The Mayors of Bali, Belo, Ndop, Oku and Balikumbat hosted 5 Municipal Round Table Discussions that brought together councilors, educational, religious, traditional and civil society representatives. They should reflect on the relevance of the theme of the 2015 “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign” and take action for improvement on the ground. The theme “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All” is very relevant to these municipalities because over 10 communities within these municipalities had witnessed in the recent past some of the worse forms of violent inter tribal/ethnic conflicts that resulted in loss of human lives, destruction of home, livelihood systems, educational materials and facilities.
The North West Region comparatively and proportionately benefits least from the national budget and development initiatives, is amongst the four poorest regions of the Country. However, its strong self-reliant and community development spirit is the driving force for the level of development it enjoys. Unfortunately a long history of tribal and ethic conflicts erodes these achievements of their many years of struggles.
It is against this background and the opportunity offered by the 16 day of activism campaign that the Community Initiative for Sustainable Development (COMINSUD) collaborating with the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bamenda archdiocese (members of the Cameroon Civil Peace Service Network) decided to focus on these 5 Municipalities where they have been working to promote a culture of peace.
An average of 25 persons in each municipality Roundtable, reflected based on the situation in the homes, schools, neighborhoods, villages and municipality on the following:
- The challenges concerning violence and education
- How the spaces for education look like
- Ways in which conflicts and violence have affects young people and the educational situation
- Can you make a contribution towards positive and sustainable peace?
The participants were provided with an opening paper prepared and presented by COMINSUD on the background and objectives of the Campaign, the context and forms of violence and how women and girls suffer. They also had information on the 2015 theme with global statistics on the effects of violence on education. COMINSUD also presented to them excepts of a rapid assessment carried out in December 2014 by UNICEF and the Ministry of Basic Education (MINEDUB) in 110 schools and 93 households in four Divisions (Diamare, Logone et Chari, Mayo Tsanaga and Maya Sava) most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the Far North Region. All those information enabled the participants to better appreciate the importance of the 16 days campaign and do an introspection of their local context.
These events which were covered by five community Radio Stations achieved the following:
- The participants gained plenty of insights on the 16 Days Campaign with particular focus on violence and its effect on women and girls and the need for a culture of peace and how to build it via the opening presentation and materials handed to them.
- The participants gained deeper insights of the challenging and difficult educational setting in which their children learn via guided discussions and exchange of practical experiences and how this affects the education of girls. Simple, low cost and practical actions were discussed that could make the school environment safe for learning such as: providing potable water, green the school, constructing separate latrines for boys and girls, speaking out and sanctioning actions that violate children especially girls.
- Participants recognized the lack of tolerance amongst communities in conflict and how inadequate use of non violent approaches to conflicts resolutions reliance on external solutions have brought several negative consequences on in their municipalities. They strongly resolved to strengthen local conflict and dispute resolution structures within the communities and to create Municipal Peace Committees and Peace Desks to deal with conflicts and emergencies.
- Participants committed to widen actions within their spheres of influence to promote a culture of peace. In this respected, over 500 copies of packages designed to stimulate discussions where shared out to be distributed to religious leaders, schools and groups within each municipality
Using the packages and communicating the content amongst others, called on people to make a peace action such as:
- Wearing the white ribbon during the 16-day period as a commitment of the wearer to never commit or condone violence against women and children.
- Use your skills, knowledge and influence to help the victims of violence and abuse.
- Speak out against violence toward woman and children and encourage silent female and children victims to talk about abuse and ensure that they get help.
- Encouraged men and boys to talk about abuse and discourage abusive and violent behavior.
- Also try to understand how your own attitudes and actions might perpetuate violence.
- Use social media (telephone, facebook, email, whatsup etc) to exchange messages of peace and reconciliation.
- Use religion worship service, cultural gathering etc to exchange messages of peace and reconciliation.
- Promote mobilization and actions of individuals and communities to promote reconciliation or eradicate violence via exchange visits, peace talks, peace gestures etc.