Civil society is hard to define; one good description is “a public space between the state, the market and the ordinary household, in which people can debate and tackle action”.
In the UK, our ability to band together to advocate for change or to launch initiatives to tackle problems or improve wellbeing is well established. It is encouraged at schools, celebrated by awards schemes and the media and championed by government departments, who often see it as a way of creating savings. Civil society allows for innovation and local leadership to identify and tackle issues big and small.
In Cameroon, a country with a weak democracy and a strong state, the concept of civil society is still new to many.
Women leading the way for change in Cameroon
We were delighted to meet with these pioneering women, around 40 in total, including mothers, doctors, businesswomen and educators, who have a passion for building women’s leadership, social responsibility and opportunities for health, education and betterment. We were excited to meet:
• Rural women who have gone from training recipients in the programmes they are running to delivering training to their peers
• Schoolgirls and university students benefiting from the mentoring and studyclub activities made possible thanks to women’s initiatives
• Women seeking to launch an ambitious, innovative women’s education centre in Douala, which will provide opportunities to women and girls in the surrounding slums and university students with few employment opportunities (75% of Cameroonians, including most graduates, are underemployed; 30% are unemployed)
Feedback from the training, which looked at a number of aspects of project delivery and sustainability, was overwhelmingly positive. Participants said:
• “It will help me to make a project proposal to possible donors and to see how I can involved others in my project”
• “I think I can now involve my family and friends more in my project”
• “I have realised through what I do, small or big, I can change the world”
• “I realised that even if the project seems to be big, yes, I can do it!”
• “the way Olivia and Ruth gave themselves to share with us their knowledge and the fact of bettering my knowledge of how to make the future Cameroonians happier and peaceful”
Building sustainable projects
Additionally, we gave individual support to a number of project leaders to build the sustainability and self-sufficiency of their initiatives.
It is well recognised that the holy grail of International Development is locally-led, sustainable projects that respond to well-understood community needs. In reality, this is often a far-off goal.
We look forward to keeping you updated on our work and that of our partners in Cameroon. If you would like to commission Wonder to give training to your organisation please get in touch!
Find out more about our work in Cameroon.