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Wednesday
Apr062016

Does the Solution Lie in a Soccer Ball?

Today, our world is ridden with conflict: with war, famine, and political upheaval… and our world leaders spend decades trying to find a solution.   

Did they ever think that the solution could be as simple as a soccer ball?

Today, April 6, is the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, a day to celebrate the role that sports can take in encouraging cooperation and solving conflicts.  Sports are universal activities that promote values such as fair play, discipline, and teamwork, values that contribute to a more peaceful and cohesive society. 

Breaking Ground uses sports to address critical development issues in Cameroon, especially those concerning gender equality and women’s empowerment.  In collaboration with Coaches Across Continents, Breaking Ground is currently organizing our annual Girls Soccer Tournament, held in the city of Ngaoundéré, in the Adamaoua region.  This year’s tournament will take place on the week of June 12th.A girls' soccer team in Ngaoundéré

The Adamaoua Region is a region that is predominantly Muslim and culturally conservative, meaning that young girls are often married at a young age, preventing them from finishing their education and burdening them with the responsibility of managing a household and children.  Men are considered the head of the household, and women are often barred from leaving their compound without the permission of their husband.  Our program aims to provide address these issues through soccer as a social development program; through participating in sports, these women will develop a sense of independence and leadership that challenges their traditional patriarchal society.  We, at Breaking Ground, believe that soccer can help create a more just, equal world, which is why we sincerely wish you, our readers, a Happy International Day of Sport for Development and Peace!

Wednesday
Mar092016

Happy International Women's Day!

March 8th, International Women’s Day, is a day for women.  In Cameroon, women buy a “pagne (a very colorful, patterned cloth),” march in a parade, and at the end of the day, spend the night drinking and dancing.  It is a day to celebrate women and all that they do… and boy, do these women do a lot!  Cameroonian women are responsible for pretty much EVERYTHING – cooking, washing, cleaning, fetching water, taking care of the children, farming the family’s field, and selling their farm’s produce at the market.  In many cases, if the husband is unemployed or absent, they are the sole economic provider for the family.Breaking Ground at the University of Dschang Radio Station, talking about gender equality for International Women's Day

Unfortunately, despite their vital role in society, both legally and practically, women’s rights in Cameroon have much progress to make.  Adultery, when committed by a woman, is punishable by law through prison sentences and fines… but for a man, adultery is only punishable if it takes place in the marital home and is “habitual (art. 361).  Although rape is criminalized, if it takes within a marriage, it is not punishable by law (art. 296).  Legally, the man is considered to be the head of the family (art. 213), and is entitled to control of their marital property (art. 108 and 215).  Outside of the law, women are expected to conform to certain cultural norms, often preventing them from achieving equal roles in society.

I recently asked the woman who runs my neighborhood bar what she thinks about Women’s Day, and I was both surprised and pleased by her answer.  “I think it’s sad that Cameroonian women, instead of fighting for their rights, have one day in the entire year where they can drink.  Cameroonian women’s rights are far behind the rest of the world, and we need to work for them,” she said.Breaking Ground organized a girls' soccer tournament in Ngaoundere on March 8

Breaking Ground is in agreement, which is why many of our development programs choose to focus on women and girls.  Our women’s entrepreneurial program is designed to empower women and give them the skills they need in order to increase their economic role in society.  The girl’s soccer program teaches young girls vital skills, including health topics such as HIV and breaking down gender roles, and encourages them to become future leaders in Cameroonian society.  Last week, Breaking Ground participated in a radio show at the University of Dschang, discussing topics such as gender roles, gender equality, and the future of women in Cameroon.  Breaking Ground hopes that, with programs such as this, women will, some day, benefit from equal rights and opportunities around the globe.  

Monday
Feb082016

From Bafoussam to Bameka to Baloumgou and Back

The day began with our driver, Jean, being introduced to the application Snapchat.  “Look!”  I said, perched on

BINUM's local office in the village of Bameka the console between the passenger’s seat and the driver, “You take a picture of yourself, and then you can add a hat, or dog ears, or whatever you want!!”  He eagerly took the phone, gave himself a chef’s hat, and burst out laughing.  The day was off to a good start. 

So we went off into the dust: fourteen Nzong community members (10 women and 4 men), Paul, our executive director, Bart, our agricultural engineer, and me, the Peace Corps volunteer, teaming up with a local agricultural cooperative, BINUM, in the aim of learning about the management of microfinance institutions in the Bafoussam area.  The men gallantly took the bush taxi (a rusty green, 1980s Ford sedan that looked like the next bump would sent it flying into metal pieces) while leaving the women, a group dressed in colorful headscarves and pagne, the more luxurious option of the BINUM’s SUV.  I, personally, as the tiniest woman in the car, was perched on top of the console between the driver and the passenger’s seat.

Members of the Nzong community in Bameka, learning about the management of agricultural cooperatives Our first stop was the village of Bameka.  There, Nzong community members had a question and answer session with the local BINUM cooperative, a local microfinance institution that supports village agricultural initiatives.  In addition to the microfinance, in which members can buy a “share” and thus have access to low interest loans, the microfinance runs a store to offer fertilizers and pesticides, as well as a butcher shop and restaurant so members can sell their farm products directly back to the cooperative. 

The second day, after a breakfast of coffee and meat sandwiches, we headed out again into the field, this time to the village of Baloumgou.  There, the group had an opportunity to see a much smaller, but still very efficient, cooperative, that functions on a local level.  We ended the visit with an excursion to see their cooperative’s “piment” crop (a very, very spicy pepper grown in Cameroon), and a traditional meal of rice and tomato sauce.

The Nzong community members were happy to have had the opportunity to see what their organization canBINUM's piment crop in the village of Baloumgou become.  “From seeing these more developed organizations, I learned that with willpower and perseverance, we can also develop an agricultural cooperative in Nzong,” said Madame Francoise, the president of Nzong’s agricultural cooperative.  Breaking Ground hopes that this experience will inspire the members of the Nzong community to develop their own successful agricultural microfinance in their community, contributing to economic development and improved livelihoods in Nzong. 

Wednesday
Dec092015

Violence Against Women in Cameroon

On November 26th, Thanksgiving, Americans across the country were enjoying their turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, hardly giving a second thought to the previous day, November 25th.  And what holiday might that be, you ask?  Well, it is no holiday (and there is no turkey eating), but November 25th happens to be the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a day to remember, as, according to the UN (2014), one in three women experience physical or sexual violence during their lifetime.  

Peace Corps Volunteer Haley McLeod talks with students in the village of Nzong about violence 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Cameroon, it is a reality that that violence is often an acceptable part of everyday life; hitting animals, children, and in some cases, women, will result in no consequences for the person who commit these acts.  Additionally, violence against women is often intensified by the already existing dynamic of gender inequality.  In general, women are considered to be “inferior,” and are supposed to align with certain cultural roles and norms, or risk being socially outcast.  This gender inequality also exacerbates several health problems concerning women, including HIV infection rates and the level of domestic violence; with an inferior status, women are less capable of negotiating safe-sex practices or contributing to important family decisions.

So, in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25), Breaking Ground teamed up with Memorial Flavia to educate our local partner community, Nzong, on violence and, in particular, violence against women and girls.  So, our team of three (Carole, from Memorial Flavia, me (Haley), a Peace Corps volunteer working with Breaking Ground, and Joseph, a nurse at the Nzong health center) went to share our perspectives and experiences on violence against women, and increase awareness of violence in the Dschang community.  The lessons, taught to over 150 students ranging from ages 12-18, included topics such as 1) What is violence 2) What is sexual violence and how does it affect women and 3) What are some alternatives to violent behavior?  At the end of the session, Joseph spoke about the physical and mental effects that sexual violence can have on the wellbeing of women and girls.  And then everyone received an orange pin to help spread the word! 

 At the end of the day, though we left the high school bone-tired, our voices raspy from speaking over hundreds of students, our work was a great success.  In order to tackle complicated issues such as gender equality and violence against women, the first step in social change is awareness.  That day, every student in the high school walked out with a small orange ribbon to represent the fight against violence against women.  We can only hope that, will time, our efforts to raise awareness will translate into tangible changes in the life of Cameroonian women.  

Sunday
Jul202014

Making Breaking Ground Truly Sustainable

Over the next year, Breaking Ground is planning to transition the majority of our administrative and fundraising activities to our Cameroonian staff.  This is a financially motivated decision to minimize overhead and channel a larger percentage of donor dollars into Cameroon. It is also a strategic decision to align our internal structure with our mission. By investing further in our Cameroonian employees and by building direct relationships with funding organizations in Cameroon, we aim to bolster the sustainability of Breaking Ground’s programs.

 

The board is working with Paul Zangue, our Program Director, to develop a new strategic plan for the organization. We are initiating conversations with potential long-term partners, and beginning to adjust our internal infrastructure. In the meantime we need your support.

We need $15,000 to support Paul and our ongoing programs through August 2015. This is $1250 a month.

The most powerful donation to make today would be a recurring donation. By signing up to give a fixed amount of dollars every month for the next year, you would give us the freedom to plan ahead and focus our attention on the long term goals.

This is an important step for Breaking Ground. Over the last seven years we have had a measurable impact on the lives of tens of thousands of Cameroonians and have built a strong reputation among the development community in Cameroon. Please consider giving today to help us build upon these successes and evolve to an infrastructure that enables a truly grassroots approach.