By EKOI, Ashu Epemi, FOCHAP, Rebecca (Buea, July 2003)
The rural women in Buea like their counterparts from other rural areas finally wrote down their problems in the face of women’s emancipation and globalisation. Their problems, to name just a few range from lack of capital, lack of social amenities, lack of water, electricity, health poor education, communication, infrastructure, just subsistence farming and marginalisation due to tradition and culture. Thus, they started that combining efforts to support themselves and their communities.
The idea of combining efforts or working in solidarity amongst one another was stated by the co-ordinator which led to the creation of a unit called Rural Training in O.I.C. ( a vocational training school in Buea). With abut 7 willing participants, they came up with the idea of creating the NGO called Rural Women Development Council (RWDC).
The most important point at the initial stage focused on the training of head women who will go back and start sensitising other women in the villages on socio-agricultural ventures so that they can be able to improve on the living standards by becoming members.
The council was founded in 1993 and was the very first NGO to ever see the light of day in the South West Province of Cameroon. It’s Headquarter is in Buea Sub-Division and it has 25 member groups with a population of about 500 members.
Having identified themselves under one umbrella as RWDC members with an Executive organ and a General Assembly meeting once monthly, their idea is to raise the standards of living through solidarity and this was to be tackled practically as follows:
Firstly, workshops were organised constantly on socio-agricultural topics to educate women since the population is not literate. The education consisted of combining traditional lifestyle with scientific systems where every activity can be easily understood and co-ordinated for particular targets in order to gain on their various activities.
Secondly, during these workshops, participants got interested on certain agricultural ventures like stock rearing (pigs and chickens), vegetable cultivation ( market gardening), spices, cassava, yam and cocoa farming. The aim of the group was to ease the acquisition of materials, human resources, increase productivity, have quick access and steady market, easy transportation and protection from the groups and council.
Lastly, health for rural women is also a fundamental problem since they are very vulnerable to pandemics and epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, typhoid, cholera, river blindness etc. the council organises forums, sends delegates on various conferences concerning health so that there is quick awareness, treatment and prevention.
From the above ways therefore, standards of living can be rasied through commitments and total support for one another so that the objectives are obtained.
Despite all efforts at their disposal put in place, there are still many shortcomings in the field that handicap the total success in their objectives. The problems therefore are:
Lack of finance to acquire equipments for work like farm tools;
Lack of partnership with other NGOs and enterprises for co-operation and advertisement;
Lack of market and preservation e.g. excess goods like vegetables not sold are abandoned to perish since there is no market and preservative means.
Lack of capital to buy pesticides or chemicals especially on cocoa farming
Lack of documentation means and transportation of farm products because of bad roads and cost of transportation.
However, despite all the difficulties, there are enormous successes that have gone a long way to improve on the rural women such as:
a. Opening of an adult school known as Adult Bilingual Literacy Education (ABLE) to educate the rural women.
b. Rural agriculture in groups is being accepted by every Buea rural women, with some villages having about five different agricultural ventures like pig and chicken rearing, market gardening, etc.
c. There is now a rural women’s bank that has been developed in association with FOCAOB (Fonds Commun d"Appui aux Organisations de Base) known in English as the Grassroots Organisations Support Fund (GOSF) whose headquarter is in Yaounde.
d. The rural women adhere to the health advisors in order that there should be a strong working group and society especially on their children.
e. Most rural women in Buea now are able to send some of their children to school.
The co-ordinator is appealing on other NGOs in Cameroon to join FOCAOB and CNOP-CAM so that they can be able to realise their common problems through in different localities.
There is also the risk that foreign NGO continue this kind of contacts all over the world in order that rural population can develop.
To conclude, there is a general awareness on the needs of the rural women in Buea and the hope is that there should be continuous education and support so that rural development is reached in Buea as well as all over the world.
This fils was written during the World Peasant Meeting from 6th-11th May in Cameroon