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 III, Njinikom

10 Aug

III. Njinikom

Of the 64 women’s groups in the Njinikom sub-division (of the Boyo Division in the North West Province), 10 had sent representatives to NFF’s HIV/AIDS awareness workshops. Last week, Johanna and I made the hour long trek to meet with some of these women, as well as representatives of the Fon of Njinikom and sub-division Quarter Heads who had also attended the trainings.

Meeting with Participants in Njinikom

The majority of women trained in Njinikom were teachers and thus had direct access to spreading the information among the youth. In addition to taking the program to their schools, one woman trained, Mme Therese Ngung, attended a youth conference where she spoke with 164 children about what she learned from Nkumu Fed Fed. Engaging the youth was a central component to the Njinikom groups’ efforts and a key recommendation they had for NFF was to include representatives from youth groups in seminars the next time around.

The women at Njinikom represented an interesting portion of the North Western population, which contrasted with the women from Nkum.  Deeply rooted in Christian faith, the Njinikom women made clear that in addition to enlightening their young people on the cultural practices NFF outlined as hazardous, they included education on abstinence— and abstinence only— as a method for combating the disease. This supplemental information was not part of NFF’s initial intent, but was a key component to the Njinikom outreach efforts. Should its program continue, Nkumu Fed Fed must decide how it wishes to approach such issues, clarify the intent of its sensitization trainings with workshop participants and follow-up on trainings with these key stakeholders.

Mme Helen Magda Bajia, Njinikom
Mme Helene Magda Bajia (left) was kind enough to open her house to NFF for the Njinikom training, as well as our follow-up meeting.

Including fon representatives was another crucial aspect of NFF’s project, a move that had concrete and influential results. As Mr. Joseph Bajia explained, he learned during the NFF trainings that certain cultural festivals, such as the Njumba Market, were facilitating the spread of the virus. Beginning in the evening and lasting until morning, these celebrations brought too many people together in an unhealthy environment. After attending the NFF seminar, Mr. Bajia recommended to the Fon of Njinikom that the Market Day should begin in the morning and end by nightfall, reducing the risk of promiscuity during the night that had previously characterized the event. Since the discussions with the traditional council, the Fon has already implemented the suggested time shift and the now the Njumba Market Days take place under the protection of daylight.

There is still much to do in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but with the small steps NFF trainees are taking, the North West Province of Cameroon is on the path towards a safer and healthier future.

Posted By Helah Robinson

Posted Aug 10th, 2009

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