Member Spotlight - Women for a Change - Cameroon
Posted 21 July 2016 12:00 AM by Adébukola Oni
Cameroon is one of seven African nations that uphold a section of the 1920 French Law that considers induced abortion a criminal act. Founded in Cameroon in 2009, Women for a Change (Wfac) challenges oppressive laws like this through their commitment to cultivating a world where the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls are promoted, protected, and advanced. With this commitment and feminist values to guide them, Wfac has made extraordinary strides in developing community-driven programming and digital media projects that center youth engagement and leadership, as well as grassroots organizing. The outcome of their work mobilizes community members into action for ending gender-based violence; advancing human rights; facilitating popular education initiatives; and ensuring that women and girls are given space to actualize their potentials and activate their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
With an inroads Seed Grant, Wfac developed, directed, and produced an animated short film focused on fighting abortion stigma. Through animation, Wfac was able to produce a dynamic work that both pushes back against abortion stigma through myth-busting, mixed-method data, and art while at the same time, centering a narrative that affirms abortion as a normal and natural occurrence that is every woman and girls right to have affordable access to.
Currently, abortion practices in Cameroon are highly restricted and criminalized. According to Sections 337 and 339 of Cameroon’s penal code, receiving or providing abortion services can lead to incarceration and fines: possible banning from practice, fines of over $4000 USD, and/or imprisonment from 1-5 years for providers; up to a year of prison time and over $400 for a woman procuring her abortion.
The only exception for which abortion is legally permitted is in cases of medical necessity or rape. Though abortion practice is common, official statistics on abortion in Cameroon are outdated and under-reported.
Wfac’s focus on youth leadership and engagement in anti-abortion stigma work is especially critical to Cameroon’s reproductive and sexual health and rights movement because of the high prevalence of clandestine abortions among adolescents and young women. Entrenched abortion stigma and criminalization has pushed many women and girls into the margins of care. This social marginalization forces pregnant women and girls into making decisions about ending their pregnancies and bodies that are harmful and sometimes lethal.
Wfac’s media work is critical to strengthening the anti-abortion stigma movement across Cameroon. R. Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh, founder and director of Wfac, shares that media “remains one of the main channels where we debate and engage in valuable discussion with lots of people, Cameroonian especially. We use both traditional and new media to propagate [Wfac]'s message, raise awareness and contribute in changing perceptions and behaviors around women and girls SRHR. ”
For Wfac, social media has been a dynamic platform for helping to reach a diverse audience, which includes key stakeholders in transforming Cameroon’s national policy. SMS/text messages, Twitter, and Facebook have become their strongest media platforms. Zoneziwoh reports that Wfac “has established a contact list of over 10,000 people who receive critical news and updates related to work that advances gender justice in [Cameroon].”
As one of the few national programs speaking out against the silence, myths, and stigmas of abortion, Wfac’s presence is a necessary force for shifting the conversation and culture of reproductive care for women and girls from stigmatizing to empowering.
Wfac is proof that there is transformational reproductive and sexual health and rights work unfolding in Cameroon.
Check out the final version of Wfac’s animated short film!
To learn more about Wfac, visit: http://www.Wfaccameroon.org.
INROADS MEMBER AT A GLANCE
Name: Women for a Change (Wfac)
Where they work: Cameroon
Size of organization: 9 people (paid staff + volunteers)
Focus of work: Gender-based violence (GBV)/ Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG); Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE); Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) Advocacy, and Leadership and Development
Member of inroads: since 2015