Cameroon: Addressing discriminatory gender norms (UN Women)

| December 8, 2023

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News Brief

Cameroon faces a multitude of challenges, including climate disasters, insurgent attacks, and economic impacts from COVID-19 and the conflict in Ukraine. In 2022, 3.9 million people required humanitarian assistance, with 979,000 individuals, predominantly women and girls, needing gender-based violence services. Harmful social norms perpetuate gender-based violence, with men asserting dominance over women. United Youths Organization, in collaboration with UN Women, is actively working to change these attitudes through grassroots discussions, training sessions, and community engagement. The initiative, supported by a global grant from the Central Emergency Relief Fund, emphasizes engaging men and boys, teaching conflict resolution techniques, and promoting positive masculinities.

Cameroon has faced ongoing challenges, including climate disasters, attacks on civilians by insurgent groups, and economic impacts from COVID-19 and rising inflation due to the conflict in Ukraine. In 2022, 3.9 million people needed humanitarian assistance, and nearly one million individuals required gender-based violence services. Ninety-four per cent of those were women and girls.

Loveline Musah is CEO of United Youths Organization. He says that harmful social norms in Cameroon have led to men asserting dominance over women. This perpetuates gender-based violence, as communities believe in the superiority of men. Melvin Songwe is the chief of administration at United Youths Organization. He notes that women and girls often hesitate to report gender-based violence due to fear of retaliation by their husbands and lack of confidence in law enforcement.

In collaboration with UN Women, United Youths Organization is actively working to change attitudes towards gender-based violence and discriminatory gender norms in Cameroon. The initiative is supported by a Central Emergency Relief Fund global grant allocation on gender-based violence prevention and response, implemented in six countries, including Cameroon.

Engaging men and boys is identified as a key strategy to combat gender-based violence. Mr. Musah emphasizes the importance of teaching appropriate conflict resolution techniques and promoting positive masculinities. Given the limited access to justice mechanisms in crisis areas, community support is crucial in ending gender-based violence.

United Youths Organization has organized grassroots discussions involving men, women, and religious and traditional leaders. Training sessions have revealed a significant shift in understanding among men, with 90% expressing remorse for causing harm to women and girls. Women leaders also contribute by sharing their experiences with gender-based violence, shedding light on the emotional and physical toll it takes.

In a patriarchal society, Mr. Songwe stresses the need for men to advocate for gender equality. As a HeForShe advocate, he emphasizes standing in solidarity with women and promoting equal rights and empowerment. 

The initiative in Cameroon, led by UN Women and partners like United Youths Organization, has reached over 42,000 people through sensitizations, workshops, dialogues, and community engagements on gender-based violence prevention, positive social norms, and gender equality. Additionally, 20 HeForShe groups, comprising 599 men and boys, have been created and trained on positive masculinities to further advance gender-based violence prevention.

This story is adapted from an article written by UN Women called “Tackling discriminatory gender norms in Cameroon.” To read the full story, go to: https://www.unwomen.org/en/news-stories/feature-story/2023/08/tackling-discriminatory-gender-norms-in-cameroon