This last weekend was spent in the lovely highlands of Cameroon, where Janet was born and raised. We had a lovely visit to her family, which was celebrating the birth of her niece. Traditionally in Cameroon, when a child is born the women of the family come to visit, bringing food with them. Kind of a hybrid potluck slumber party, the idea is to celebrate the new member of the family, as well as help the new mother, who at this point is probably a little tired.
That evening, as we celebrated “Born House,” we also danced and swayed to a soccer match that was playing – two teams from Madrid – Athletico and Real Madrid playing each other. As Athletico scored some of the male members of the family started dancing, for slightly different reasons. The next morning we came back to see a huge pot of cooked plantains (relative to the banana, not as sweet), mixed with leafy greens and palm oil. It was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten!
Lastly we visited with a nonprofit in the area, COMINSUD, run by Janet’s brother Mike: http://cominsud.wordpress.com. There we were able to listen to some of the reports done by the employees, who had met with the local councils they had created for their Democratic Empowerment of Women program (DEW). It was very heartbreaking to hear of the challenges women in Cameroon face today, from sexual assualt and rape to teen pregnancy, to loss of land, due to the death of their husbands. All of these factors should be considered while we work on empowering girls in our program.
Additionally they gave us some good feedback on our program, which they found to be very interesting. Some employees were sure the students would be excited, and this would provide great networking opportunities for teachers and schools alike, to help them increase their capacity and quality of education. They did warn, however, that some teachers and parents may be hesitant to have their students exposed to new technology, which they do not understand or trust. Fortunately we will be meeting with parents from Tassah Academy tomorrow to discuss these issues. All in all a good visit to the Northwest region and culture of Cameroon.
Now before you panic, the Northwest region of Cameroon is not very northern at all, and far enough away from Boko Haram to make me feel comfortable, although everyone is definitely talking about this issue, and wondering what will ever be done. Plenty of complaints about the government all around, which seems to be talking a lot, but few have yet to see what it is actually doing…