Some traditional rulers from the west region of Cameroon began acquainting themselves with some national and international legal instruments that protect the rights of women and girls in Cameroon at a two day capacity building workshop that opened at the Hilton hotel in Yaounde on Friday.
It is estimated that over 130 million women and girls worldwide have been subjected to female genital mutilation. Cameroon is not left out of these alarming statistics and one of the regions where violence against women is rampant is the West.
It is against this backdrop the Bamenda based nongovernmental organization, Modern Advocacy Humanitarian Social and Rehabilitation Association (MAHSRA) brought up the project; “Western Chiefs Sexual Violence Initiative.”
Through the initiative that began in January 2015 in some divisions of the West region, some traditional rulers of the region took a commitment to amongst other ensure that customs and traditional dispositions that violate rights of girls and women, affect their health and wellbeing will be reviewed and also to ensure that perpetrators of sexual violence are pursued according to the law.
The Yaounde workshop that focused on the socio-anthropological causes and consequences of sexual violence against women in traditional societies was thus in continuation of the advocacy.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MAHSRA, Dr. Kelly F. Ngyah said the project targets traditional rulers because of the influence they wield over their subjects; some of whom still believe in old-age customs that women are supposed to be subjected to certain customs.
“We are training leaders so that they can go back and train their subjects to change. We are not actually going against any customs or tradition, but we know that we have the priority of the wellbeing of the woman and human rights,” Dr. Kelly said.
The MAHSRA chief executive explained that the teachings to the traditional rulers are to empower them to ameliorate on the customs and traditions that violate the rights of women.
The project is being sponsored by the British High Commission in Cameroon and according to the High Commissioner, Brian Oulley, the fight against violence for women is vital for the future of all countries around the world.
“This is a very important subject for the United Kingdom both within the boundaries of our nation and around the world. So we want to help countries around the world to a better future; one that encourages prosperity and respect for human rights,” Brian Oulley said.
Speaking through a representative, the chairperson of the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms admitted that it is very challenging for traditional authorities to easily do away with age old practices.
“But we cannot continue to tolerate sexual violence at this age where human rights are across cutting in every aspect of our lives. I believe our Fons who are well respected have the authority to put and end to such practices,” Dr. Chemuta Divine Banda said.
On behalf of the Minister of Women Empowerment and the Family (MINPROFF), the Director of Women Social Promotion in the Ministry, Abessolo Esseko Calice who chaired the opening ceremony of the two days workshop lauded the initiative by MAHSRA and the British High Commission.
During the training, the traditional rulers were to be schooled on national and international legal instruments relating to violence against women like the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) amongst others.
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