“Cameroonian women want equality, not revenge or dominance”

It’s a November morning, a contact on Twitter, a discussion that begins. Christophe Guilhou is the French Ambassador to Cameroon. He appreciates my speeches, attitude, the nuances I try to bring to the debate. He’s telling me that “55% of Cameroonian women are victims of physical violence, 50% of economic violence”. He tells me that, and to come and share my universalist feminism with those who from north to south have decided to change things. “You want things to say to each other”, he told me. We are in November 2021; I flew in March 2022, I just got back, even though a little bit of me stayed there. Christophe Guilhou was right: we had things to say to each other, also to bring to each other. Their battle is mine.

Viviane was raped when she was 12, and to remember is to take the risk of feeling the tears fall. For Raïssa, it was 8 years old. The images left for her from that moment do her less harm than the family’s rejection, this support she will never get because she wanted to talk. Speak so things change, speak then his followers, from Yaoundé or the rest of Cameroon, those of tomorrow’s generation, do not live this life, do not support this violence.

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And then there is Marlyse, who fights against modern slavery, and Madame Baba, who fights, so the village chiefs, these men so powerful that they are said to be the real leaders of Cameroon, accept women among the notables around them. She will soon have convinced fifteen out of several hundred. Madame Baba knows that equality is a long-term struggle, her wrinkles show that she does not have that much time left, but she has the will and perseverance, and will train the next.

The taboo on sexual violence

Joachim speaks of this country, which still forbids abortion except in a few rare cases; this taboo abortion, demonized by religion. Joachim, who runs a medical center in Douala for homosexuals with symptoms of something, AIDS, a venereal disease, a malaise, a disease that will not be treated elsewhere because homosexuality is illegal. At home, we find doctors, laboratory technicians, psychologists, liaison officers with shelters, people in short.

Sometimes women come and look for a listening ear, advice, the possibility of an abortion that will not lead them to the cemetery because they have been provoked with a knitting needle, lurking, in the shelter of judgments and prohibitions. He’s a man, but he knows it “there is something wrong”. He talks about the sexual violence that is not to be talked about, still a taboo, still a topic that is threatened by his life. Fighting for freedom is a high-risk job here.

Full Vivian: “You do not necessarily have family support when you stand up for freedom. Some try to scare us by asking us what we are getting into, they explain to us: “She was raped, but it does not concern you, it is not your daughter, it is not your sister, take care of it. Business! ” »

“The famous ‘systemic patriarchy’, fantasized by certain French activists, gets its full meaning here.”

And then there is female circumcision, which is still practiced in the northern part of the country. A woman says: “We must not think that it is only a question of male dominance, women have their share of responsibility. Excision is a women’s company, they are the ones who practice it and who sometimes even take advantage of the man’s absence to perform it on their daughter. It is complicated to judge, it is necessary to educate rather. These women, these mothers, they have suffered it, they can not see why they should avoid it for their daughters. They think they are maintaining traditions, they think they are doing the right thing. You have to go to these mothers, explain to them that they are wrong, that’s the job too.. We hear Simone de Beauvoir: “Women set themselves the chains that men do not want to burden them with.”

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In schools, the e-Base Association teaches children nursery rhymes that sound like a promise for the future, the beginning of tomorrow that will sing as well as they do: “If you touch my private parts, I say it … I say it to my father, I say it to my mother, if you touch my private parts, I tell it!” » And what will mothers and fathers say when their child tells them that? Today’s struggle is also there: to teach children equality, respect for the body, ownership of its “private parts”, to arrive at a reverse education, that parents assimilate the rights that lie in every human being in their children’s mouths.

Although the matriarchy is an integral part of Cameroon’s history and mentality, although there are still habits and some reflexes sometimes and sometimes, the famous “systemic patriarchy”, fantasized by certain French activists, gets its full meaning here. For if Article 1 of the Cameroonian Constitution provides for equality for all, traditions organize society much more than any law, their weight crushing the texts as one crumbles useless papers. Lawyers like Alice Nkom know: “The laws exist, but it will not be enough as long as there is no political will to enforce them.” Girls’ studies continue to be a divisive issue, and so does their work, which does not take place without the husband’s consent. To push the training too far when you are a woman, it is often bad to get married …

“The ‘survivors’, as they describe themselves, are entertained by the radicalism of certain French activists. Wokism makes them smile. They do not understand the war against men.”

Change will not come from the current government, nor from its 89-year-old president, Paul Biya. But youth is a future and a hope: 42% of Cameroonians are under 14, this is the reality of the country, which no patriarchy will ever resist if education continues. It’s the certainty of a Cameroon that will one day be equal … So forming minds, sensitizing parents, teaching children, this is the great work of today.

The “survivors”, as they themselves describe, are having fun with the radicalism of certain French activists. Wokism makes them smile. They do not understand the war against men. That one might want to stop reading “men” irritates them that gallantry is also perceived as the manifestation of patriarchal oppression. Their urgency is somewhere else, their struggle, collective. Hermine explains: “It is together, women and men, united that we want to move towards freedom. This is a common problem. Equality is everyone’s struggle, in everyone’s interest. » Another activist insists: “Freedom is not to take revenge on men, nor to condemn all traditions, it is to reject those who break our equality with them. We do not want to attack men, we must convince them. Not everything must be thrown out, and especially not the man ”. Especially not the man …

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We want to put them face to face with certain French extremist ideas, the ones that we know weaken the “cause” for the greatest number, the cause of a feminist and nuanced majority … Without having theorized it, the women of this country have. internalized universalism. He is the obvious, future they want and fight for. Will they see equality in their lives? Maryse answers: “I wanted my descendants to be able to say, ‘My mother fought for freedom and thanks to her I am a free woman and my children will be free.'”

Viviane does not care if she does not see the victory with her eyes: “I am fighting for my sisters, for the next ones, so that they can continue their journey. Passing the torch on to future generations is already a great victory ”. What stands out is the wisdom of these women, their uncompromising calm, their security for the future. The women of Cameroon are strong and determined. The women of Cameroon want equality – not revenge or dominance – and I’m sure they will.

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