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Covid-19, School Shut-Down And Indoor Activities For Young People

Coronavirus disease (Covid-19), recently declared a pandemic by the WHO has caused panic and death around the world. Many countries have adopted measures including the shutting down of schools, restrictions of large gatherings, etc. The government of Cameroon on March 17 announced measures to contain the spread of the virus including:

  • The closure of all public and private training establishments of the various levels of education, from nursery school to higher education, including vocational training centres and professional schools;
  • Restriction of gatherings of more than fifty (50) persons;
  • Closure of restaurants and entertainment spots from 6 p.m.;
  • Regulation of consumer flows in markets and shopping centers;
  • The postponement of school and university competitions, like the FENASSCO and University games, etc.

While we applaud the measures put in place by the government, we believe what is more important is how effective they are implemented. There have been reports of people still gathering in large crowds of more than 50, of continuous unregulated flows into markets and shopping centres and of some entertainment spots including bars still operating after 6 p.m. This raises a question about the effectiveness of children being taken out of school only to find themselves in places more crowded than their classrooms. It wouldn’t be surprising to see that during such period many children will be called upon to help their parents, relatives or guardians to hawk in crowded markets.

The shutting down of schools throughout the national territory means millions of school pupils and students are forced to stay at home. Young people in the Anglophone regions have already suffered the effect of school shutdown for the past 4 years as a result of conflict ravaging the regions. The current coronavirus pandemic only exacerbates the impact on young people within these regions. Out of school without access to other forms of education can often prove counterproductive for young people of school going age, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds. In such circumstances young people suffer the risk of exploitation, unwanted pregnancies, loss of opportunities, etc.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay stated that “The global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education,” The agency said the effects could include:

  • Interrupted learning: When schools close, children and youth are deprived of opportunities for growth and development. Under-privileged learners with fewer educational opportunities beyond school are the hardest hit.
  • Nutrition: Many students rely on free or discounted meals provided at schools for food and healthy nutrition.
  • Dropout rates: It is a challenge to ensure children and youth return and stay in school when schools reopen after closures. Dropout rates rise in protracted closures.

While some institutions in advanced countries are putting in place measures to minimise the impact of the school shutdown, which include distance learning, children in many parts of the world would have to stay home without any possibility of learning. Most children around the world don’t have access to internet. In Cameroon, for example, most young people don’t have computers at home nor access to the internet. In recent days frequent power outages in major cities around the country including within the southwest region have left many going without power supply for days. This not only undermines any possibility of home-schooling for young people but equally makes their stay at home boring. We would like to call on the attention of the authorities concerned to do something to ensure that the power situation is adjusted sooner than later.

While we at SODEI are leading a campaign of sensitization on the coronavirus, we are equally interested in continuous play and learning opportunities for young people during the period of shutdown. Amidst the fear and uncertainty young people still have the need to play and learn. Children despite the circumstances still need to play.

Children can continue to engage in productive activities at home with their parents. Aside from helping them with their actual schoolwork, parents should consider involving children in household activities such as cooking, house chores, etc, in ways that are fun. If possible, children can be engaged in some form of craftwork including beading, knitting, sewing, etc. However, attention should be given to children’s need to play and have fun. Play with family members can be very useful during this time and provides an opportunity for family bonding.

Keeping in mind the regulations and guidelines recommended by the government on public spaces during this period, at SODEI we offer a variety of indoor activities for children. Our LESPLAY program components include a variety of activities to wit: creative arts (painting, photography, drawing and sketching); acting (drama/role play, debate and public speaking); games (chess, puzzle, scramble). We will continue to do our best to ensure that children enjoy their childhood despite the circumstances and take measures to safeguard our young ones and educate them on precautions to be taken to avoid the Coronavirus.

SODEI And Contra Nocendi Submit Joint Submission On The Rights Of The Child In Cameroon

In response to the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights call for civil society views on children’s rights and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, SODEI and Contra Nocendi International have collaborated on a joint submission on the rights of the child in Cameroon. Our joint submission focused on Cameroon’s implementation of a child rights approach to sustainable development with a focus on SDGs 4 and 16. While SODEI and CNI have been collaborating, this is a first joint submission together and it was a very important issue that we tackled.

Under sustainable development goal 4 (SDG 4) we highlighted some of the challenges to the realization of an inclusive and equitable quality education including the continuous inequality in school enrolment rates between boys and girls. We also highlighted the challenges in achieving sustainable development goal 16 (SDG 16) as a result of the violence against children in the conflict-affected North-west and Southwest regions; children victims of crimes including violence at home and public spaces; and children in conflict with the law;

In relation to the impact of the conflicts in Cameroon on the rights of children, our joint submission pointed out that “[c]hildren in Cameroon continue to live in situations of violence affecting their access to quality education. Insecurity in the Extreme North region resulting from the activities of Boko haram and the crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions has had a tremendous impact on access to education. Children in the Northwest and Southwest regions have been forcefully deprived access to schools; Heightened infringement of children’s rights to education, safety and security in the context of the conflict have been reported.

International bodies such as United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have estimated that up to 80% of schools in the southwest and northwest regions have been closed affecting more than 600,000 children”, Indeed, we are seeing children being deprived of their right to education either indirectly through the conflict or directly through combats making schools the object of an attack, which is clearly in breach of international humanitarian law.

SODEI and Contra Nocendi International continue to monitor the situation and will be collaborating further on SDG 4 and SDG 16. It is clear that more must be done to ensure access to education and the protection of children in conflict situations in Cameroon.

SODEI International Women’s Day Event In Limbe, Cameroon

Solidarity Development Initiative (SODEI) joined the rest of the world to commemorate the International Women’s Day celebrated this year under the theme “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. On March 7th 2020, SODEI organized an event to celebrate this day in Limbe, Cameroon with a theme of its own entitled “Overcoming Generational Inequalities” to support the original theme of this year’s celebrations. The event was attended by women, girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 36.

The focus of the day’s event was to understand the ways of overcoming generational inequalities which negatively affect women and girls, and the various accompanying types of violence they face in society. The event which was fashioned as a lesson was accomplished in four interactive phases which gave participants the opportunity to grasp new information and be able to express what they learned by asking questions and sharing experiences.

 

To initiate discussions, the reason and importance of the celebration of women’s day were examined to give participants perspective of the day’s event. Susan Maloba, SODEI’s Program Manager expressed the significance of this day for women to seize the opportunities available to them and continue to be a positive force for development in their families, communities and nations. As she reiterated “The time for women to take initiative and be proactive is now”.

The second phase brought discussions on the key areas which affect women and girl’s rights and opportunities. One of the main issues that affect women in Cameroonian society like everywhere else is Violence against Women, which participants learned went beyond physical violence suffered by women in domestic milieus, but included systems which have been established to ensure that women are limited in the goals and objectives they can achieve and stay subject to menfolk in the society.

This year’s international women’s day theme: “I am generation equality; Realizing women’s rights” it was said, seeks to explain that, the people responsible for the change in women’s circumstances is not the government or an individual, but it is the society as a whole which has to put an end to every form of disrespect, discrimination and violence on women and give women an equal opportunity to participate in sustainable development.

The third phase of the program was crucial and meaningful because participants learnt the areas in which women’s participation should be encouraged. Governing, career orientation, subsidized large scale farming projects, education, academics, business, information and technology were identified as the main areas where Cameroonian women and girls should benefit from more opportunities if we were to achieve “Generation Equality”. Ayuk Tataw Emilie, one of SODEI’s Program Coordinators, emphasized the importance of women’s day celebrations because they serve to throw more light on the different areas in which women should be empowered that remain very much unexploited.

The fourth phase was a very vital part of the whole session as it was the most interactive part. Participants expressed the lessons they had learned from the discussions and a commitment to apply them in their day-to-day lives. Of these lessons the most important retained were first that women and men, boys and girls are equal and should be treated equally. Secondly, it is our collective responsibility to make sure women and girls are not disrespected, discriminated on or undergo any prejudice based on their identity as such. Thirdly and most importantly, if we are to live peacefully in a society, we have to ensure that the systems that serve to undermine women and their importance in society are dismantled and we can all live like equal citizens and members of our society, enjoying opportunities and contributing to the development of our nation on equal footing.

In the light of these discussions, the participation and outcome, the event was a very successful one and passed on a very important message about International Women’s Day in conjunction with its importance to women and girls in Cameroon. This successful session was planned and coordinated by SODEI’s dedicated volunteers and members of Staff, Susan Maloba, Ayuk Tataw Emilie and Nicole Mbiatem on behalf of SODEI, Cameroon. The parting affirmation for the day was “We are women, we are unique, we are strong!”

Interview with Ruth Tebah – Creative Arts Coordinator for SODEI’s LESPLAY Project

SODEI’s Comms Associate Tataw Ayuk Emilie, caught up with Ruth at her desk at the Limbe Middle Farms Office and Community Centre location, to find out more about her passion for creative arts and her work with children and young people.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Tebah Ruth Enjoh but to my family and friends, I am Raël. I am 19 years old and I obtained my Advanced Level GCE certificate last year. I was the Art president and social personnel of the student administration of Government High School Limbe, where I studied the S3 (Biology, Chemistry & Mathematics) series in science. I live in Limbe, a city in the Southwest region of Cameroon.

You are the Creative Arts Coordinator for SODEI, how did you learn about the organisation?

My aunt told me about an art seminar that she wanted me to attend in November so I was really excited about it because she said I will learn a lot from there. One day towards the end of October 2019, she came to my house and said dress up and let’s go we are meeting those people today so I dressed up and we then left. But when I arrived, I saw it was not a seminar but a meeting for the preparation of the LESPLAY project. From that moment, I became a part of SODEI. I was happy because I saw an opportunity to be useful, to exercise and better my artistic skills. I was really looking forward to be part of SODEI and God answered my prayers when I was given the opportunity to handle the creative art department of LESPLAY a SODEI project.

What impresses you the most about the organisation?

What I like about SODEI is that they give everybody a chance to improve and they help people out by inspiring them in every way they can, not to give up.

How did you discover your artistic skills?

When I was 7years old the teacher would often give us drawing assignments to do at home. So when she first gave the assignment which was to draw a car and name its parts, we were to use the weekend for that so I did not really believe I could do it until when I finally took the courage to draw so I will not be punished then I realized that I could actually draw so when I came to class the teacher congratulated me. From then on for the other assignments she gave she would use my drawing to explain things in class and other students would ask me many times to draw for them.

Arts seems to be a passion for you, what is the story behind your love for arts?

Well growing up for me was quite stressful because of some issues at home, so art was like a “Pain Killer” for me i.e. when I am hurt or angry, I will always draw to feel at ease or to calm down. So, then art became a part of me. Though many times my dad would beat me or shout at me for doing “NONSENSE” as he calls it did not stop me because I love arts a lot and it is who I am until now.

What are your dreams for the future?

Well I have 3 professions that I have been desiring in my heart and I must accomplish these desires by working as hard as I can. I want to be a Nutritionist, a renowned Fashion Designer and a well-known Artist everywhere.

What impact do you aim to create with your artistic talents?

I will make sure to reach out to as many children and young people as possible with a passion for arts so I can encourage and guide them so they don’t give up on their dreams or throw away their talents.

How is your relationship with SODEI and what do you intend to achieve working together?

I am the Creative Arts coordinator for SODEI and I believe that SODEI is the platform that will help me reach out to children and young people with love or passion for creative arts. So, I believe my working with SODEI is going to create impact in the lives of these people.

We are currently observing the 16 Days of Activism on violence against women (VAW), what do you make of this occasion? What is your take on the prevalence of VAW in society? How do you plan to use your work to combat VAW?

I think it is wonderful that we have not just one day as is the case with other international events, but 16 Days of Activism on VAW. I am very happy to discover the importance given to the fight against VAW. I also believe it is our duty to spread the message even further to the grassroots, to those spaces where VAW is even more prevalent and yet with limited awareness.

Well I plan by showing my expression and how I feel about VAW through creative arts and make people understand the pain and suffering women and girls go through. Arts is one of the best ways to communicate some of the things we have difficulties explaining, traumatic experiences for example.

So, with this in mind, since SODEI is currently observing the 16days activism, during my next session, I plan teaching the children about VAW and then letting them to express their own views about it through drawing and sketching, and this will be complied and documented into narratives of VAW.

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LESPLAY Creative Arts Session December, 7 2019: Focus on Gender-based Violence and Bullying in and out of School Milieus

Today’s LESPLAY Creative Arts session was organized and conducted by our creative and dedicated trio, Justin Ndomi, Tataw Ayuk Emilie and Ruth Tebah.

Emilie who is our Communications Associate enlightened our young participants on the basic definitions of gender and gender-based violence (GBV), with specific emphasis on psychological violence and bullying prevalent among school children in and out of school milieus.

The session was organized in consonance with the ongoing 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. In the next session, our volunteer team will continue to teach the young participants about Violence Against Women (VAW), the effects of violence against women, the importance of bringing this unfortunate and harmful practice to and end and the responsibility involved at all levels of our society.

Most importantly, the young participants are going to be learning their role in the realization of the curbing and ending of GBV. At the end they will be tasked to express their own views about VAW through drawing and sketching. This will then be complied and documented into their narratives of VAW.

Stop Violence against Women (VAW) SODEI’s Basic Lexicon

What is Violence Against Women?

Violence against women (VAW), also known as gender-based violence are violent acts whose victims are primarily or exclusively women or girls. It is any act that aims to take advantage of a perceived weakness and incapacity that has been attributed to women and girls.

Why is VAW bad?

It is bad because it inflicts deep physical and psychological wounds and it is committed against women or girls specifically because they are female. VAW can take many forms. It can be physical, psychological, mental, and even social and economic.

Who commits VAW?

Men and women alike could be responsible for VAW. Unfortunately, most cultures and traditions encourage discriminatory practices against women which is why acts which constitute violence against women have persisted for so long.

What are the effects of VAW?

Because of the difference between men and women and the traditional roles assigned to them, violent acts affect women and girls differently and consequently weaken the society.

Who is responsible for ending VAW?

We all are: Men, women, boys and girls. Women and girls deserve equal opportunities to achieve their full potential and live a life free from all forms of discrimination so that they can participate in all aspects as equal members of society.

Why is it important to stop Violence against women?

Violence against women and girls hampers not only the personal development of the victims but adversely affects the development of a society as a whole. No society will progress if half of or a considerable portion of its population faces discrimination.

What can we do?

Acknowledge our differences but respect our equality. Treat each other with the respect and dignity which we deserve as human beings. It is the responsibility of each one of us to make the world we live in a better one.

The United nations has declared November 25th the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and for the 16 days following this day, an international annual campaign of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is carried out.

The official color of this Campaign is Orange. The He for She campaign is another campaign which invites men and women alike to stand in solidarity with women and girls to create a world where we are all equal. Let us Orange the World. The change begins with every one of us.

SODEI Participates in the 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, 2019 and Celebrates International Human Rights Day.

Every year, from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th to the 10th of December, which is the International Human Rights Day, a 16 days campaign is carried out against gender-based violence (GBV). The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness on issues of (GBV) which affect women and girls all over the world. The 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence campaign is observed this year under the theme “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape”.

Rape is one of the most despicable ills which continues to persist in our society today. UN Women (2019) describes this unfortunate occurrence as something which destroys bodies and minds and puts peace in jeopardy. Its main victims are women and girls which is why it has often been classified as a gender-based crime which targets vulnerable persons and takes advantage of them in the worst way. For some victims of these acts of rape, the results are STIs and or unwanted pregnancies in addition to trauma which brutally changes their lives forever.

Without a doubt, rape is not only a crime against its victims but also their families and communities which are left with the difficult task of helping them to rebuild their lives. Rape has persisted in most societies because it is rooted in the culture of inequality between men and women, boys and girls. Unfortunately, when this despicable act happens, society mostly blames the victims instead of the perpetrators contributing to the culture of silence which has for many generations developed around the occurrence of rape.

What can we do to strengthen the position of our society against rape and to ensure that we have the capacity to fight against rape?

Education is key in preventing and responding to GBV in the form of rape. To encourage a society without violence is to educate about respect, consent, equality, dignity and most importantly to care for one another. The most important tool to fight against any problem is knowledge. It is imperative to be deliberate about disseminating information and discrediting cultures which allow rape to flourish to save the lives and dignities of many young persons.

This year is the first time SODEI is participating in the 16 days Activism Campaign. The Message SODEI sends out to Youth in Cameroon is this:

  • Have respect for one another. Do no harm and allow no harm
  • Only yes means yes. Women and girls are persons too
  • Everyone is equal before the law and before God
  • Treat everyone with dignity
  • Do not use someone’s weaknesses against them.

Strength comes from fighting for what is right. SODEI as a youth centered organization aims to empower and contribute to build upstanding members of the “Generation Equality” by educating boys and girls, grooming them to develop zero tolerance for this very harmful act and encourage respect for and towards each other’s personalities and most importantly clear communication. Youths are just as likely to be victims as they are to be perpetrators, so it is imperative to build a generation of responsible youths. The next generation of adults has to be given the tools to rise up to the challenges of the 21st Century by waking them up to the possibilities and potentials which they embody and most importantly teaching them of the errors of the past generations as a matter of inspiration to not repeat errors.

Through art and other educative and innovative activities, SODEI pledges to stand firmly against rape. This has already begun in the course of the LESPLAY (Learn, Speak, Play) Project, which uses art and expression as a means to educate children on GBV with special emphasis on psychological violence and bullying which is common amongst school children. SODEI also joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Human Rights Day by reiterating the importance of respecting and protecting the rights of children and young persons, especially their rights to learn, to equal opportunities and to participate in decision making, suitable for their development as individuals and as members of their society.

JOB VACANCIES

PositionDescriptionDepartmentLocation
Advocacy DirectorVacancy Announcement_Advocacy DirectorAdvocacyRemote
Communications DirectorVacancy Announcement_Communications DirectorCommunicationsRemote
Communications AssociateVacancy Announcement_Communications AssociateCommunicationsRemote/Limbe
Fundraising & Partnership SpecialistVacancy Announcement_Fundraising & Partnership SpecialistFundraisingRemote
Program ManagerVacancy Announcement_Program ManagerProgramLimbe

Apply For The Call for Trustees

Please email your cover letter and curriculum vitae to admin@sodei.org
Application Deadline: No later than 15 February 2020

NB: Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis so early submission is encouraged.
We thank all applicants for their interest, however only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for an interview.

Celebrates The First International Day Of Education

On December 3rd, 2018, the United Nations GA adopted a resolution to celebrate the international day of education, slated for January 24th2019. This celebration was to recognize the foundation role of #educationfor peace and development. This decision was adopted during the Global Education meeting held at Brussels and lasted from 3-5th of December. This resolution thus demonstrated the world’s will and determination to providing quality education to all and achieving sustainable development by 2030.

This significant celebration reiterates the benefits of education for development and peace, quality education and the rights of the student community. This celebration didn’t only highlight the importance of education but equally its significance in achieving other SDGs by 2030. Education helps in eradicating poverty, providing livelihood, improving health and sanitation, attaining gender equality and reduced crime among others. Education being a human right, is also a common good and public responsibility. In a nutshell, promoting education is one of the most vital points to be acted upon in every progressive society ,adapting to modernized academic programs.

It is to this effect that the Southwest Development and Emancipation Initiative (SODEI);a charitable NGO working to promote community development and Emancipation in the southwest region of Cameroon through education, took upon themselves to empower students in secondary schools in Buea. Empowering them to rise above poverty, conflict and violence in order to create positive change in the country.

SODEI organized a two days outreach in secondary schools in Buea on the 24 and 25 of January2019 respectively to celebrate the International Day of Education in Summer set Bilingual High school and Baptism High school with the theme: Youth Participation in their Education. The targeted classes where forms 1-4, the students were engaged in a series of participatory and interactive activities. The organization team members gave them a brief summary of what education was all about, its importance and why it should be celebrated. The students were shared into groups and together they came up with different ideas to build an educational tree.

This was crowned with the distribution of learning materials such as books, pens, calculators, math set, and rulers to enhance their learning. SODEI also handed a copy of the Safe Schools Declaration to the school principals. They all expressed gratitude as they received these gifts. The outcome of the events in the schools was positive as the students took the lead and actively engaged in the various interactive activities. Participants took home important messages on education to pass on to their parents and the communities.

IDPs Bonaberi

SODEI reaches out to Internally Displaced Persons in Douala – Cameroon
On the 24th of December 2018, SODEI carried out another outreach in Bonaberi, Douala, Littoral Region Cameroon. In line with our determination to fight against poverty, hunger and human suffering we reached out to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) running from conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions and hosted by some sympathizers in Douala. The outreach mainly targeted families and children directly affected by the conflict in the two English-speaking regions and without basic means of survival as a result of displacement and loss of means of survival.

SODEI #Youths4Peace team alongside SODEI Youth Ambassadors Helen and Justin went with Christmas presents including food and dresses for the affected families. Food items such as rice, magi, spaghetti and salt were distributed to the families directly affected by the conflict. Play toys and dresses were equally distributed to children of the affected families. About 50 children benefited from this gesture. They event was full of smiles as the kids and their families were happy and appreciated their gifts and thanked the SODEI team for the gesture of kindness during the Christmas season.

The families expressed gratitude towards SODEI for reaching out in times of distress and suffering. The children sang Christmas carols and danced with the SODEI team. The SODEI team also made further inquiries about the living conditions of these families. Many problems were raised including poor health and sanitary conditions, lack of portable drinking water and the lack of access to education for the children.

SODEI is looking forward to another visit to offer items such as mattresses to these families. Your kind gestures of support will be much appreciated….