Gender-Based Violence Support: When Fear Fades Away, Hopes Replenish

With the recent support granted by UNFPA to some 14 GBV survivors who settled in Douala, after running away from the crisis rocking the North-West and South-West Regions of Cameroon, there is hope in the air as they said.

“Here in the safe space we live as a family, you can sleep here. Sometimes when I come here and cannot afford to go back home with my baby, I will tell them and they will help me with taxi fare. I got a new house. I thank God and I thank UNFPA. Thanks to LUKMEF and thanks for the support. I will start a petty trade with the 100 kilogrammes bag of flour that I received here because I have been trained by LUKMEF to make cakes. I will later on return to school because I had my GCE Advanced level and I want to study nursing…” Martha said.

Martha, aged 21, is one of the 14 Gender-based violence survivors who have benefitted from the support of the United Nations’ Population Fund, UNFPA, through its life-saving project supported by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, ECHO.

The young mother of a baby boy of close to 8 months has fled from her home town Kumba in the South-West Region due to continuous threats from separatists groups who once kidnapped her father and was only freed after an exchange of a sweet compensation. With the risk of been kidnap one day as the baby cries when gunshots are sprinkled, she was advised by her father to run away at early hours on a Sunday.

Martha was warmly welcomed at the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial Foundation, LUKMEF in Douala where she got the necessary support and was referred to a partner health center in Bonamoussadi for the follow-up of her baby. The little money she receives from time to time from her father is not enough to survive in the city of Douala which has an increased standard of living compared to Kumba.

Today, Martha says the gloomy episodes of her life are simultaneously fading away thanks to the psychological first aid she received, the timely support granted by UNFPA and her daily discussions at the safe space with other women and girls who have lived bitter adventures in the course of the conflicts plaguing the North-West and South-West Regions. Martha nourishes hopes to return back to school in order to study nursing.

Just like Martha, 20-year-old Teclare who is about ending her gestation period shed tears when she received packets of disposable diapers and a carton of vegetable oil as material support.

“I didn’t know that there is a place where somebody could attend to us and that someone can easily help me here in Douala. This is because in this Douala for someone to give you only water to drink they will ask you money.”

The primiparous who is an orphan fled from Nkwen in the North-West Region and resettled in Douala for some months now with her husband who tried to secure a job as a security agent.

Teclare has been striving hard to survive in an environment which she described as hostile and strange to her because she left her home town and her business at the Nkwen market.

Teclare heard about the safe space of LUKMEF through one of her neighbours working there.

“Since one month that I started coming to this place, many things have changed in my life. With my pregnancy I was unable to go to the hospital because what my husband is doing cannot even take care of me. He is trying to take care of my younger ones to be in school. I’m an orphan of both parents but we are trying to survive. I came here when my pregnancy was almost seven months and from then they started taking care of me and they referred me to a hospital just near here. I made my echography there and since I came across this place I have been feeling myself at home. It is as if I have parents again” she narrated.

The beneficiaries of the 18 month life-saving project piloted by UNFPA praised the initiative and requested for its extension. They seized the occasion of an official donation ceremony held on October 19, 2021 to recount their stories, the constant threats and the trauma they went through in their respective areas.

Siti Batoul Oussein, UNFPA’s Resident Representative, and other staff members from UNICEF, OCHA and ECHO, the European Union’s humanitarian branch, communed with these GBV survivors in Douala.

This was part of field mission held from the 18th to the 22nd of October, 2021 with the aim to monitor and assess key activities carried-out so far within the humanitarian and life-saving gender-based violence project that runs from December 2020 to April 2022 in the North-West, South-West, Littoral and West Regions.

Elise Kenimbeni

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