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For four years, tensions have flared between the French-speaking majority and English-speaking minority in Cameroon. Threats of the Anglophone region’s secession have escalated things, leading to widespread violence and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Cameroonians. Sally Mboumien has seen it all firsthand. 

“I didn’t realize how much I had been emotionally engulfed by this conflict,” she said. “I thought it was work, but I see that it was my life.”

“When the crisis broke out, women were the first people under attack. They were not carrying guns but they were raped, forced to be cooks, forced to take care of everything. And nobody seemed to care. So we mobilized ourselves. The women’s movement that I am a part of is the first movement that has called for an inclusive and sincere dialogue. We’ve said drop your guns, guns do not talk.”

Mboumien has seen how government response plans build from the frameworks that women in local communities put in place, although these efforts are rarely documented. The advice of women may be taken, but without any credit being given. She has also seen how international aid makes matters worse. 

“They come with funding,” she said. “They come with different objectives, with donor criteria and rubrics and conditions, but they don’t listen. They don’t find out what is needed from the women.”

In conflict, crisis, and disaster settings, international NGOs and aid agencies are often among the first responders, providing technical support to local organizers, and providing funding and resources.

But they also come with bureaucratized systems. And according to Mboumien, the help rarely comes without impeding on the efforts that local groups have already made.

Read the full article
here.

Photo courtesy of Sally Mboumien
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In conversation with host Natalia Bonilla, the VOICE team talks about the broken international aid system. They also celebrate women's movements, and discuss VOICE's role in supporting them around the world. Click here to listen!

Did you know?
 
Women and girls are more likely to suffer mental health problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
While feelings of stress and hopelessness have affected both genders throughout the pandemic, the toll on women and girls’ mental health has been most significant. In a
recent study conducted by CARE, data showed that women are almost three times as likely as men to report suffering from significant mental health consequences during the coronavirus pandemic. Before the pandemic, the Pan American Health Organization reported that women in the Americas were already more likely to suffer from mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Global Citizen reports that 61% of women acknowledge that they are finding it harder to stay positive day-to-day, compared to 47% of men. ­
 
The increase in mental health problems for women and girls is being further exacerbated by the lack of mobility due to lockdowns. The gendered division of labor has put them in a position of disproportionately caring for the needs of family members without the expectation of being compensated. This increased care burden is leading to the intensification of violence against women, and has serious consequences for women’s mental health, well-being, and economic empowerment,
UN Women found.
 
Now more than ever, it is imperative to meet the mental health needs of women and girls, especially those living in vulnerable situations and under-developed countries.

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