In an effort to combat gender-based violence in conflict affected communities in the North West Region of Cameroon, Hope for the Needy Association (HOFNA) has trained and inserted 100 trauma and psychosocial counselors in communities.
The new set of counselors who have been drawn from communities where they provide leadership either in community based groups, schools, traditional cycles or local administrative authorities are expected to provide assistance to persons with mild and moderate forms of trauma.
The intensive trainings have focused on ‘trauma healing and psychosocial support for community peacebuilding’ with the purpose to ‘raise awareness on trauma and the need for systemic and holistic community-based healing through knowledge and use of psychosocial support in order to reduce the incidence of gender-based violence in crisis and conflict situations.’
According to the Executive Director of HOFNA, the project is inspired by the fact that mental health and well-being of community leaders have not been given a pride of place on interventions in the conflict affected North West and South West Regions of Cameroon.
“Our experiences on the ground with community leaders especially during our by-the-fire talks made us understand the need to support the mental health needs of community leaders. In the heart of a violent conflict, amidst various socioeconomic challenges such as gender-based violence experienced by people, our community leaders have continued to be at the forefronts, nurturing hope and supporting other community members. Very little efforts have been placed on their own mental health needs and wellbeing …We have witnessed community leaders break down because of the various burdens they carry – their burdens and burdens of others. Besides supporting Community engagements to promote positive mental wellbeing, our program seeks to support community leaders develop social and emotional skills so they can support one another especially through the different trauma they experience.” Christelle Bay Nfor said.
Mental Health Psychologist Azinwe Terence Niba, has been taking the participants through group exercises, role-plays and feedback on trauma management strategies, concepts of psychosocial support, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), strengthening self-awareness of trauma and psychosocial support through groups, Management of ethical dilemmas, basic techniques of identifying and managing trauma cases amongst others. Through intensive exchanges, he also gave the participants an opportunity to share their traumatic experiences in search for personal healing so as to better handle the cases of others.
HOFNA Programs Manager has been working with the participants on identifying the different forms of gender-based violence in communities and sharing HOFNA’s strategy towards finding community owned and driven solution to end GBV. Munteh Florence has been categorical about the need for the education and skill building for women and girls as a means to economic empowerment whose absence will give room to the many different forms of gender-based violence especially borne out of dependency and poverty.
Local administrative and traditional authorities taking part in the trainings have described the trainings as timely considering that they are having more issues to address relating to challenges faced by their community members especially now more than as a result of the ongoing armed conflict.
“Trauma as you all know can come from everywhere. It can come from traditional setups like palaces, it can be in schools, workplaces, markets in short everywhere. As participants in peaceful and development oriented city like Nkambe and considering that many people have come from differences to live here because of the nonviolent nature of the town, this workshop and training should be a stepping stone to forgiveness. I am happy that attention is paid on the women. This does not however mean that we are changing Gender based violence to women or man based violence. To us, gender based violence affects the entire family and so when you teach the women, you have taught the family and by implication the whole world.” Mayor Musa Shey N. said
The training of trainers workshops for 100 psychosocial counselors in a conflict affected situation is part of a three phase project on ‘enhancing community peacebuilding through psychosocial support, economic empowerment and prevention of gender-based violence.’ Other phases of the project include Skills building and entrepreneurship program for 100 internally displaced persons and provision of startup capital and Radio drama program ‘Engage’ to raise awareness on GBV and enhance reporting/followup on cases of GBV. The Executive Director of HOFNA during the trainings, expressed gratitude to the German Foreign Mission through the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Yaoundé for accompanying her institution with funds for the implementation of the project and believing in the transformative power of such an initiative.
Created in 2007 and officially registered in 2010, Hope for the Needy Association (HOFNA) Cameroon is engaged in local development initiatives meant to improve the quality of life for women and girls. The Bamenda based organization is also registered as a Charity with a 501(c) status in the United States of America and has as mission ‘to strengthen the leadership, power, and voices of susceptible women and girls from disadvantaged communities, engage them in Peacebuilding and response to/prevention of gender based violence while develop lung them into self-reliant and socially conscious leaders.’ HOFNA Cameroon is in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).