Youth will be proud of the role they played in ending child and early forced marriage.
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Hello, my name is Cherifa and I am a young Muslim from the western part of Cameroon. I am a youth volunteer with the Cameroon National Association for Family Welfare (CAMNAFAW). I will be representing CAMNAFAW when I come to London to be part of the #YouthForChange panel.
Young people represent about 43% of the population in Cameroon. They are the main force on growth and development but unfortunately their voices are not heard and they are not prioritized as it should be. They are marginalized when making decision concerning their lives or future whether by the government or the society.
Raissa was one of the many victims of child and force marriage as many other girls in Africa. She is from the northern part of Cameroon and is from a polygamy family with 15 brothers and sisters.
Raissa wanted to continue her education but here family was too poor to pay the fees. Her father sought help from the chief of their community and he agreed to pay her school fees in exchange for the girls hand in marriage. The girl was only 12 years old. The chief was 61 years old and already had 15 wives and 40 children.
After paying her school fees for two years, he claimed that the family must arrange the marriage. Raissa was shocked by the news and since she was too young to defend herself she got married against her will. Every night she was cruelly tied on the bed and abused sexually by her husband. She was resigned to live a miserable life with a man she disliked and feared. Within a few months she was pregnant.
Her family could do nothing to help her, they owed too much to the chief.
After two years of suffering; she escaped from her prison without her child. For 10 years she stayed away with no contact with her child or her family.
Then one day, she returned in her village, reconciled with her family and reclaimed her child. She was supported in her fight by organisations of youth fighting against violence against women. A huge number of young people and community leaders were deployed; Medias and conference were used to raise awareness on the issue and reduce or put an end to child and forced marriage.
It is true that the change was not immediate and absolute but considerable. Similar initiative undertaken by other young people to improve their conditions have enabled the creation of the Comité National de la Jeunesse Camerounaise in 2009 by a presidential decree which defends the rights of young people and promotes their well-being.
I’ve also seen the increase of youth and society organisations which lead advocacy activities to sensitize the community and assist them. I believe that in a few years, the changes will be effective and the youth could be proud of the role they had played in the process of ending child and forced marriage in their community.
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