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Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence in Cameroon’s IDP Communities

Girls' Rights

“He ambushed me and stole my pride away, I felt like it was the end of the world for me,” shares 18-year-old Namondo* recalling how she was raped as she was on her way to collect water from the internal displacement camp in Cameroon where she lives.

The second of five children, Namondo lives with her parents and siblings (two girls and two boys) in an IDP camp in Cameroon’s Southwest region after they were forced to leave their village due to the ongoing armed conflict affecting the English speaking regions of the country.

Life in the camp is not easy. There are few opportunities to earn an income, so buying water is not an option. Instead, Namondo and her siblings have to walk long distances each day to fetch water from a spring. One day, while Namondo was on her way to collect water, a man blocked her path and forced her into the bushes.

“He jumped onto me, pulled me into the nearby bush, then forced himself onto me and assaulted me sexually. It is a bitter experience to remember,” says Namondo who was devastated to discover she was pregnant following the attack. Worse still, her parents blamed her and she had to drop out of school.

“Education meant everything to me, but I had no option but to drop out of school. I was stigmatised by everyone around me and had no-one to talk to; nobody could understand me except another teenage mother in my community, but she was also in a helpless situation,” explains Namondo.

During routine door-to-door awareness-raising activities conducted by community workers in the camp to prevent sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and respond to suspected cases, Namondo was identified and referred to the SGBV psychosocial support group run by Plan International.

Namondo received counselling sessions and was referred for a medical check-up. She was also given a dignity kit and follow-up sessions to support her recovery. The SGBV team also worked with her parents to help them deal with their feelings of shame and anger towards their daughter.

These psychosocial support activities have helped Namondo rebuild her self-esteem and equipped her with coping strategies to enable her to deal with stress. By interacting with other survivors of sexual violence in the support group, Namondo has gradually been able to be more open, positive and confident.

“I will continue to add my voice to the fight to prevent violence against girls in my community”

“At first, Namondo could barely talk about her experience. She had already lost hope with having no-one to talk to. The support group sessions have transformed her. Now, she can interact with people freely and even motivate other affected girls. This is a significant step forward for her,” explains Tama Agnes, community worker and SGBV facilitator.

With her increasing confidence, Namondo has been able to resume classes at evening school and hopes to re-enroll at school soon. Today, she is working hard to prepare for her GCE O-level exams.

“I am happy for what Plan international has done for me. Thanks to the home visits, my parents now understand that it was not my fault and they are now supporting me. I am much more confident and now have a stable mind to study. I will continue to add my voice to the fight to prevent violence against girls in my community,” Namondo says.

More About the Project

The support that Namondo received falls within the framework of the Emergency Child Protection and SGBV Interventions for IDPs and Conflict-Affected Communities in Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions. This project, implemented by Plan International with support from Global Affairs Canada (GAC), seeks to increase access to lifesaving SGBV prevention and support networks for child survivors, at-risk girls, young women, adolescent boys, and caregivers.

At the end of the one-year project on 30 April 2022, the initiative had reached 74,976 people, including 34,511 girls, 29,401 boys, 6,722 women, and 4,342 men. Despite these significant results, many children and young people, especially girls, in the two affected regions and neighbouring regions still have need for protection services.

“We keep identifying more cases of child protection risks as the days unfold. Also, the project activities only covered a few communities compared to the many communities affected by the crisis in the two regions. There is, therefore, a gap to be filled in the two regions and the host communities in the neighbouring cities. We remain positive that with adequate resources, we will be able to provide the necessary support to the vulnerable populations in need,” explains Tsekwi Gilead, Plan International Cameroon’s Emergency Response Manager for the NW and SW Emergency Response Programme.

Other project activities include: the establishment and equipment of safe Child and Adolescent-Friendly Spaces (CAFSs), including the rehabilitation/construction of gender-responsive and accessible latrines; installation of handwashing facilities and water supply; support to unaccompanied and separated children (including survivors of SGBV) and their foster families; family tracing and reunification support for unaccompanied and separated children; training of community-based child protection committees and the provision of life skills training for adolescent girls and boys.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

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