Regional Girls’ Summit: Plan Int’l Cameroon Commits to Breaking Barriers & Stereotypes

At the two-day regional girls’ summit, the Country Director of the humanitarian organization expressed their ambition to support the government in promoting girls’ rights and breaking all barriers that keep girls at the back.

From November 29 to 30, 2023, some 50 students and young girls were convened in Bastos, Yaounde to take part in a two-day regional girls’ summit organized by Plan International Cameroon.

The summit as indicated by Plan International Cameroon enters within the framework of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence whose theme is: “Investing to prevent violence against women and girls.”

The main objective of this summit is to: promote a synergy of reflections and actions that put the rights of young girls at the heart of concerns, in order to understand and support young girls in a coordinated and effective manner, in the face of their specific obstacles.

Promoting Girls’ Rights

Speaking at the kick-off of the summit on Wednesday, 29th November 2023, the Country Director of Plan International, Mohamed Bah said the come-together which falls in line with 16 days of activism and the continuation of activities marking the International Day of the girlchild, aims at diagnosing some ills to which young girls are exposed to.

Mr. Bah added that girls are subjected to physical, environmental, and online dangers.

He said: “As we witness a series of movements and actions aimed at restricting the rights of girls and women and rolling back progress on gender equality, we see that the consequences are particularly severe for girls. Be it maternal healthcare, access to quality education, parenting support for teenage mothers, digital and life skills training, leadership, comprehensive sexuality education, support services for survivors, or violence prevention programs, there is an urgent need to give more attention and resources to the key areas that enable girls to exercise their rights and realize their full potential.”

Just like on other occasions, Mohamed Bah reiterated the staunch support of his organization to the government.

“Today, in more than 85 countries around the world and Cameroon for more than 27 years, we continue to support all the players in the protection chain and the government of Cameroon in their respective strategies to advance girls’ rights.” He said.

He equally recognized the role of young girls as game changers in the development of the country though their potentials are not fully explored.

“We recognize that every single day, girls and young women around the world are creating real change but your potential is not being fully recognized or utilized. It is critical that you are provided with access to key decision-making spaces. Statistics show that at this rate, it will take another 131 years to achieve gender equality but we are ready to stand by you to speed up the process.”

Moreover, Mr. Bah narrated: “Plan International works to advance children’s rights and equality for girls. Our ambition is to break the barriers and stereotypes that keep girls at the back, preventing them from achieving their full potential. We engage with partners to empower children, youths, and their communities to make vital changes that tackle the root causes of discrimination against girls, exclusion, and vulnerability…”

On behalf of Women’s Empowerment and the Family Minister, Inspector Number 1 took the floor to praise the multiple efforts and support of Plan International Cameroon who, through the project dubbed “Plan for Girls” constructed and equipped some empowerment centers in some parts of the North region.

Madam Maïpa Wespa seized this occasion to highlight the numerous actions undertaken so far by the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family since its creation on December 21, 2012.

In her keynote address, the Representative of MINPROFF said the summit was called on at a crucial moment, as there is an increase in the cases of women and girls murdered due to violence perpetrated on them.

She revealed that Cameroon adopted on July 25, 2023, a law under the Charter on Child Protection, to protect children online.

“We equally have a program of positive parenthood where we upskilled parents on how to educate and follow up their children. And together with other administrations, we organize series of sensitization campaigns on ills affecting children.” She narrated.

During the interview granted to media practitioners, Mrs. Maïpa Wespa said at the level of the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment, there is a multi-sectoral plan of action to fight against early child marriages and a free-toll line (116) which helps us to be in touch with children who call for diverse issues.

Girls As Key Actors

The Yaounde Regional Girls’ Summit initiated by Plan International Cameroon acts as a safe space for discussions for young girls who are students and those involved in income-generating activities.

During the two-day event, these young champions expressed the will to fully engage in society as agents of change and development.

The conversations led by Imeilda Simo, Gender Specialist, and Indira Banga, Youth Coordinator at Plan International Cameroon, paved the way for an inter-generational dialogue with some parents, administrative authorities, and religious leaders present.

Plan Cameroon’s Gender Specialist, Imeilda Simo said the organization thought it wise to put girls at the forefront, given the vital role they have in society.

The regional girls’ summit is also a way to foster and enhance the inner capacities of young girls as she outlined.

Clothilde, 25, is one of the young participants at the regional girls’ summit. The young hairdresser benefited from the “project Avenir II” of Plan International, and today knows her rights.

At her tender age, Clothilde was deprived of her right to education because she was an orphan. Through this summit, she wishes to upgrade her skills to later educate other girls to not fall prey to such situations.

“I feel concerned about gender equality, I feel concerned about the rights of girls and women. I stopped school not because I wished to but because I found myself in a particular environment where as a child, I could not decide for myself. People used me at my tender age for all types of services. And today, I want to educate other young girls to not be in such situations. Education is the best weapon to succeed in life.” Clothilde said.

Worthy to note, Plan International is an independent and humanitarian organization that promotes children’s rights and equality between girls and boys.

Since 1996, Plan International has been working in Cameroon to guarantee children, young people, and their communities’ access to protection, quality and inclusive education, information, health services, decent work, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Elise Kenimbeni

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