The Mbororo and pygmy tribal groups in Cameroon are faced with a myriad of challenges, notably in terms of development and accessibility to basic services, including; education, health basic infrastructure, social, and institutional facilities. Their practices are deeply rooted in conservative traditional and cultural believes which are quite harmful and attract human rights violations, including Gender based violence: Violence against Women and girls (VAWG) including child marriages and other forms of discrimination against women in their respective communities. In addition, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among both tribal groups has witnessed a steady increase; including mother-child infections within the last few years, due to lack of proper sensitization, and the rampant use of unconventional methods in the communities in handling sexual and reproductive health issues. Persons Living with HIV/AIDS in these communities are still prone to stigmatization due to limited information regarding its prevention and access to treatment. The COVID-19 outbreak poses another challenge to the struggle of these vulnerable groups given that they are at risk of contracting this disease and, thus they require information on its prevention and management. Furthermore, the government and other health stakeholders are focusing on tackling the outbreak of the pandemic thus neglecting the needs of those living with HIV/AIDS.
Due to this, CAMYOSFOP inducted a two-day workshop to address the situation. Thirty (30) participants from the Mbororo (MBOSCUDA – Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association) in Mandjo and the Pygmy communities in Mayos were trained on the prevention of HIV/AIDS and understanding the impact of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), especially stigmatization, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The workshop, divided into six modules, covered the following topics: a rights-based approach for the elimination of stigmatization, discrimination and feminization of HIV/AIDs; understanding stigmatization/discrimination amid the COVID-19 pandemic; mapping of HIV/AIDS situation and sex-based violence in Cameroon; the best practice in the fight against stigmatization of HIV/AIDS amid the COVID-19 pandemic; understanding the effects of stigmatization/discrimination on people living with HIV/AIDS; how the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS can be strengthened, and strategies on mobilizing community members on the fight against stigmatization in the aforementioned communities.
The general take home was that women’s development and education be highly invested into as preventing them hinders their progress. It was also accepted that knowing one’s status is of utmost importance, and, as such, the women were urged to regularly check their status.
In order to sample the opinions of the participants on the quality of the training, the following testified:
“My favorite aspect of the workshop was on the fight against the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS within the Mbororo communities especially amongst the youths, and on the importance of education which encourages them to go to school. I learned so many things from the workshop which will help me educate my society.” Aishatu Dol, Mbororo Community
“I really enjoyed this session. I learned that women can transmit HIV/AIDS to their children through breastfeeding.” Yie Olinga, Baka Community
In a closing remark, Mr. Ngalim Eugine, Executive Director of CAMYOSFOP encouraged the participants to apply the knowledge given them by carrying over the same training in their communities in order to curb GBV and the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS in their communities.