Women In COBALAM : Rainforest Trains Leaders, Entrepreneurs, Gender Spokespeople

The three-day follow-up workshop held in Bana, Upper Nkam Division of West Region from March 21-23, 2023.

Rainforest Alliance and partners have been implementing the three-year Women in Community-led Landscape Management, COBALAM project in the West and North West Regions since June 2020. “The project seeks to strengthen the economic and social rights of women by engaging them in community-led landscape management,” explained Bih Bridget Mbacham, Senior Associate, Gender and Human Rights, Rainforest Alliance, West Region

Preparing Women Leaders, Managers
It was in this light that Rainforest Alliance and its partner, Services d’appui à la protection de l’environnement et au développement, SAPED, held a workshop in Bana, Upper Nkam Division of West Region from March 21-23, 2023. It was attended by 50 female leaders from two biodiversity landscapes: The Bana-Bangou-Bangante Mountain Range located in Upper Nkam, Upper Plateau and Nde Divisions of West Region. And the Bamboutos Mountain Range, which straddles the Mifi, Bamboutos and Menoua Divisions of West Region; plus Mezam Division in the North West Region.  

Present In Governance
Under the project, there are governance structures like Council Landscape Management Committees and Landscape Management Boards. “The women who took part in the workshop are members of these structures where they are expected to speak up for women. They needed to be empowered with the requisite leadership skills in order to perform well and become worthy representatives of their communities,” Bih said.
“We ensured that at least 30 per cent of members of Community-based Organisations, CBOs were women. Their presence in these governance structures enables them to mobilise other women easily,” Bih Bridget stated. Meanwhile, it was the third such leadership training since 2022. The topics covered in Bana included leadership, advocacy, financial management, the art of public speaking… The training was funded by the European Union and COBALAM project.

Advancing Women’s Rights
According to Christelle Djiolio, the Gender Focal Point for SAPED, the implementing partner for Women in COBALAM, the project seeks to advance women’s rights on the Bamboutos Mountain Range and the Bana-Bangou-Bangante Mountain Range. “This has to do with building the capacity of women to be able to express their opinions, and participate actively in decision-making concerning their landscape.”

Defending Interests, Views
Workshop participants were earlier selected or elected into council and overall landscape management structures. “We organised the leadership workshop to help the women to defend their points of view, interests, communicate effectively, and gain self-confidence,” Christelle noted. She said the major outcome of earlier workshops was the election of the women into governance organs of their landscapes. And also at the level of Community-based Organisations. 

Evaluating The Project 
With a few months to go to the end of the project, Djiolio said the results were quite encouraging. “The project succeeded in ensuring at least 50 per cent female representation in all 10 Community-based Organisations receiving assistance. Or at least 30 per cent of the leadership of CBOs made up of women. There are CBOs which had no single woman before, but today there are several women in their membership; actively participating in decision-making,” she revealed.

Great Transformation!  
“Likewise, decision-making structures in some CBOs had no woman before. Today, the story is different! They are active, taking decisions. We carried out sensitisation and held gender parity meetings with CBOs. Female members were absent in some CBOs before not because the men refused, but rather because they did not show any interest,” Christelle Djiolio noted. 

The Case Of Mbororo Women
Mrs Amina Sali from Santa, Mezam Division in the North West Region said the workshop in Bana discussed the challenges women face in mobilising their community members. “Women have tended to be marginalised. Not all women are allowed to move out of their homes without their husbands’ consent. This is the case with us Mbororo women. Moreover, before a Mbororo woman goes out to sensitise her community, she must be accompanied by the Ardo or Quarter Head before they can listen to her,” Amina disclosed.  

Field Reality, Challenges 
Even when she tries to sensitise, questions often arise as to her true motives. Coming out in public for a Mbororo woman also demands a strict dressing code – like the rest of community women, Amina said.  She added that the topic on financial management (how to plan income and expenditure) will be of great help to her at the household, group, community and landscape levels in lobbying for project funding

Public Speaking Facilitated  
Mrs. Saho Francoise, councillor from Batcham Council in Bamboutos Division of West Region, is a member of the Mount Bamboutos Landscape Management Board. “Leadership training has enabled me to be more outgoing. I now take the floor and address group members with more confidence. Moreover, the knowledge I acquired from previous training organised by Rainforest Alliance is also shared with other community members. For example, I sensitise on why the use of herbicides for weeding should be avoided, and on the production of organic manure. We are so grateful to Rainforest. We would like to see the project extended to other members of our communities,” Saho pleaded.  

Palpable Attitude Change
Mrs. Nafisatu Yunusa from Bangwa Findo, Bambouto...



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