Celebrating the Woman in a Digital Inclusive World 

For the 38th edition of International Women’s Day in Cameroon, generally marked by a series of activities all over the world and the Cameroon national territory. International Women’s Day (March 8) is a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. The IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today it belongs to all groups collectively everywhere, it is not a country, group or organisation specific. countries across the world are hosting marches, rallies and demonstrations just to mark their own participation in the celebration. The topic highlights not only how technology is crucial to advancing rights, but a growing digital gender gap that is impacting everything from job opportunities for women and their safety online. 

As part of the Women’s Day celebration, #defyhatenow organised a series of activities throughout the month which included a Zoom discussion with Women peacebuilders and community leaders,  we equally had an in-person meeting with Women journalists from two media associations in Cameroon, another with religious and cultural women leaders, meanwhile within the month, interviewed and discussed with some outstanding association leaders who are doing a difference in their communities. This was also an opportunity to connect with more women-led associations and networks in Cameroon for future collaborations and provide avenues to permit them to reaffirm their commitment to building peace in their communities for a #HateFreeCameroon. 

 A Talk with Women Community PeaceBuilders 

To mark the commemoration of this year’s International Women’s Day, #defyhatenow had heart-to-heart discussions with some women community leaders to learn more about what they do in their communities on a daily basis, the impact they create and their relentless efforts toward moulding younger girls to become the best version of themselves. It was quite fascinating to discover how much time, energy and resources these women from various backgrounds and with different talents invest to make sure that their community members, especially the young girls, get well-equipped to better their future. To know more about these women read here 

Digital inclusion: Embrace equity and engage together for a #HateFreeCameroon

Women are at the heart of building peaceful societies, through #SafeDigitalSpaces and for a Cameroon void of violence and hatred be it online or offline. This year, as per the International Women’s Day theme which focused on ‘‘Digital Inclusion’’, it was key that #defyhatenow brings to her own discussion table women who are working hard to change the narratives in their communities in the world of technology for a better online experience for everyone. 

It was light to this, that we brought together Tech leading ladies, Doctors, peace educators, women and youth association leaders, tech entrepreneurs and lawyers to discuss ways in which women’s voices can also be heard in this era of digitisation and how much they can equally contribute in decision making for a prosperous and inclusive society for all. While the world is clamouring for #DigitALL, we are proud to say that #defyhatenow is a trailblazer in the digital inclusion of women as we do not believe that women are less competent than men, we believe in inclusion and equity in all sectors. At #defyhatenow, our core social media mandate is to have #SafeDigitalSpaces for all internet users, but particularly for Women to amplify their voices as peacebuilders. Today we boast of a community of empowered women who own their digital spaces and tell their stories from all parts of Cameroon. 

         Women Journalists and ICTs: Opportunities to Embrace 

The non-involvement of women in the field of ICTs throughout the world in general and in Cameroon in particular raises questions about the causes of this phenomenon. As part of the International Women’s Day activities, #defyhatenow in partnership with CIPESA chose to mark the event through an interactive discussion session coupled with the sharing of experiences with women journalists, under the theme women journalists and ICTs: opportunities to embrace. The objective of this discussion session was to remind women journalists of the urgent need to get updated and upgrade their use of technology in the exercise of their work. They were reminded to close the big gap that exists between social and traditional media. It was also an opportunity to equip them with good practices, concrete experiences, while presenting the advantages, as well as the opportunities offered by digital media. The women were advised to get rid of their excuses and to find their way to building themselves and seize the opportunities that the digital world offers. 

‘‘It’s easy to fall asleep on the cushion that our excuses offer, but that’s a trap. We spend too much time analysing the challenges that female journalists face, we have been missing out on a lot. Fortunately, the Internet is full of opportunities and solutions. It levels the playing ground and has solutions for our sisters looking to start their own publications, create their own channels, find sources, engage audiences, find jobs, get scholarships, and training, make more money, verify info and collaborate with other journalists’’. Comfort Musa, Multimedia Journalist 

                       One #defyhatenow Women’s Virtual Discussion 

In addition to our series of activities to mark the spirit of the month, the #defyhatenow female team members met and shared views on how to #EmbraceEquity in the workplace, community, and peacebuilding space. We remain committed to empowering women in our communities to reach their full potential, to be included in all spaces and to be given the chances they deserve work-related and in decision-making places. Online harassment is a major issue for women, especially well-known and outspoken women such as celebrities, content creators, journalists, and politicians. They face online backlash, especially when they post articles about sexual harassment, equality, and women’s fashion choices.

As a result, they may lose the will and courage to voice out their opinions and may even stop using social media entirely. Women deserve safe online spaces where they can post their views without fear, or just be themselves!

Embrace Equity: Women Building Peace bridges for #HateFreeCameroon 

To mark the end of the International Women’s Day activities this year, an intercultural and interreligious meet-up was held to further encourage women to promote equity for peace in their communities, hence the need to gather leaders of religious and cultural associations to discuss ways they can contribute in building peace in their communities. 

Cameroon is presently at the crossroad of peace and security initiatives and each person has a unique role to play in peacebuilding. Unfortunately, women are still lagging behind. Close to 50 local civil society actors, principally women-led organisations answered present. Women, it should be noted, are always actors and victims of most crises around the world, reasons why including them in peace-building processes is always important.

These women leaders agreed that to move to the negotiation table, they, first of all, need not only to empower themselves but to empower other groups beginning with those in local communities.

“We need to begin to lift the cultural, religious, and political barriers that come and impede our development as women. A woman has to start by empowering herself because she can only give what comes from within,” says Yaah Gladys Viban Shang, gender and youth advancement consultant.

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