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Unique Charter for Widows Promulgated in NW 

By Michael Ndi — The coordinator of a Bamenda-based NGO, Anne Stella Fomumbod, has gone into history for having championed and succeeded in the fight against obnoxious traditional widowhood practices in the North West Region of Cameroon.

Through her NGO dubbed Inter-Faith Vision Foundation – Cameroon (IVF-Cam), she brought together some 50 different widows’ groups which enabled them to be recognized by bodies like UNDP and to have greater freedom in their activities including access to markets. To lighten the manual labour, Anne Stella offered them tools and seeds which made their productivity skyrocket from 30 to 120 kg per month.

A major change took place in the life of many widows and young girls thanks to the sensitization programmes concerning HIV/AIDS.  They were warned against the dangers inherent in remarriage and the responsibility of parents.  Anne Stella facilitated access to micro-credit for 40 other women’s communities in the North West Region, including women victims of HIV/AIDS, and also launched literacy programmes for the women of the region to enable them to acquire much needed skills which in turn encouraged changes in their communities.

Anne Stella equally organized training sessions to guarantee property rights and access to land for women especially widows, most especially as the status of women was a challenge to the deplorable status of widows in the region. She organised the widows of 43 communities around this injustice and in a concerted effort, they brought traditional chieftains together to educate them concerning the huge gap between customs and women’s rights in their area and to encourage them to re-examine traditional practices.

Anne Stella’s effort finally paid off as it contributed to the promulgation of a unique charter on widowhood in the Metta tribe of Momo Division of the North West Region, a premiere in the history of her country enabling major progress for the widows. After Momo Division, Anne Stella is now extending her crusade to other Divisions of the North West Region.

In the North West Region where obnoxious traditional widowhood practices are still enforced by traditional rulers, the plight of the widows is pathetic and inhuman.  In some tradition, on the death of a man his head is washed and the wife is forced to drink the water to claim her innocence, and during the mourning period, the widow sits on the bare floor for the 3 to 4 days without taking a bath. In some ethnic groups, she eats and drinks from one traditional bowl.

Worse of all, through widow inheritance, the deceased’s brother is forced to re-marry the widow irrespective of what the person died of.  This phenomenon has contributed to the alarming spread of HIV/AIDS in the North West Region.

Anne Stella Fomumbod’s success story in championing the crusade of eliminating  obnoxious traditional widowhood practices has earned a Women’s Creativity in Rural Life Award by the WWSF Women’s World Summit Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland.


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