“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult,” says Melinda Gates.
During a four-day workshop held from 19 – 22, January 2021, the Cameroon Youth and Students Forum for Peace (CAMYOSFOP) and UN Women trained and amplified the voices of 20 women from vulnerable communities on income-generating opportunities in the East region of Cameroon. The project “COVID19 intervention within Vulnerable Women Groups in East and South West Regions of Cameroon” aimed at increasing and enhancing the capacity of women to set up and manage COVID19-induced businesses, which includes the production of standardized reusable cloth barrier masks and the production of antiseptic soap and hydro-
In order to create a platform that would better foster the management and response to COVID19, the 20 women participants selected for the workshop were distinguished and trained in a unit of ten persons per group. Hence, 10 of the women were trained as seamstresses to produce face masks and the other 10 were trained to produce antiseptic soap, hand sanitizers, among others. These women were further educated on financial management and marketing strategy in order to enhance their capacity in the development and execution of COVID19 induced businesses. Engaging and empowering women in this light served as a practical reminder with emphasis on the fact that “we all have as a responsibility to impact positive change in our communities for sustainable peace and development. We also recognize that when a woman is empowered, she has been given the power to create, nurture and transform the skills to yield and produce income”.
Ngalim Eugine Nyuydine, Director of CAMYOSFOP drew participants attention to CAMYOSFOP and UN Women’s collaborative work with vulnerable women and their goal towards empowering these women to become economically independent. He elaborated the purpose of the project, noting the financial strain and challenging position in which the outbreak of COVID19 has placed the vulnerable groups in. Confronted with the pandemic, these vulnerable groups as well as most families have been and are forced to prioritize other needs such as food and other essential utility like bills over purchasing COVID19 prevention kits like antiseptic soap and face mask. , Mr. Ngalim Eugine explained.
Meanwhile, Zambo Bouchard, National expert on Gender, HIV and AIDS at UN Women, also welcomed and encouraged them to concentrate on training and learning in order to use skills acquired to empower other women. He specified that UN Women through her partnership with CAMYOSFOP is ready to empower financially, the dynamic women of Bertoua in the East Region. He further advised against women depending on men to earn a living and oriented participants that they have the competences and energy to improve their livelihoods. Mr. Bouchard drilled participants on the topic entrepreneurship. His presentation addressed and emphasized on aspects of production, body language, communication, building trust, market strategy, and packaging.
One of the beneficiaries of cosmetic production, Mariamou, expressed satisfaction and appreciation for knowledge by stating “I am amazed at the outcome of the production of the different products, especially bleach, soap and menthol, as I could not believe that I could also produce what I use to buy from the market. I am pleased that I will be able to produce for my community and other communities. In addition, I look forward to sharing with other women and girls the skills and knowledge I have acquired during this workshop so that we can all generate income”.
Speaking to the skills gained, Desma Olinga stated; “I cannot express the joy I feel in my heart. To see that I am chosen as one of the beneficiaries of this project, I am going to put in my best to work and earn a living and inspire other girls to also learn new skills. I received more than my expectations. The workshop was practical and simple for us participants and especially for me to understand. I am taking the commitment to practice often and hopefully create other things and expand the business”.
Tchonga T. Yannick, Focal Point HIV Region Technical Group of the National AIDS Control Committee testifies he appreciates CAMYOSFOP and UN Women for the wonderful initiative and wished all participants good luck. He added that he will continue to work closely with the women for the sustainability of the project.
There is need to financially empower women, thus it is in this light that CAMYOSFOP and UN Women at the end of the training handed over to beneficiaries work materials which included 10 sewing machines/accessories awarded to the seamstresses and 10 bags containing different kinds of chemicals/kits to the group producing detergent in a bid to encourage them and their communities to tackle poverty. From the East, CAMYOSFOP moved to the South West Region to implement the same project.