A group of Coady graduates in Cameroon have come together to map efforts within the country to improve women’s peace and security, with the ultimate goal of identifying opportunities and next steps.
Graduate Patience Agwenjang is the Executive Director for Research and Advocacy for Gender Justice (RAGJ).
“We are in a conflict situation in Cameroon, so there are a lot of relief and recovery activities going on,” she explains.
“What we are trying to do is to bring all of these [activities] together and do a comprehensive report of ground practices – in terms of research, in terms of practice, in terms of the perspectives of different stakeholders, civil society groups – just having a snapshot of society, what society thinks with regards to these issues.”
Patience is one of 16 Cameroonian graduates who form the group working together for the initiative, Blending Citizen-Led Community-Driven Research and Practice to Build a Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Cameroon.
It began, she says, with a webinar hosted by Coady Institute with Cameroonian graduates in 2020 as part of a series focused on bringing graduate practitioners together regionally during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“After the webinar, we were having small meetings just amongst ourselves as graduates, and thinking of what we would want [to do together]. We had a WhatsApp group and each time we’d come across graduates, we would bring them into the group. Then we all joined Coady’s Local Women’s Voices for Peace conference that took place last year; that was another aspect of unifying the graduates.”
In partnership with Coady International Institute, the group’s initiative successfully received funding from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, managed by the Canadian High Commission to complete the research.
“As leaders, Coady graduates are forming networks and alliances to help identify their community priorities”, says Eileen Alma, Director of Coady’s International Centre for Women’s Leadership.
“We are delighted to assist the work that is now emerging in Cameroon, in which graduates look at how they can best bring a community-driven asset-based approach to conflict resolution in the country and ensure a focus on the rights and security of women.”
We are in a conflict situation in Cameroon, so there are a lot of relief and recovery activities going on. What we are trying to do is to bring all of these [activities] together and do a comprehensive report of ground practices.
Blending Citizen-Led Community-Driven Research and Practice to Build a Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Cameroon
The first step for the graduate network was to map the group members’ own assets such as skills, connections to organizations, and areas of experience.
“We came together to reflect on our skills in terms of community building, using action research methodologies, what we’ve learned from Coady, as practitioners working in development, and understanding what are our own strengths and limitations we have in regards to the work we are doing and the work we can do, or we plan to do with other organizations.”
The next step will be to map the current and existing organizations, initiatives, and activities in the areas of women’s peace and security within each of the four identified regions – the Northwest, Southwest, Littoral, and Centre regions of Cameroon
The group will then hold workshops they have titled ‘ABCD Institutes’, based on the asset-based community development (ABCD) model they learned at Coady, in each region with civil society organizations, followed by community conversations for the regions’ community members.
Finally, they will produce a comprehensive report.
By documenting existing efforts and experiences, the group hopes the results will lead them to determine the best way of moving forward together.
“When you look at the women, peace and security agenda, it’s quite broad,” Patience says.
“Based on the results of this project, then we can think of what comes next.”
Graduate Patience Agwenjang and Coady staff Robin Neustaeter will co-moderate an online webinar panel titled, 1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back? Addressing Gender-Based Violence in 2021 as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence on November 25.
Learn more and register at: tinyurl.com/oneforwardthreeback