THE BLOG

Hawa's Story: Empowering Women In North Cameroon

09/05/2017 11:12 BST | Updated 09/05/2017 11:12 BST

"I have finally found a normal and desirable life. I am now able to save a bit of money so that I can provide a better life for my children."

Yet it was not long ago that Hawa Moussa was close to having her children taken from her.

Having dropped out of school when her parents could no longer afford her education, Hawa soon met her husband and left her parents' home to settle in Mokolo District, Cameroon. But shortly after, her husband's attitude towards her changed completely.

He was no longer the man that I knew, and life became hard for me," Hawa explains. "When I was giving birth to our second child the delivery almost killed me, but after the birth my husband rejected me and tried to leave me and take my children."

Unfortunately, Hawa's story is not uncommon in Cameroon. The Far North Region of the country remains heavily affected by deteriorating insecurity, which has led to a mass displacement of people within the region as well as a large influx of Nigerian refugees from across the border. This has resulted in a loss of access to vital health services and an escalation of sexual violence. Girls and women forced into early marriage or affected by domestic violence rarely have a safe place to go to receive support.

Thanks to the intervention of social service agents, Hawa was able to win custody of her children and she returned to her father's house in Bourha. Hawa's father had passed away a few months earlier.

"It was a hard time for me because I was begging to feed my children and myself. It was difficult to meet our other basic needs - I could not even afford clothing or soap for washing. I had to send one of my children to live with my mother to ease some of my pain.

"Sometimes I worked for hardly any money at all just to afford a simple meal for my child."

One day, she was introduced to an International Medical Corps' social worker who told her about the Women's Centre that International Medical Corps, with support from the European Union, runs in Cameroon.

"I went to the centre where we talked for a long time and she listened to me. I started to go there regularly since that day.

"She encouraged me. I regained self-confidence and got down to work," Hawa says. "I joined the centre's learning group where I learnt to make soap, petroleum jelly and dye for cloth. I also learnt to prepare fortified porridge for children and certain dishes through the centre's nutrition programme.

"Thanks to International Medical Corps, I found a normal and desirable life. I earn a little bit of money from selling donuts three times a week. I also receive help from some people at the centre. I save a little money, gradually, to strengthen the small business I have started, to improve my income and provide for my children.

"Most importantly, I have found hope again - I am so grateful for this."