Cameroon: A word against a sword - vocational training for displaced underprivileged youths
The primary purpose of the project developed by the MasterPeace Club of Cameroon (under the legal umbrella of Hope For a Better Future – H4BF) is to provide a quality education to vulnerable youths (especially young females) in the conflict zone in order to support and promote the possibility of peaceful and better future for people affected by the crisis.
What’s the issue?
There are, unfortunately, still many places on our planet where people live in permanent fear and very real threat to life. Or they have to abandon their lands and their homes in search of peace, hope, trust and future for their families.
The separatist war between English speaking Southern Cameroon and French speaking Republic of Cameroon has killed approximately 3,000 people and forced more than half a million people to flee their homes. The conflict between two historical regions of the country has turned into an armed confrontation almost four years ago. Shortly after the first refugees found their shelters in Bamenda, the capital of the North-West region of Cameroon, the H4BF came up with a solution that was supposed to help minimizing the economic and humanitarian effects of war.
The long-term and mostly affected victims of such conflicts are young people, especially young women aged between 13- 23. Living in conflict zones they are vulnerable to get involved in illegal activities, such as drug trade, human trafficking or recruitment into armed violent groups, to become rape victims, to carry unwanted pregnancies, to get infected with STDs, including HIV/AIDS. These youngsters, together with other underprivileged groups like single teenage mothers, young widows, school dropouts, ex-convicts, persons with special needs and orphans are facing very limited access to employment and, as a result, no means of livelihood.
How has our Club decided to ACT?
The program, that the H4BF has launched as an occasional workshop on demand, has now turned into an institution persistently helping young people to rediscover perspective on their future, to gain confidence and, of course, to obtain a profession and some business competencies. Participants are able to choose between short, medium and long term programs. The course typically comprises two phases: the first phase consists of an educational workshop with modules in basic business and project management skills as well as financial management, including bookkeeping. The second phase involves partnering with a trainer (majority of them are volunteers) and offers hands on professional education in various fields that are always in high demand: computer technical expertise, shoemaking, tailoring, hairdressing and traditional local crafts like beadwork. The participants are encouraged and guided to beginning individual startups as social entrepreneurs. The help from the organisation also comes in the form of providing the necessary work tools or reference to banks for small business loans.
Along with professional training the H4BF’s students receive psychological help to overcome the consequences of war and losing homes. They are also invited to join meditation sessions in order to learn about inner peace and strength sources. This incorporated humanitarian part of the program involves participants into, so called, peace discussions. During these talks the young people learn to respect and accept different values and behaviours, to put things into perspective and, at the end of the day, to be more active and return to their communities as peace ambassadors. At least 5% of the youngsters, finished the course, acquired qualities enabling them to not only begin their own business but to transform their circle and the society they found shelter in.
It is worth mentioning that educational programs focusing specifically on female youths, like the H4BF programs, create long-term positive social and economic effects on the communities. According to the studies, women reinvest in their families up to 90% of their income. This means women spend more on their children, food, shelter and education, which delegates them an essential role in ending the cycle of poverty.
At least 5% of the youngsters, finished the course, acquired qualities enabling them to not only begin their own business but to transform their circle and the society they found shelter in.
In the near future the H4BF plans to extend their curriculum with basic renewable energy courses that will create more career opportunities for displaced youth in Bamenda. Hopefully, we will shortly hear about their efforts and success in creating more peaceful and sustainable life for the community.
In the meanwhile, we can hear the voices of some graduates of H4BF programs, sharing their stories.