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Escaping forced marriage in Cameroon

Planís Girls Ambassador project is convincing parents in Cameroon to delay early marriage and keep their daughters in school.
Planís Girls Ambassador project is convincing parents in Cameroon to delay early marriage and keep their daughters in school.
March 8, 2011

Young girls in Cameroon are escaping forced marriage and returning to the classroom with help from Plan’s Girls Ambassadors program.

According to local tradition, the future and dignity of girls in Cameroon is secured only in her marital home. Girls are advised to marry at a young age and consequently forced to finish their schooling early.

Salamatu*, an 18-year-old girl, was forced to marry against her will and give up her ambitions to achieve a university education. Like many of her peers, she decided to escape the forced marriage and ran away.

Fortunately, Salamatu met student mentors from Plan’s Girls Ambassador project, who persuaded her parents to allow her to complete school.

 

Changing attitudes

The project educates parents and their communities with workshops and debates organized by student mentors. Parents, relatives, students and primary school children listen to girls’ talking on the importance of education and discuss school problems and other issues of concern.

“I started mentoring in 2005. At first I doubted this will change the mentality of the Mbororo girls and their parents who attached much importance to early marriage. After participating in trainings and refresher courses, I realized a gradual change in the views of parents and the youth. Now, girls are in universities and given chances for a career,” said Maimuna, a 16-year-old mentor.

 

Scholarships and mentoring

Funded by USAID, the Girls Ambassadors program started in December 2004 with the MBOSCUDA (Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association) organization, aiming to empower Mbororo women and improve their living standards in the northwest region of Cameroon.

Now working throughout the country, the project provides scholarships and mentoring support to primary and secondary school girls and pays particular attention to regions with lower enrollment rates and the most marginalized groups - such as young, married girls deprived of the right to education.

 

Minority group support

As part of the project, Plan particularly supports and works with 2 minority groups - the Fulani and Baka girls in the east and northwest regions. The project has contributed to a clear drop in pregnancy and marriage cases. Since 2004, there has only been 1 pregnancy among participating girls and no reported cases of marriage.

The project also changes the behavior of mothers who often opposed their daughters’ education. Now they advocate to see their children – both female and male – going to school.

Learn more about Plan's work in Cameroon.

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