Meet the United Methodist Women of Cameroon!
United Methodist Women are always dynamic, and members in Cameroon are no different. The women of Cameroon are organizing seminars, developing income generating projects and providing scholarships to help ensure that women are equipped to lead, and are empowered to implement lasting change.
Cameroon is a country in Central Africa blessed with abundant natural resources and cultural diversity. Despite having the strongest economy in the Central Africa region, 40 percent of the country's 20 million people live below the poverty line. Food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty increasingly plague the country, along with limited access to healthcare, education, clean water and other essential amenities. The country has a multiparty system of government, although one political party has remained in power since 1985.
Discrimination against women and girls also persists. Although the country's customary law ostensibly provides for equal rights between men and women, provisions in the law allow men to limit women's rights of inheritance, employment and property ownership. Other major women's rights abuses in the country include female genital mutilation, girl child labor and trafficking, security force abuse, and discrimination against gays and lesbians. Yet women in Cameroon, who comprise approximately 52 percent of the population, are increasingly challenging the traditional male monopoly by advocating and assuming positions of leadership and influence.
Cameroon Mission Initiative
The United Methodist Church Cameroon Mission Initiative has existed for some 11 years. United Methodist Women was launched in 2005 at Mont Fébé in Yaoundé under the leadership of Regional Missionary Catherine Akale. In 2006, the office of the United Methodist Women's Desk Coordinator was created following a request from women in the local church units. The objectives of United Methodist Women Cameroon are to:
- Help women exercise their rights as human beings in the same title as men
- Encourage women to engage in productive activities that increase their revenues
- Create jobs and career opportunities for women
- Encourage girls and young women to attend schools and know God
- Provide secure homes for children
Support received from United Methodist Women Mission Giving in the U.S. has impacted women in Cameroon and their communities in the following ways:
Seminars for New Members: Since the United Methodist church is relatively new to this country, there is a need to organize seminars to help the women understand the nature and purpose of the organization. Seminars are organized in local churches for women who would like to become members of United Methodist Women units, as well as for existing members. Seminars teach women how to organize themselves into a group and explain how United Methodist Women are organized worldwide.
Nevertheless, a big challenge is widespread illiteracy among church members, especially women. A 2012 demographic study conducted by the church found that close to 80 percent of the church's members (men and women together) have less than a High School diploma; and women make up the majority of this group by 90 percent. Because the majority of the women in the local churches are illiterate, it proves challenging to communicate with them on certain issues. In response, the women are engaging in a number of initiatives to raise funds for education.
One such initiative is a health and livelihood workshop that was held at the annual gathering on April 15-19, 2013, in Yaoundé. Fifty-three women from all congregations in Cameroon attended this gathering. During the workshop, women discussed many important subjects that affect their health, including malaria prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, uterine cancer, breast cancer, and more. Women also learned some practical skills that can improve their lifestyle. Three of the skills that have made a great impact on everyone are soap making, body lotion making, and tie-dying. These skills were taught by Mbwizu Ndjungu, GBGM Missionary for Women and Children in Cameroon. It was recommended that women from each congregation should go back and teach other women in their churches. For next year's annual meeting, each church has agreed to present a report on how many women they have trained and what the results are.
Mission Giving from United Methodist Women has also helped the women start two national income generating projects: a corn farm and two motorcycles purchased for use as a taxi. These two projects allow women to generate funds locally, allowing them to cover some of their local expenses without relying solely on external funding.
Scholarships for Literacy Training
Mission Giving has also helped provide scholarships and literacy training for eight women. One of the women, Georgette Atsina, is a member of United Methodist Women in the Yaoundé district. For several years, Georgette said, she felt God calling her to ministry, but she felt stuck because she did not have the education background to attend seminary. Thanks to United Methodist Women, Georgette was able to obtain her High School Diploma, and she started seminary in October of 2013. Not only will Georgette's personal dream be fulfilled, but United Methodist Women in Cameroon will have the first woman to complete such an educational level.
The hope is that future products will include paying school fees for girls and young women whose parents cannot afford to fully school them, and organizing literacy classes and other useful workshops where women can learn different topics on practical life.
United Methodist Women pledge to mission is supporting the United Methodist Women organization in Cameroon. Regional Missionary Grace Musuka is working with the leadership of United Methodist Women in Cameroon to set goals and priorities, and address issues important to the women. You can offer additional support to women in Cameroon by increasing your Pledge to Mission and by giving a gift to the program work of Regional Missionary Grace Musuka. Visit our Mission Giving page or contact the national office of United Methodist Women to learn more.