#006: The Cameroonian Aunty Army Protecting Women

July 21 Issue of Empower46 below. To receive more like this straight to your inbox, join us here.

Good morning,
I was forced to skip our biweekly report last week, as I was hauling four suitcases across the pond. Many thanks to those who extended their congratulations and well wishes regarding this new chapter; Londoners, please e-mail me with your best coffee spots in this beautiful [foggy] city! I promise everyone that I'll keep an online diary of my culture shock moving from NYC to London.

News below.


  • The Cameroonian Aunty Army Protecting Women

Back in 2011, the International Business Times reported that about 20% of women in Cameroon had been raped at some point in their lives; and of those, about a fifth were attacked by a family member. This is beyond horrifying and speaks to the level of the threat of sexual assault to the average female child in the country.

A network of Cameroonian women- made up of 21,000 volunteers-called "RENATA" who refer to themselves as Aunties (tantines in french) are determined to make the country better for the future generations of young girls. These Aunties support victims of sexual abuse and harmful practices (such as breast ironing), fight for the rights of teenage mothers, as well as educate young girls on how to speak out when they've been harassed or abused. Volunteers are mostly survivors of the different kinds of violence against women.

A major (and difficult) part of their work is also getting victims who were attacked by family members to speak out, as well as educating the society against the mindset of keeping such heinous crimes within the family so as not to "spoil the family name." It is important to note that 10% of victims of sexual assault in Cameroon were attacked before age 10. The work of the tantines is expansive and heartbreaking, but necessary; and the women in Cameroon (and the rest of us) are immensely grateful. 

Read for: "The aunties invite parents in to discuss cases, sometimes with psychologists, in an attempt to break the silence. Often the families will say: 'Even if it happened, because it happened in the family, it will stay in the family'..."



  • Technology, Rural Women & Agriculture

UN Women has released Technology for Rural Women in Africa, a 2017 policy brief unraveling the potential of gender-responsive agricultural policies in improving the lives of rural African women with agricultural-based livelihoods. In particular, UN Women advises the implementation of policy that will simplify and incentivize women farmers to invest in agricultural technology. These incentives include provision of financing mechanisms (to ensure women can afford relevant machinery) as well as usage of widespread mobile phones as tools for free education and knowledge-sharing platforms.

Existing research shows that across sub-Saharan Africa, women farmers are about 13-25% less productive than their male counterparts. Therefore, there is a heightened need for governments to focus on, and respond to, the needs of female farmers in order to help them adopt technologies and increase agricultural productivity.     

Read for: "In the United Republic of Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda, for example, narrowing the gender gap in agricultural productivity has the potential of raising gross domestic product by USD 105 million, USD 100 million, and USD 65 million respectively."





  • What It's Like to be a Female Candidate in Kenya's Election

Robert Kibet of News Deeply reports on the experiences of female candidates running for spots in senior positions in Kenyan government. By and large, the female candidates have been exposed to great deals of misogyny (by way of lax comments and insults from male peers) to false imprisonment and threats of assassination. Women groups claim that the government does not do enough to protect female candidates and their supporters. Furthermore, the parliament missed the deadline to enact a law that would have mandated elected bodies to have at least a one-third representation of women.   

Despite it all, the women running for office in the 2017 Kenyan elections remain incredibly resilient and are determined to march their way into leadership. As a note, there are nine women pursuing gubernatorial seats this year; I hope, shortly, to share news of victory.

Read for: “As women, we still have a lot of distance to cover in terms of occupying the political spaces and fighting it out with men, because that is what will guarantee us the respect that we deserve."  



  • Sex & An African City

Chances are, you've heard about the YouTube show, An African City, which centers on five African women who move to Ghana after living in the Diaspora for most of their lives. It covers life experiences such as resettling in an African country, starting businesses, love, relationships, and of course, sex. Modeled after the groundbreaking Sex & The City, it aims to trigger healthier conversations around sex (amongst other goals).

Personally, I have some hang-ups about the overly elitist perspective that I feel the show has, but I can't deny that it does offer a different perspective on the continent - one that doesn't rely on poverty or pain to tell a story.

Watch for: "There are 7 billion people in the world. Every once in a while, one of those people find his or her way back home, for or not for, love. 




  • In Honor of Prudence Mabele

Well-known South African HIV activist, Prudence Mabele, passed away from pneumonia earlier this month. Having contracted HIV at age 18 (then considered a 'death sentence'), Prudence was determined to prove that the virus does not mean the end of one's life, and spent her own breaking the silence around HIV in South Africa.  

Prudence fought for the rights of people living with HIV, while educating the larger populace about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in SA. She led several women's groups, and once as the driving force of the group TAC (Treatment Action Campaign) sued the South African government for negligence on HIV/AIDS provisions for pregnant women - and won. 

Rest in Peace Pru.

Read for: “That bravery and determination would become the hallmark of Mabele's next 25 years, and would, when she died earlier this month, see her hailed as a "global icon" and a "true South African hero."







Nneoma Nwankwo