Helah Robinson

Helah Robinson (Vital Voices in Cameroon): Helah did her undergraduate degree at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She graduated in 2009. During her studies, Helah studied in Dakar, Senegal for five months, traveled to Guinea and the Gambia and volunteered with the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO) in 2008. She also interned with Vital Voices Global Partnership. After her fellowship, Helah wrote: “As cliché as it sounds, this summer was truly a life changing experience. I learned not only new skills and how to work in varying environments, but much about myself as well. How I interact with people, work best with others and more. Furthermore, in a more practical sense, I had no video, editing, much interviewing or blogging experience before this summer. Now, I have developed those skills in addition to experience working abroad and more practice in a foreign language. I feel I am more capable, confident and equipped to do real substantial work.”

Women of the North West: Part II, Abongjam

10 Aug
II. Abongjam Women’s Group

Nkumu Fed Fed, meaning “Bali Sisters,” is composed solely of Bali women and wives of Bali men. Though they have 6 branches across Cameroon and 3 internationally, all official members of NFF have familial ties to the village of Bali in the North West Province. Including women from the Abongjam Women’s Group in their training was, then, a natural and almost necessary step for NFF’s HIV/AIDS campaign. Based in Bali, the Group provides vocational and financial support for women in the village both by providing farming materials and through an NFF supported microfinance fund. After sending 3 representatives to the NFF HIV/AIDS training in Bali, the Abongjam Women’s Group had much to say regarding the advocacy project.

Abongjam Women's Group

Their headquarters are located on Nkumu Fed Fed former president Helen Gwanfongbe’s family compound. Ties between the two groups run deep.

Grace Nina, the president of the Abongjam Women’s Group, was quick to praise Nkumu Fed Fed for all of its work outside HIV/AIDS awareness and particularly for breaking the barrier of what was once a taboo topic and opening dialogue on the disease. Mothers now discuss these issues with their families and children, sharing the knowledge with a most critical population—the youth. The women also made good use of the printed material, carrying the posters during the International Women’s Day march and posting them around their many compounds.

Talking with men, however, proved to be more difficult. “Men are more difficult to be convinced,” Grace explained. “With them, it’s a struggle.” Although men in their society would listen to the information offered, they were not ready to allow ‘women to take the lead.’ As a result, the men refused to attend large meetings where women led trainings or discussions. Instead, the Abongjam women organized smaller home meetings, getting in touch with men, while allowing them to ‘save face.’

Through the Abongjam Women’s Group’s hard work and resourceful solutions to problems faced, NFF is starting to make head-way in its hometown of Bali.

Posted By Helah Robinson

Posted Aug 10th, 2009

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