A group of volunteers in Cameroon are running awareness programmes in the central African country to fight abuse and harmful cultural practices that often target girls.
The national network dubbed RENATA also works to help victims of sexual abuse; violence and early pregnancy rebuild their lives.
“I think the number one thing is that you have to punish those who perpetrate these kinds of acts whether breast ironing or rape. Government really needs to make laws and be consistent in punishing people who continue to perpetrate this but you also need to care about the victims. We provide more support to victims by maybe supporting organizations like RENATA who are really in the frontline in this fight,” said RENATA co-founder Flavien Ndonko.
When rape happens in the family circle it's difficult for someone to talk about it
The organisation started in 2005 now has over 21,000 women volunteers in more than 350 groups across the country, as part of the national ‘auntie’s network’.
“The role of an aunty at RENATA after their training is to fight violence against women in the community, in her family, in her village, in her neighbourhood and also at RENATA she is no longer a victim, she becomes an activist who goes to teenagers to talk about the problem,” explained RENATA spokewoman, Cathy Ada.
According to a survey carried out by RENATA in 2009 nearly one in every 20 women in the central African country had been raped. Many more cases simply go unreported.
RENATA Volunteer Charnelle Lumiere says, “The challenges I face working with young girls is getting them to speak out. When rape happens in the family circle it’s difficult for someone to talk about it because the family members will say this is a family issue and it shouldn’t be discussed with outsiders. It’s better for the family members to try and fix it. Most often the family goes into an agreement with the violator without the knowledge of the victim. The victim herself is abandoned.”