauma victims at a clinic or trauma centre or simply joining an organization as counsellor. 

 

While our conversations are geared at enabling people to speak out against women and child abusers, they also aim at encouraging silent female victims to talk about abuse and ensure that they get help, as staying silent after abuse leads to further indignity. 

 

Deciding to hinge our 16-Day national conversations on challenging militarism and ending gender-based violence especially at this moment is strategic. This is because the Cameroon Parliament would once again be called upon to vote a huge chunk of the 2021 budget for military spending, as has obtained in the last few years. We hope to highlight how militaristic systems and ideologies contribute to violence against women, children, and girls in society. And we are not alone in this thinking: Researcher Anand Pawar, director of SAMYAK, India, explains the connection between militarism and patriarchy by showing how masculinity and the military are aligned by their shared values and characteristics such as power, dominance, destruction, hierarchy, and so on. Militarism celebrates physical dominance and advocates violent strategies as solutions to problems. 

 

We see it everywhere; from soldiers in our army and fighters in the bushes, who are celebrated as heroes, with violence as their strategy. Worse still, and as has been witnessed in the last four years, violence is not only acceptable but celebrated, with men as its primary agents. It is commonplace to hear a friend move up to you and say, “Have you heard what our boys have done to LRC (Cameroun) soldiers?” Or uniform officers discussing amongst themselves after battle, “Mon gars, on leurs a faire aujoud'hui”. Did we not just recently hear a government minister on a trip to Kumba after the brutal killing of the six innocent school children publicly declaring that only the government had the monopoly of violence? Doesn't that say all about militarism and the fact that the image of the soldier or the Ambazonian fighter remains the glorified epitome of masculinity and, by extension, patriarchy? Is it surprising that we see it playing out in all forms of violence against women and gender minorities? The crisis has seen women being raped and others finding themselves needing to offer sexual favours in return for protection or to have needs met.

 

Our conversations would also address UN Resolution 1325, given the strong relationship between violence against women and violent conflict and the need to prioritize women's needs and contributions in the peace and security sector. This, with the understanding that if militarism and gender violence are mutually constituted, then so are peace and gender equality. 

 

To challenge militaristic approaches, the presence and crucially, the integration of women's perspectives in the peace and security framework is essential. In the same way that masculinity, patriarchy, the military, and violence are associated, so feminism, nonviolence and equality are associated. 

 

A crucial aspect of our the campaign would be the running of a series of articles under the theme: “Celebrating the courage and resilience of women's Human Rights Defenders and Survivors of Gender-based violence”, during the four-year-long conflict, by showcasing the life histories of 16 Cameroonian women human rights defenders and survivors, be it at home or in conflict.

 

Colbert Fulai Gwain is Director of The Colbert Factor and Promoter of Dignity Television Project.

 

If you know any woman who should be featured in our 16-Day of Activism series you can also nominate yourself), kindly send us her contact at: dignitytelevision69@gmail.com

 

Dignity Television would be hosting the series on its recently relaunched blog. You can follow along daily from November 25 through December 10, 2020, at www.dignitytelevisio.blogspot.com, on the reboot WebTV platform at www.dignitytelevision.org and on social media: Twitter @GWAINF and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/gwain.colbertfulai. Be sure to check out the global 16-Day campaign website for more information on other campaign initiatives at http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/