Earlier in April, I had the opportunity to take two community counterparts to a training surrounding the connection between gender and HIV. The training was an important opportunity to do some more structured planning around some projects I am hoping to do next year with my community, and it was a great way to discuss my ideas with my counterparts and learn more about Danfili.
For the forum, I brought my counterpart Astadicko and the guidance counselor/teacher at the secondary school. They both worked with the previous volunteer, and have good connections to people I’m hoping to work with in Danfili. They were also excited to spend a few days in Kribi, where the training was.
During the three days of the training, we talked about gender and the expectations along gender lines that exist within various cultures. The second day we discussed violence against women, gender equality, and talked a little about HIV stigma. The third day was focused on action planning in our communities and using what we talked about during the training to inform our projects in our communities.
I talked a lot about gender and identity during my time at Carleton, but this was a totally different context for those conversations. There were nine volunteers and fourteen Cameroonians, ranging from conservative Muslim women to liberal HIV counseling nurses to young single men. Each of us has a different history and concept of gender, and I wish we had more time to discuss our differences and similarities across gender. I am still learning what gender norms exist in Danfili, and my conversations with Asta and Abadam were fruitful, but I still have lots of questions and want to better understand the context of our town and how my work surrounding women’s empowerment will affect the community.
At the moment, I’m planning on a girl’s group for fourteen secondary school students. Based on a scholarship program, I plan to have monthly meetings with the girls to talk about goal setting, health, girls’ empowerment, and other lessons as they make sense. Over the course of the year, we will also complete a community service project of the group’s choosing. I used this training to talk about some of the details of the girls’ group with my counterparts, and we also planned some projects with the Mere Liders and les Hommes Dynamiques. I will write more about this soon, I’m sure 🙂
Kribi is a port town in southern Cameroon. Known among Cameroonians as an excellent fishing town, it also had beautiful beaches and a unique waterfall that opens into the ocean. Here are a few photos!