COUNTRY: CAMEROON
PROJECT: RESCUE WOMEN CAMEROON
DIRECTOR: NAKINTI NOFURU

 To donate to Cameroon-Nakinti, click here.

Rescue Women Cameroon (REWOCAM), a non-profit founded and directed by Nakinti Besumbu Nofuru, is the preeminent organization in Cameroon addressing gender-based violence. REWOCAM has a particular focus on child rape, which is a widespread problem even among very young children.

A CHILD SHOULDN’T FACE THE TRAUMA OF RAPE ALONE

In 2021, Nakinti posed the following hypothetical question to 50 Cameroonian mothers: If your 5-year-old daughter came to you crying because she was just raped, what would you do? She then divided the mothers into small groups to discuss the question before they reconvened and shared their answers. At that time, only about 5% of the women had a child-supportive response. 95% of the mothers had a punitive response and over half the mothers even said they would beat their 5-year-old daughters for being raped!

Child rape is a horrible crime, but when children are blamed by the police, friends, neighbors, and even their parents, the damage can be even more lasting. Child victims often silently carry the shame and stigma their entire lives. Stemming child rape or changing a justice system that treats the perpetrator with impunity is impossible when it is the child that is blamed for rape, but changing a culture that re-victimizes the child is proving to be much more promising than we imagined. Nakinti and her team are turning heads and changing hearts.

If you want to have a profoundly positive impact in this world, we invite you to be a hero in the lives of these children – both those still young and those now grown.

THE WINNING STRATEGY

Nakinti and her team are determined to change the culture in Cameroon, shifting the blame for rape from the child to the perpetrator, and they have a multi-pronged strategy to do so.

First, EDUCATION:

  • More than 2,000 children are active in REWOCAM-sponsored school-based clubs. Here they learn what rape is, how to avoid dangerous situations, what to do if threatened, and how to cope as survivors. A key theme is “you are not to blame!” The children love the clubs and are spreading the word among their friends.
  • REWOCAM conducts Mothers’ Workshops that train women in the same topics, and the mothers are learning the importance of protecting and supporting their children. Each year the number of women participating has grown, and still demand outstrips our capacity. In 2023, over 900 women participated, including women who had to walk 15 km from their village to get to the workshop. Women are so excited about what they learn in these workshops, they often go home and tell their husbands, family members, neighbors, and friends, so the message is spreading further.
  • To reach the broader population, including men, Nakinti runs a weekly 30-minute radio program. An estimated 70,000 people listen each week.
  • REWOCAM has formed a cross-functional first responder team, including police, religious leaders, social workers, hospital and educational employees, and government officials, who have met to design and proliferate a “Community of Practice” to improve rape case management in Kumba.

Second, BUILD A LARGER MOVEMENT:

  • Each year, REWOCAM conducts Survivor Workshops in which 30 highly motivated women are given the skills and confidence they need to design and implement their own advocacy programs. The women are divided into four teams based on the region they are from (Kumba, Buea, Douala, Yaounde) and are mentored as they develop proposals for their own projects that educate others, bring healing to victims, and train survivors in income-generating skills. Teams are then given a small grant to implement their ideas. In 2023 there were 209 applicants for the 30 spots. That year, the local projects that arose from the workshop reached over 2,000 individuals, many of them men, thus spreading the impact beyond REWOCAM’s home-base of Kumba.

THE RESULTS

Children are gaining immense confidence and are reaching out to help their peers. But don’t just take our word for it. We invite you to watch this video to see the impact yourselves: https://youtu.be/FHPlm7V1lC8

Comments from the mothers’ workshops are equally heartening:

  • “I was raped when I was about 6 years old. I am 47 years old today and I have been blaming myself all these years for letting my uncle rape me. I have lived with that guilt and self-blame all my life because even my mother blamed me when I told her about my rape. Today, I am here to say that the guilt that has eaten me for over 40 years is completely gone. I now know that it was not my fault that I was raped… I am free.”
  • “Do you know that my daughter is currently married to her rapist? Yes, my family forced the man to marry her after she was raped at 15… She has been married for about 8 years and she has never stopped complaining about how violent her husband is… Today, I feel very unhappy that my family and I made a wrong decision for my daughter… I would like to come to your office for further advice.” [Note: the girl is now getting counseling by REWOCAM and the Ministry of Social Affairs, and she is in the process of getting a divorce with the support of her family.]

Nakinti continues to start each mothers’ workshop with the hypothetical question about the rape of a 5-year-old daughter. Each workshop’s 50 participants are new – no one is allowed to repeat the workshop because the demand is too great. This give us a chance to see how responses are changing over time so we can monitor what is happening in the broader culture. In 2023, about 50% of the 900+ women who attended a workshop had a child-supportive response: they would take their daughter to the hospital for a medical check, file a report with the police, take the child for counseling, etc. From 5% supportive responses in 2021 to 50% in 2023 among a population of about 400,000 – that is a remarkable cultural shift in just two years! And, of course, Nakinti has no intention of stopping at 50%!

If you are tired of negative news and long to be part of something positive and impactful, we invite you to become a hero today by supporting Nakinti’s work!

NAKINTI

Nakinti is passionate about this work because she, too, was a victim of child rape. She carried her secret and its shame for 26 years before she decided to speak out – not just for herself, but for others who had been silenced. Nakinti holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Women and Gender Studies, and she is currently pursuing a Ph.D. She has volunteered for several women-centered organizations around the globe and worked as an international journalist for several years reporting on women’s issues. Nakinti’s work has received recognition and awards from numerous foundations and government agencies, both in Cameroon and the United States.

Recognition for Nakiti’s work includes:
* 2023: Selected as a speaker at the TMI Project performance
* 2021: Chosen by Together Women Rise as a Featured Grantee – July 2021
* 2019: Chosen by the U.S. Embassy to organize and run a conference for young women from across Cameroon to strengthen their leadership capacities.
* 2018: Chosen by the U.S. Embassy to represent Cameroon at a “Women in Leadership” conference held in the United States.
* 2017: Received the “Women Have Wings” award, given to women “of extraordinary courage and action.”
* 2016 & 2017: Chosen as a World Pulse Impact Leader in recognition of the impact she has had improving the lives of women.

Together Women Rise has chosen Global Pearls as their July 2021 Featured Grantee! Nakinti’s work against child rape is the focus of the grant. Resurrecting traditional sports to create a fun and safe environment to learn about this difficult topic, supporting girls-against-rape clubs at local schools, using tv and radio to spread the message to the broader community, and training other advocates and encouraging their ideas are all part of this exciting project. Together we will take a stand against child rape in Cameroon. Read more.

To donate to Cameroon-Nakinti, click here.

VIDEOS:

Child Rape Prevention Camps are creating a stir in Cameroon

NEWS:

Mar 2021: Time to tackle child rape

Jul 2020: Gift Baskets that Save Lives

Apr 2019: Heroes On The Ground

Sep 2018: U.S. Embassy Chooses Nakinti

May 2018: IDP Skill Training Begins

Apr 2018: Sleeping in the Bushes & Streets

Dec 2017: Women Have Wings

Feb 2017: Oroko Hospitality

Dec 2016: Nakinti Chosen as World Pulse Impact Leader 

Sep 2016: Girls Lead Clubs Established