Saturday, January 17, 2015

Canadian High Commissioner, MAHSRA Launch Widowhood Rites to Rights Initiative in Menchum

By Fai Cassian Ndi
There was euphoria in Wum on January 16, as hundreds gathered to salute Canadian High Commissioner; Rene Cremonese for braving the rough drive on the Ring Road to the Divisional Headquarters of Menchum to part of a groundbreaking project launching that seeks to address the barbaric indigenous customary practices which abase the status of the rural women. Canadian High Commissioner who was flanked by his wife, the Representative of North West Governor, Nji Joseph were jubilantly received at the entrance into Wum town by over 200 achaba riders.
In his welcome speech, the mayor of Wum Council Dighabong Anthony expressed thanks and gratitude to the Canadian High Commission (the Canadian Fund for Local Initiative) as well as the Chief Executive Officer of Modern Advocacy Humanitarian Social and Rehabilitation Association-MAHSRA for the timely support. He said some of these practices and traditional rites are a handicap to development. He also expressed the desire of his council to twin with some councils in Canada given both Cameroon and Canada share many things in common. He frowned that some practices do not respect the dignity of women especially widows and promised that the council will work in collaboration with the project to make sure that some the obnoxious practices that do not respect the dignity of women is abolished.
Widows in solidarity
On the other hand, Kelly Ngyah , the Chief Executive Officer of MAHSRA thanked the Government of Canada, Cameroon as well as traditional rulers for extending the hand of fellowship to institutionalize a new process which will stampede a community right pattern that strives at eliminating the silent suffering of women. According to Dr. Kelly Ngyah, the widowhood rites and rights initiative seeks to investigate, analyse and develop the most effective mechanism to address the human rights of women within a complex framework of gender violence assessments that are both psychological and physical. Harping on the importance of the initiative, Dr. Kelly added that Widowhood Rites to Rights Initiative has an overall dimension to foster the will of the Cameroon Government as duly transcribed through its ratification of several international conventions such as; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Woman and the Declaration on the Right to Development.
Though with limited resources, Dr. Kelly reiterated that MAHSRA aspires to interweave the well-being of women in order to boost their contribution towards poverty eradication and rural development as a whole. He revealed that following a study, indicators are rife at that the targeted communities of Esu, Weh and Wum with recorded a significant 60% decrease in growth and development rate due to the fact that widows and their children (orphans) are overtly or tactically denied due resources that would have enhanced their well-being. Majority he added are exposed to abject poverty due to both the matrilineal and patrilineal widow inheritance rites. “Besides the hereditary factor to the widow which inflicts chronic poverty on the surviving spouse and the children, there is also a psychological factor that strongly degrades the health and social stability of the widow and her orphaned children”.
Some of the obnoxious practices he noted include amongst others:
  • Compelling widows to undergo degrading human dignity practices with regard to the pending burial rites of her late husband’s corpse
  • Compelling her to wear only one specific dress for several months and to feed through the use of a single plate, cup and spoon
  • Segregating her with identifying elements on her body and prohibiting her from participating in public and external activities from home, including any religious or social gathering for long periods
  • Restricting her from commercial activities for a durable time
  • Compelling her to cohabit and share intimacy with the late husband’s brother which she may already consider as her own brother etc..
He extended thanks and gratitude to the traditional rulers for being part of the new way. Dr. Kelly also applauded the Canadian High Commissioner to Cameroon for the instrumental support in fostering the realization of the widowhood rites to rights initiative. This initiative he noted will not infringe on the rich traditional cultural diversity of the people of Esu, Weh and Aghem. “This is the reason why MAHSRA’s intervention within this domain is not to destroy or change any traditional customs but rather, to form a human rights merger dynamics which should enhance the well-being and development rights of all members within the community”.
On his part, the Canadian High Commissioner to Cameroon, Rene Cremonese disclosed that his country would spare no effort to support any action that enhances human rights. He emphasized that it is humanly important to protect those who cannot protect themselves. “Widows need our protection and we have to go into dialogue to make sure that widows are treated differently”. He also applauded the massive turnout of the traditional rulers and their contributions in changing lives in their communities.
The Representative of the Governor of the North West Region, Nji Joseph disclosed that a commission has been put in place to monitor and track down perpetrators of human rights abuses. Other speakers include; the Fons of Esu, Aghem and Weh.

Canadian High Commissioner, Representative of the Governor, SDO for Menchum, DO for Wum, others
Cross-section of Widows
Traditional rulers and Notables

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)

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