On March 20, 2015, the U.S Embassy in Cameroon supported a two-day seminar organized by three Mandela Washington Fellows (YALI) from Cameroon, with the participation of 40 youth-organization leaders from around the country. The aim of the Youth dialogue was to include youth and women’s voices in the U.N Post2015 development agenda. Through the leadership of Mandela Washington Fellow (MWF) Zoneziwoh Mbongulo, the civic participants worked on recommendations to improve policies on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) on women and youths in Cameroon.
The dialogue among the diverse group of youth leaders centered around finding solutions to help women and youths in rural and remote areas of Cameroon to have more information, access, and choices on their sexual and reproductive health. The Chief of Service and expert on GBV at the Ministry of Women’s Affaires, Mrs Kendemeh, explained that the rate of maternal mortality and unwanted pregnancies in Cameroon have moderately decreased within the span of 13 years, and the percentage of women who delivered within the assistance of a qualified health personnel has only increased by 1.5% since 2004. Mrs Kendemeh explained it is critical for the country’s socio-economic growth, to include women’ and youths’ SRHR in the country’s policies and laws.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and outlined by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Sexual and reproductive health and rights are established Human Rights, they apply to everyone and no one should be excluded. SRHR entails not only the absence of reproductive or sexual illnesses, but also the full enjoyment and well-being of sexual health. As such, they are universal, inalienable, indivisible, and interdependent.
The seminar continued with Mandela-Washington Fellows sharing stories of their experiences in the United States during their 6-weeks fellowship in 2014. To MWF Christelle Chongwain, the U.S taught her the value of volunteerism. Through volunteerism, she was able to build her skills and experience the professional world. She encouraged fellow Cameroonians who lack professional experience to seek organizations and institutions in which they can volunteer. For MWF Hilda Bih, after she was offered a powered-wheel chair at U.C Berkeley, she had never felt as free to move in her life. She admired the way Americans celebrate diversity, “because someone is different it doesn’t make them inferior,” those were her concluding words to the youth leaders.
The YALI fellows rounded up the workshops with a policy paper they submitted to the representative of Mr Calice Abessolo, Cameroon’s lead negotiator on Post2015. Through this 2-day workshop, the voice of many Cameroonian youths, represented by youth leaders from most of the regions, will be heard at the United Nations.
View more pictures at: https://www.facebook.com/chrisbay21/posts/858848500824052