Ten teenage girls have decided to stand up for their rights and those of their peers. Among them, is Jessica, a rape survivor and mother of a little boy, who is interested in issues linked to sexual violence and early pregnancy. Brinda is a former drug user who denounces violence in schools and teenage drug use. Nafissatou fights against child marriage, one of the causes of school drop-out. Meanwhile, Yvana fights the spread of HIV-AIDS among her teenage peers, and visually impaired Lydia campaigns for inclusion.
All of them are members of the Adolescent Girls Advisory Group (Agab) set up by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in the Centre region. "Agab aims to put into practice one of the fundamental principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child –which is the involvement of children in decision-making for matters that affect them. It therefore serves as a platform for girls to make their contribution to the actions being taken to ensure that their rights are taken into account," says Nadine Perrault, Unicef's representative in Cameroon.
The Agab initiative was officially launched in Yaoundé on October 11, which marks the International Day of the Girl Child commemorated, this year, under the theme "Invest in Girls' Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being." This theme emphasizes initiatives aimed at strengthening the leadership of girls, who continue to face numerous challenges in Cameroon in particular, despite the progress made in realizing their rights. This initiative, which is an integral part of Unicef's interventions in favor of girls' education, supports the government's efforts to improve the school environment and eliminate obstacles to girls' access to and retention in school.
Public authorities' relay
"We can only change the world through girls' education," says writer Djaïli Amadou Amal, who is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. The writer, who was forced into an early marriage at the age of 17 with an older man, told her story to the members of Agab, emphasizing education as a vector for girls' development. She aimed to encourage them to fight for their dream and realize their full potential.
After the Centre, Unicef plans to launch other adolescent advisory groups in Bertoua (East), Buea (South-West), and Maroua (Far-North), according to its country representative. The UN agency hopes that this initiative will gradually be extended to other regions in Cameroon and duplicated by other partners to support and promote girl-led movements and activism.
Marie Thérèse Abena Ondoa, Minister for the Promotion of Women and the Family (Minproff), welcomed the initiative. She believes it would nurture young girls into citizens capable of defending their interests and complement the measures taken by public authorities to ensure the development of girls in the country, including their right to participation enshrined in international and regional legal instruments ratified by Cameroon. "You are now ambassadors for the cause of the girl child in your respective families, communities, and schools. You are the public authorities' relays for the promotion of moral and civic values, as well as the responsible use of ICTs," she told the girls, urging them to encourage education in their respective groups.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem