Community Outreaches
After a community meeting about the services of RuWCED's counselling centers
Community learning and exchange
Community exchange and learning with women from indigenous communities
GBV during COVID-19
Reflecting on girls' right to education and their VAWG related challenges in times of COVID-19 and conflicts
Discussing girls' right to education
Community exchange on girls' right to education
We Are Making a Difference
RuWCED's youths during National Youth Day 2015
Reproductive Health Talk
Sensitizing secondary school students on HIV/AIDS
Trained peer educators ready for HIV/AIDS Sensitization and prevention
We are determined to make the zero new infection target a reality. If it happens, please know that being HIV+ is not a dead sentence. Call our help l...
Celebrating 2016 National youth day in Ndop-Cameroon
Youths are the strength of our rural communities. RuWCED's team made the difference
Sexual and Reproductive Health Education
Reaching out to secondary school students during an HIV/AID-sexual and reproductive health education outreach
Mama Rural
A task she carries, a responsibility she bears a wife to a husband, and a mother to children, the hidden treasure from despised eyes!
Getting the community involved
Community leaders, parents, teachers and primary school pupils during our Education talks campaign
Sport, a healthy lifestyle!
Doing sport helps our women stay in shape!
Girl Child Education
Presenting school materials to some of our rural girls
Engaging Communities
Connecting Youths
Women's Day 2015
Reaching Out to the Youths
RuWCED's Sport for Health Session
Staff and pupils exercising after health talks
RuWCED's 2014/2015 IT graduating students
We are happy to have young dynamic girls graduating with computer diplomas from our training center
Our Youths performing for the community
Craft-work, drama, singing , as well as dancing is part of our recreational activities
Serving our Communities through Creative Sewing
RuWCED's Community Computer Training Center
Encouraging girls to get involved in Information Tecnology
Adolescent SRH
Reaching out to young boys and girls in our community
Empowering Young Girls
Equiping girls with SRHR knowledge, Human Rights and Leadership skils.


Research Summary

Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is not a one-time action of violence. It is the trigger of a spiral of discriminations, exclusions, additional violence, low investment in human development and marginal livelihood outcomes. It is not a problem of women because they face it, rather, it is the problem of society because society constructs gender in ways that fit the interests and narratives of those who have traditionally set the rules. Women suffer more from gender-based violence including sexual assault, domestic violence, rape/attempted rape and marital rape, social exclusion, child marriage and harmful traditional practices. In conflict settings, the prevalence of this scourge is seen to increase. Meanwhile there are some gradual steps taken in the right direction by the government of Cameroon and other national and international organisations working on the issue, women and girls still face a lot of violence from home and the society. This research sought to understand the root causes of the drivers of the different types of gender-based violence faced by women and girls in Ngoketunjia Division of the North West Region of Cameroon in an effort to build a participatory and robust response and monitoring network.

A survey was carried out to determine the knowledge, attitude and practices of community members on the different types of gender-based violence, as well as, their prevalence in all the 13 villages that make up Ngoketunjia Division of the North West Region of Cameroon. Informants (religious authorities, traditional authorities, organisations and government departments working in the arena of GBV) were also consulted to understand their role, as well as the measures they are taking to curb this phenomenon. Focus group discussions were organized to understand the root causes and drivers of the different forms of gender-based violence existing in the 13 villages. Valid questionnaires analyzed were 6469 alongside qualitative data from 154 participants during 36 engagements.


From this study, it was observed that, close to 70% of the respondents had appropriate knowledge of the different forms of gender-based violence and knew where to report cases (in the villages, as well as, at sub-divisional and divisional level at responsible government departments). Intriguingly, most of the victims feared to report cases of violence and those who were courageous to have reported recounted cumbersome and costly procedures within the government mechanisms and procedures whose outcomes rarely matched the effort. Others-mostly -those who reported to traditional/village and religious institutions, tended to be disappointed because the outcomes were often skewed towards ‘advising’ the women/girl on how to be humble, submissive etc in order not to stir the ‘wrath’ of the perpetrator who was often constructed as being violent because ‘most men are that way’ and ‘as a wife or daughter, one needs to know how to handle them’.

The major drivers of the root causes of the different forms of violence included but not limited to; biased all male traditional justice systems, cultural norms and dictums of how ‘respectable’ women/girls should conduct herself, ‘maintain her dignity’ and conceal family issues, families' socialization practices, poverty and economic dependence on the perpetrator, fear of stigma in the case of women/girls living with some medical conditions(fistula, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, bareness, inability to bring forth a male child), knowledge by perpetrators that there will be no action from state institutions even if victims report/costly procedures, the ongoing conflict and increased lawlessness, as well as, the proliferation of drugs. The fear of backlash from society and family circles, as well as the lack of a safe space for both reporting and referral were mainly responsible for the silence of the victims.

Amongst the different forms of gender-based violence, sexual harassment and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) were the most prevalent. Moreover, among the 618 participants who were widows, 47% reported to have either been driven or threatened to be driven from their houses after the dead of their husband and 53% were forced to undergo widowhood practices including Levirate Marriage (LM). The experience of widowhood violence showed to be aggravated in situations where the marriage was customary and the widow in question did not have a male child to succeed his father, in which case, the widow can customarily benefit to exercise user rights on some and in a few cases all family property by virtue of the fact that her son is the legitimate inheritor of his father. This exacerbation showed to vary from one village to another with peak in villages like Baba 1 where not only men, but even women are only succeeded by men. Basically, in this case, girls are deprived from succeeding either parent. In other villages, a woman/girl can succeed a female relative (mother, aunt, or grandmother). However, female inheritance is a fundamental right of every citizen as embedded in the preamble of the constitution of 1996 as amended. A female can inherit from a deceased spouse, parents, grandparents, even as a married woman, she has the right to inherit property. Property referred to here includes; landed, movable, immovable property. The statutory law by-passes customary law which forbids female inheritance to allow for same. This point on widowhood and access to property showed to be a potentially complex issue as the communities will emerge from the ongoing ‘Anglophone’ conflict in which women have lost their husbands and girls have lost their fathers but they will have to reconstruct their lives partly by working/investing on family lands. A pertinent case in point will be the case of widows in customary marriages who only have female kids or widows who have no kids. It is important to point here however that, while this is the general situations as revealed by the study, there were a few exceptions in which the widows reported to have received love and support from their in-laws on the demise of their husbands.

Attitudes and practices fueling the various forms of gender-based violence mainly revolved around the unequal power relation existing in homes, community and the society. Most of the women and girls participating in the survey said that family socialisation practices made them to believe deep in them that “the woman is responsible for all the reproductive care work including household chores and the man can assist only if he desires”, “a man can marry another woman without the consent of the present wife”, “women are to stay in the house while their husband look for money”, “if a women is barren, or, only gives birth to female children, her husband has the right to marry another woman who can give him a son to succeed him”. Men and boys participating in the survey learned from family socialisation processes that, it is the man who has the economic means, so if a woman has any income, she needs to inform the man about it for him, as the head of the family to decide how the money can be used for the betterment of the family. As some pointed, “imagine that one is alive and the wife takes money and goes and buys land in her name, that’s a disgrace and she has to leave the marriage. I will divorce her to go and stay on the land. There are things women should not do as long as their husbands or fathers are alive”. Women, even when they have the means, find it hard for example to purchase land, a means of production for an agriculturally based economy. Most vendors of land are men and customarily, they tend to be suspicious of selling landed property to women without the approval of a male relative. The same applies when a woman especially a widow tries to sell landed property without verifiable support from a male relative especially of her deceased husband. In rural areas, married women are expected to hand over their finances to their husbands or male relatives to do the purchase often in the name of the latter. The constitution of the Republic of Cameroon in its preamble, however, guarantees the right to own property to every citizen without discrimination based on sex. The land tenure law equally makes provision for every Cameroonian to be accorded the right to own land. One of the problems at policy level and implementation levels is, however, the fact that there are no special measures put in place to help women trying to have land certificates to cover their land. So, most women get tired in the process, which is very cumbersome and expensive, thus, they abandon along the line. Taking into consideration the fact that important decisions in the community and society are taken by men with women’s views often not considered, even in the management of community commons (land, forests and fisheries), the post conflict reconstruction process will need to keep a keen eye on developments in this respect to enable women/girls especially widows and female child headed households the chance to reconstruct their lives in a dignifying manner.

The same applied to, going for termination of a pregnancy and family planning where male participants of this study expect that their female partners (wife, girlfriend) MUST request for their permission before seeking family planning services. Nonetheless, according to existing national health policies, women can in their own rights as humans seek for family planning services. Legally however, the denial of access of family planning is a medical and social issue which is still being discussed by the legislature. The husband who denies his wife access to family planning cannot be treated as haven committed an offense. Another gap in this context is the fact that adolescents, even following the existing social and health policies could not without parental consent seek sexual and reproductive health services EXCEPT in the case of a pregnancy or related issues or if married (since the current law allows for 15 year old girls to be married).

It is important to highlight here that some harmful traditional practices have their anchor in the desire to control a woman/girl’s body and sexual life. This is the case with FGM and breast ironing. These harmful traditional practices were seen to be normal by a greater proportion of females compared to men. These practices are perpetrated largely by older women to control the body and sexual life of younger women to the pleasure of anticipated husband/male partners. Families practicing FGM in some cases reported to have done so to preserve the girl for her future husband among a host of other reasons. Likewise, those who were involved in breast ironing feared that early breast development in girls could cause them to become sexually active at a very early age and become pregnant or even procure unsafe abortions that are highly risky and brings shame on the mother since few men want to marry what they called ‘second hand women’ -a stigmatizing slang, referring to girls who give birth before getting married. Off course, there is more dynamics such as the income generated by the practises and more, but, could more flexible and youth friendly contraception and comprehensive sexuality education play a role in curbing these practices at least for parents who genuinely believe that the harmful practises help to control a girl’s sexual alertness and activity?

The study also showed that, as boys’ transition from boys to husbands, their perceived role in household related reproductive care sharply reduced by more than 66%. On the contrary, as girls transitioned into becoming wives, their perceived roles in household related reproductive care work increased to maximum. In a similar vein, families preferred that their boy children engage in sexual relationship before marriage as compared to their girl children (46.7% vs 28.5%). Likewise, 54.6 % of respondents said they would blame a woman/girl rape survivor for being the cause of her rape. This discussion around who is to blame on rape is particularly pertinent in the context of the ongoing conflict because of the increasing number of victims and children born from it. What would be the implications for such mothers during the post conflict reconstruction debates and how does society support these mothers and the children they must live with for the rest of their lives even after the conflict is resolved? How do these involuntary mothers reconstruct their lives? Who assumes paternity of such kids when some grandparents -unapproving to the acts of some of the perpetrators- because they are believed to be members of armed groups, refuse to recognise these kids? These and more are questions raised from the findings of this study that will require a more broad and inclusive debate on a way forward.

In the context of post conflict truth justice and reconciliation commissions, there will be an urgent need to rethink if and how existing mechanisms are appropriate especially in the context of the hundreds of adolescent mothers now carrying children born from rape but facing social rejection.
Socially at community level, mostly male dominated institutions (family heads, quarter heads, and traditional justices’ systems) which are socialised in ways that subjugate women and girls are responsible for conflict resolution (and this include conjugal conflicts). These all male led institutions work to ensure the effective enforcement of gender biased negative socialisation experiences of women and girls. At the national level, some legal and regulatory frameworks discriminate between women and men. The civil status registration ordinance for example, provides the legal age of marriage at 15 for the girl and 18 for the boy such that, a girl or boy who marries below this statutory age is considered to have married as a child. Child labour as dealt with in the 1992 Cameroonian labour code emphasizes that employing a child below 18 years of age is an aspect of child exploitation and is criminally punished, giving a man priority over a woman since technically, even if a girl can marry at 15 years, she cannot be employed at this age, thus, economic dependence on the husband who is 18 and employable. In a similar vein, according to the civil code, a man decides for example on the residence of the family, can sell or mortgage the family property in most cases even without the consent of his wife. In these regards, it is clear that boys, men, traditional and religious authorities tend to feel threatened by endeavours that aim at combating VAWG. This is because combating VAWG means transforming socio-cultural norms. In other words, challenging the comfort zone of some men who are socialized to be violent in a community where violence against women and girls has been normalized. Men are entitled to discipline and control women, including through violence, and this tend to act as powerful motivators of individual attitudes and behaviours, largely because individuals who deviate from group expectations are subject to shaming, sanctions or disapproval.

Building the self-esteem of women and girls using rights based educational and leadership approaches is important in addressing gender-based violence. Meanwhile there are emerging groups of men working in collaboration with women groups and organisations to change attitude, challenge norms and practices that sustain VAWG, women and girls will need to take the lead in challenging the oppressive structures, institution and laws that keep them under a vicious cycle of sustained control. For this to happen, there is need for a robust and coordinated synergetic engagement of different actors working with women, girls and communities. Establishing safe spaces for reporting/referral of cases, facilitating effective, accessible and accountable services for survivors and those at risk, promoting rights based child/youth socialisation practices, countering negative family socialisation practices by focusing on co-analysing with households, the socio-economic costs of VAWG to future family livelihood outcomes, are very important in deconstructing the drivers of the root causes of VAWG.