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Strengthening Local Leaders Capacity at Enhancing Local Women’s Development Priorities (Widowhood Rights)
Based on the 16th January 2015 commitments made by the local authorities and traditional rulers or customary custodians in the localities of Wum, Weh, and Esu in Menchum division of the North West Region of Cameroon, in the presence of the Canadian High Commissioner to Cameroon Rene Cremonese and the Representative of the Governor of the North West Region, after due field evaluations, Modern Advocacy Humanitarian Social and Rehabilitation Association (MAHSRA) and the Canadian High Commission further detected the need to build and strengthen the capacities of the local leaders towards enforcing these commitments and practically materializing their community responsibilities in protecting and promoting the development rights of their vulnerable community women.
Through a series of mapped out strategies, the field activity packed programmed or project titled “Strengthening local leaders’ capacities in addressing community women’s development rights (widows)” was drafted out and implemented in a very inclusive manner not only to strengthen the capacities of these local leaders but as well to enlighten the entire community inhabitants on the legal and social needs to promote and propagate development opportunities for the unfortunate women and children within localities (widows and orphans).
Widowhood Advocacy Trainings and Socioeconomic Empowerment Sessions
With respect to the program plan to address the widowhood rights empowerment worries within the 3 concerned communities (Esu, Weh and Wum), a series of consultative and mobilisation meetings were held with the community widows and the 2014 created widowhood associations within the months of August, September and October. (The associations include Struggling Widows Association of Esu; Courageous Widows Association of Weh; and Social Widowhood Association of Wum)
Notably, on the 15th October 2016, in commemoration of the International Day of the Rural Woman, over 300 widows in Esu, Weh and Wum respectively received training to enhance and grow their socioeconomic and local political empowerment capacities;
As well, after the socioeconomic empowerment sessions and later from the 17th of October 2016, over 90 leader widows in Esu Weh and Wum received community widowhood ombudspersons training to enhance their ICT knowledge and socioeconomic potentials in canvassing and financially supporting local widowhood development rights initiatives.
Local Authorities Commitments and Sense of Responsibility Capacity Building
With the programmed activities to build and strengthen the local government and traditional authorities’ commitments and sense of responsibility towards promoting and defending the well-being and development rights of vulnerable community widows, through the months of August, September and October, the programme supervisory team continued holding meetings with and paying visits to local chiefdoms and administrative offices.
Remarkably, from the 9th to the 15th of November 2016 the Fons (chiefs) of Esu, Weh and Wum accompanied by 10 community notables from each locality were firmly reminded and educated on their responsibilities that aroused from their 2015 community widowhood rights commitments. They were also instructed on how to work in close collaboration with the community widowhood association leaders, ombudspersons and the local administration towards effectively implementing the engagements.
On November 10 2016, the local administrative authorities of Wum central, the State counsel judicial authority, Menchum divisional delegates of the ministries of women empowerment and the family (MINPROFF), ministry of social affairs (MINSA), the commissioner of police and the brigade commander together with the traditional notables, head teachers and school principals held an interactive working session on women’s development rights and improved gender equality and were also sensitized on the need for increased legal accountability measures within local community setups to combat and punish perpetrators of the rights of widows.
Immediate Field Activities Evaluation Report
After prior evaluation of the 2014 widowhood rites to rights activities and post 2014 self initiated programs of the created widowhood associations within the 3 concerned localities of Esu, Weh and Wum, the following points were noted:
- Some leader community widows are now regularly called up to partake in traditional council meetings;
- The widows confirmed that there has been a drastic reduction in the inhumane widowhood rites practices within their communities and widowhood inheritance issues are almost disappearing. There is generally more freedom and increasing support of traditional rulers’ towards community widows’ development activities;
However, for the noted Weaknesses:
- The widowhood association members complain of limited means to meet up with the needs of members such as care and support to their orphaned children;
- Some few locals are still resisting and holding to some widowhood rites ordeals because of the long cultural practises.
Programme Public Presentation and MAHSRA’s Contribution on the Evaluated Widowhood Worries
On December 1st 2016, all stakeholder community leaders and local government authorities concerned and other diplomatic, regional and national public authorities (inclusively: Ambassadors, Ministers, regional governors, senators, parliamentarians, judicial and military officials, political party leaders, religious and civil society leaders, economic operators, School heads) and the entire public were invited to the Bamenda Congress hall for the public presentation and sharing of experienced gained of the widowhood rites to rights initiative towards supporting orphaned children. During the occasion:
- The divisional delegate of women empowerment and the family in Menchum division presented the successful report of MAHSRA’s activities in empowering widows within her division from 2014 till date;
- Artists and other program supporters of great philanthropic Will who supported the widows and orphans therein the hall were issued philanthropic certificates and attestations of appreciation signed by the CEO of MAHSRA and the regional delegate of social affairs to encourage them further support and empower vulnerable widows everywhere such that their orphaned children are better assisted;
- In order to address the widowhood problems of limited means to invigorate their widowhood associational issues and generate subsistence resources for their activities and families or orphaned children, the CEO of MAHSRA Dr. Kelly Ngyah handed over a corn-fufu grinding mill to the presidents of each widowhood association from Esu, Weh and Wum accompanied with over 150 hoes and cutlasses to help them in their farming activities.
Later on January 27, 2016. The CEO, Dr. Kelly Ngyah and his team paid an official program evaluation visit to assess the training and socioeconomic support provided to the widows and to evaluate the restrengthened commitments of the local leaders towards supporting the development potentials of the local widows.