Cameroon, just like other third world African countries, faces many poverty related issues. According to the 2016 World Bank records, women, 49.96%, make up the majority of those affected. These women face numerous challenges which are aggravated by the fact that they have limited access to economic resources. They generally fall in the category of single parents with huge responsibilities and very little finances, keeping most of them at a very impoverished state, added to violence perpetrated on them. Consequently, these women face a lot of difficulties accessing GBV services due to the cost and some other aspects attached.
Based on the above analysis, LUKMEF Cameroon, has taken upon herself to issue support to survivors so as to permit them access all and any service they need. This project is within the framework of the UN Trust Fund project dubbed Building Community Level Agenda to End Violence against Women and Girls in Cameroon, A case in point is that of a survivor who received support from LUKMEF Cameroon within the UN Trust Fund project after she was victimized by the father of her child. She recounts her story to Gender Rights Watch.
“As innocent as I was, I thought I had found love when I came across this man who claimed to love me very much. Little did I know that he was a possible violence perpetrator? According to him, he was single, and could give me heaven and earth. Coming from a humble background, I felt like it was a dream come true. Surprisingly, he showed me hell when I got pregnant. It became worse when I later discovered that he was a married man and not the angel he pretended to be. Faced probably with the consequences of his actions in his house, he shamelessly refused the pregnancy and abandoned me during that trial moment . After a few months, I gave birth to a baby girl, with the hope that when troubled by his conscience, he may come back and assume his responsibilities. As fate would have it, my beautiful daughter was a replica of him.
Though with fingers clear on the wall, he still refused the baby with claims like “When a pregnant woman is always thinking of you during her pregnancy, there is a great probability that the child will look like you even if you are not the father”. To make things worst, he proposed that the only thing that could convince him was a DNA test where both of us would bear the cost 50/50 and that I agreed.
Another even more embarrassing scene was when he later refused a DNA test in Buea which cost the sum of FCFA 100,000 with baseless arguments that he had personal issues with the owner of the said laboratory. Shocking enough, he accepted a DNA test in France at the cost of FCFA 510,000. He accepted this because he was conscious of my family background and confident that I will not have the means to fund the test in France and will automatically drop the case. In total frustration and confusion, I got to the Women’s Empowerment office of Buea. While there, I laid the complain to one of the chiefs of staff who referred the case to LUKMEF Cameroon. As soon as my case was brought up, many women and girls quickly came to my aid – supporting me psychologically, morally and most especially financed the DNA test which was carried out in France.
Few days after payment was made, the specimens for the test was collected at the Buea State Counsel’s office in the presence of a Bailiff. A laboratory technician from a clinic in Douala collected the specimens and forwarded them to a laboratory in France. The results came back a month later and all those concerned were once again invited at the State Counsel’s office where the well sealed DNA results were open and read.
Based on testing results obtained from analyses of the DNA, his paternity to the child was proven 99.999% true. He was therefore obliged to take over his responsibilities. Thus, relieving me from the financial tight corner in which I was and taking away the persecutions I had from my family and friends. They blamed me for not being able to identify who the father of my child was. I am immensely thankful to LUKMEF Cameroon for giving my child a father and taking me out of my family stress. I will like to encourage women and girls facing a similar challenge to come into the light and speak up. I know it is not easy because it wasn’t easy for me. However, it is the first step to freedom. Let us put away whatever fear we are facing and explain our situation to someone. I am positive that you will find someone to help you.”
This incident draws our attention to the direct link between poverty and access to Violence Against Women/Girls (VAW/G) services. Women therefore need to be trained and supported in owning sustainable and honorable sources of income. This will improve on their access to services and reduce the rate at which they fall prey to violence.
Franca Egbe Arrey