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Women Break Silence Over Abuse With An App In Cameroon

The public silencing of a high-profile case where a child died after being raped has focused activists in Cameroon on how to confidentially get help to victims who need it.  With the 11336 cases of gender-based violence recorded last year expected to be exceeded next year, people need ways of getting aid.

The wall of silence over abuse against women in Cameroon is all but impenetrable. 

Three years ago, 21–year-old Rainatou suffered domestic violence from her partner. She has been hospitalised three times due to the violence, yet held on to the relationship. 

She explained that every time her partner laid hands on her, she wanted to report but didn’t know where to go.

“One of my friends took us to a commissioner. My boyfriend was scolded and warned not to touch me again. Well, things became worse,” she said. 

Rainatou bore the physical and emotional violence alone, until the day she met a woman from a local organisation who followed up on her case and saved her and her son from the hands of her partner.

Unlike Rainatou, some girls and women in this situation don’t know where and how to get help. 

The fall-out from a recent case of a young girl who died after she was raped, has affected how people talk about cruelty towards women, pushing it further into the shadow.

Far from starting a national conversation about the suffering of women, the relatives of the 15-year-old girl launched a campaign in January to stop people in the local area from talking about the case in public and on social media. 

The story withered and disappeared.

Activists have taken to the internet to work out a way of breaking the stigma and getting people the help they need. 

Reporting in confidence

The Nkafu Policy Institute says an estimated 43.2 per cent of women who are in a relationship with a man are suffering domestic violence. 39.8 per cent have experienced some form of emotional abuse, and 14.5 per cent have experienced sexual violence. 

Nationally, it has been reported that for over 20 per cent of women, their first sexual relationship was forced.

In all, more than half of all Cameroonian women experience a form of domestic violence, but only a few have an appropriate, confidential, and accessible platform to report and get psychological support. 

According to the Cameroonian coordinator of the United Nations Agency for Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, Liliane Munezuro, one out of every three women in Cameroon suffers from violence. 

It is why her institution is strongly behind the newly created web platform, to provide help to women and girls affected. 

AlertGBV is a new app created by Women in Entrepreneurship (WETECH) to help gender-based violence survivors. 

Its founder and executive president, Elodie Nonga-Kenla says after witnessing her friend go through violence, and no proper follow-up was done, she used her skills with technology to develop this platform that will go a long way to help these vulnerable Cameroonian women. 

“The goal is to make sure that people are aware something like this exists. The platform is there to assist victims of gender-based violence. The most important thing is to present this innovative solution, which is accessible, confidential and free,” she noted.

Elodie Nonga, AlertGBV app creator. Photo: WETECH

The challenge, however, remains with families of GBV survivors who are said to prevent those affected from getting justice.

“Generally, we get stuck with a majority of cases recorded as some families call to stop us from following up on the case,” said gender activist Djepang Yvonne.

One incident like this was that of Burinyuy Shantal, the 15-year-old girl who died after receiving an unsafe abortion. 

Sources close to the family called on friends and well-wishers to stop talking about the case. Shantal was reportedly raped by a top government official. The president of the community she hails from, Nso in Northwest Cameroon, banned all indigenes from discussing the matter on social media platforms. 

Despite the odds, AlertGBV ensures confidentiality and professional follow-up on any case reported. Along with several civil society organisations, religious bodies and other institutions, AlertGBV platform says it intends to address more cases and help fight depression.

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