The Community Agriculture and Environmental Protection Association Cameroon (CAEPA Cameroon) is a non-governmental organisation based in Cameroon dedicated to enhancing community health, agriculture and environmental protection within Cameroonian communities. CAEPA Cameroon engage with the communities on important issues through projects aimed at identifying community challenges, researching and proposing sustainable long-term policy recommendations that engage the local community.
Background of Project
In 2012, CAEPA Cameroon launched an HIV/ AIDS outreach community project dedicated to carrying out HIV counselling and testing, health education, resources and improving overall access to information on HIV/ AIDS. According to the Cameroon National Health survey (2004), Cameroon has an HIV prevalence of 5.5% with the North West region having a prevalence of 8.7% that considerably exceeds the national prevalence average. Within the North West region of Cameroon, the current Mbororo population is estimated to be roughly 80,000 of a total 1,500,000. The Mbororo population is located at the peripheries of the region and thus resulted in reduced access to government services while their relative population dispersion has further caused exclusion from other communities within the region.
Historically, the Mbororo population has experienced under-representation and marginalisation within all branches of local government and administration (except livestock) while their traditional leaders are viewed as subordinate to ‘native chiefs’. Furthermore, a language barrier and education gap constantly alienates the Mbororo population. These existing gaps have resulted in a marginalisation and isolation of the Mbororo people as well as a sense of ‘otherness’ within the form of a code of conduct known as ‘pulaaku’.
Within the Mbororo population, Mbororo women in particular have low rates of literacy implicating their autonomy, family health and budget management. Furthermore, Mbororo women tend to have reduced social mobility in comparison to men on whom they are largely economically dependent. While this reality has relates to the political economy of the North West region, the onset of Islamisation amongst Mbororo communities has resulted in a sedentary lifestyle further restricting the role of women regarding their engagement in the broader social/ political/ economic life.
CAEPA Cameroon with the support of the African Women Development Fund initiated the HIV/ AIDS outreach project in order to address the existing social services and education gap within the Mbororo population. By doing so, CAEPA Cameroon invested within the local community to equip community members with knowledge and skills to create positive change for future generations.
The HIV/ AIDS Community Outreach Project
CAEPA Cameroon conducted the HIV/ AIDS community outreach project in an effort to close the gap between the Mbororo and local communities. Through this outreach project, CAEPA Cameroon conducted free voluntary counselling, testing for HIV/ AIDS, delivered education sessions, demonstrated the use of male and female condoms and distributed resources (e.g. condoms) to the Mbororo community while launching a public education campaign through local radio stations.
CAEPA Cameroon successfully collaborated with local peer educators to connect with Mbororo women group leaders as well as visited pastoralist settlements. They engaged with local radio stations (Abakwa FM radio and The Cameroon Radio Television) to sensitise the Mbororo pastoralists and inform them about upcoming screening and education talks conducted by the local peer educators which occurred from the 25th November until the 1st of December, 2012.
Challenges to Cameroon – Stigma and Discrimination
CAEPA Cameroon reported that the main challenge was engaging young girls and women about sex and demonstrating the use of the condom, as sex is largely a taboo topic within their community. Many women were willing to receive the condoms, however, were ashamed of what others will think of them. Furthermore, most of them did not want to get tested for fear of the unknown.
According to IRIN News, people living with HIV/ AIDS in Cameroon continue to suffer widespread stigma within society extending into everyday challenges such as obtaining bank loans, loss of jobs and suffering mistreatment at hospitals. In 2014, Cameroon’s national average prevalence for HIV/ AIDS was 4.5%, however, there are still many widespread myths and discrimination associated with the disease that can only be reduced through education.
Overcoming Stigma and the Future of Cameroon
Cameroonians with HIV/ AIDS continue to face stigma within society. This is notably exacerbated through a wide gap within social services and education for communities such as Mbororo pastoralists. CAEPA Cameroon’s efforts to bridge these gaps for vulnerable populations through education and awareness raising continue to pave the future for Cameroon. Through education and open engagement with difficult taboo issues, non-governmental organisations such as CAEPA Cameroon continue to equip community members with knowledge and skills to promote positive change for the betterment of life for Cameroonians.