“Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres
According to the United Nation (UN) “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women” (New York, 1993), violence against women is defined as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Those number are estimated to be significantly higher in Africa, particularly in the lesser-developed countries and/or areas that may be compromised due to wars, political instability, lack of education, unemployment, disease outbreaks, and so on.
Although there are no recent statistics on the various forms of violence against women in Cameroon, the results of the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 2011) suggest that more than half (55%) of the female participants suffered physical abuse, starting at about fifteen years of age. The majority of the perpetrators were close relatives and/or intimate partners. Domestic (marital) abuse accounted for 43% of reported injuries as the result of physical violence.
While sexual gender-based violence can happen to anyone and anywhere, internally displaced female members of Balikumbat and Tubah Subdivisions in Cameroon’s Northwest region are especially vulnerable. SGBV is a serious violation of basic human rights, and the victims are faced with a lifetime of physical, sexual, and psychological consequences, including early death. No victim of SGBV suffers alone – the effects of abuse trickle down to their children, families, friends, and the community at large.
In December 2018, Community Agriculture and Environmental Protection Association (CAEPA) Cameroon, and NGO based in Bamenda, Cameroon’s Northwest, has conducted a voluntary, non-compensated survey of 320 women trapped by arm conflict in Balikumbat and Tubah Sub Divisions of the the North West Region of Cameroon. The purpose of the survey was to assess and increase awareness and understanding regarding rights and entitlement of victims of sexual and gender-based violence in those communities.
The results of the survey showed 100% of the participants answered Yes to being a victim of violence. About 40% reported being assaulted between the ages of 1-15, 29% between the ages of 16-25, 24% between the ages of 26-45, and 6% age 46 and above. Many survey participants reported having been a victim of or a witness to numerous types of assault, including general assault (beating), coercion, early and forced marriage, being forced into harmful practices, public shaming and humiliation, intimate partner violence, murder, prostitution, rape, social isolation, severe verbal abuse, sexual harassment, spousal abuse, and trafficking.
CAEPA Cameroon proposes a multi-faceted approach to resolving this humanitarian crisis, which would include educating men and women in the Balikumbat and Tubah Sub Divisions, providing vocational (e.g. agriculture and farming) and professional (e.g. IT and accounting) training, creating shelters and halfway houses for victims and their children, offering workshops for both victims and facilitators, and many more, as outlined in this paper.