Four years ago, Emmanuela started dating a separatist fighter in Bamenda, a town that has witnessed unrest since 2017.
She lived in a neighbourhood where she says most young girls had separatist fighters as their boyfriends for protection and prestige.
In return, she served as an intelligence informant for her man and his crew.
“Whenever we saw the military passing, I will immediately call my boyfriend and tell him to warn the boys they were coming over,” she said.
Emmanuela said she was almost killed in her man’s camp during a surprise attack by the military in 2021.
“They killed two of his friends that day. They burnt the camp and some of them who were shot ran away,” she said.
This incident pushed the young girl to try and convince her man to join the disarmament camp, but he refused.
“He was stubborn, very stubborn. I begged him to stop but he continued and they killed him,” she said.
Emmanuela decided to relocate to another town in the country, for her safety.
Like Emmanuela, many young girls have played the role of intelligence for either separatist fighters or the military.
Some of these girls also have been killed as they participated in attacks.
Holders and victims
Last year, the National Committee on Disarmament, Demolition and Reintegration head, Fai Yengo Francis, told HumAngle up to 20 per cent of captured insurgents were women.
The non-profit organisation, Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace (CAMYOSFOP) along with UN Women and Cameroon’s ministry of foreign affairs, have worked to make the perspectives of women the centre of their policies on the control of Small Arms and Light Weapons.
The coordinator of CAMYOSFOP during a training last Friday in Douala, said women have become both holders and victims of small arms and light weapons in the areas hit by war in Cameroon.
“If you take the Far North for instance, you will realise that young girls have been involved in the conflict either by providing intelligence to the Boko Haram group or playing the role of detonating explosives. It is the same thing in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon,” said Ngalim Eugine.
Women are most affected by conflict, they can’t work on policies around small arms and light weapons control without including women, he said.
In a 2021 report, Crisis Group said after years of fighting between separatists and the State of Cameroon, women have been hit hard, others uprooted.
Mr Ngalim and UN Women representative to Cameroon Marie Pierre Raky, believe if effective sensitization is done, especially with women taking the lead, many will be disarmed.
Following the attack on a banana plantation in Cameroon’s Southwest region that killed five people, including two women, an advocate for the rights of women and the girl child, Esther Omam expressed regrets over the fact women continue to be the target of violence in the Anglophone crisis.
“Women have paid the heavy price, used as sport for their games without our consent,” she tweeted.
The voices of several women have been heard on streets of Cameroon, and internationally, calling for a cease fire.
A German-sponsored women for peace forum that took place in Yaoundé in 2022, saw over 3000 women calling on stakeholders to mainstream gender perspectives at all levels of the peace process.
Cameroon has a 2016 law regulating gun and ammunition acquisition, but Ngalim Eugine says much is still to be done in terms of making the law effective.
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