2014-15-projectsWe have outlined our upcoming projects and ambitions for late 2014/early 2015. This includes wellness and statistical projects, new regional widowhood alliances in West Africa and the Middle East, and continuing our strong international advocacy.

Take a look!

CAFENEC-widows-pie-chart

In Cameroon, the AIDS virus remains a major threat to livelihood. Chilling figures from our partner CAFENEC show that widows and their children are disproportionately affected. As a small but determined group of counselors, supporters, and volunteers–and almost no funding–CAFENEC stands up for the widows of Cameroon. Now, they call for a partnership among widows’ and orphans’ groups across all of Africa. Read more…

Our partner, Committee of Assistance To The Needy Woman of Cameroon (CAFENEC), currently looks after 190 widows:

  • 50 are sick with AIDS
  • 80 others are aged 35-55
  • 60 others are aged 55+

CAFENEC also looks after orphans. Among the orphans are AIDS sufferers, those who are otherwise sick or epileptic, and those who are disabled and without support.

AIDS in Cameroon

Cameroon faces the highest prevalence of AIDS in Western Africa. According to UNAIDS, nearly 5% of adults in Cameroon are infected. The country suffers the tenth highest number of AIDS deaths in the world every year.

Cameroon has laws against AIDS discrimination. And, the government has made strong efforts to make treatment accessible to everyone. For example, antiretroviral treatment has been free in Cameroon since 2007. But, stigma and discrimination stand as the greatest obstacles in the fight against the disease. This causes many infected people to avoid treatment.

Why Do So Many Widows Suffer from AIDS?

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, twice as many young women (age 15-24) live with HIV as young men.

Biologically, women are more likely to become infected with HIV through unprotected heterosexual intercourse than men. In many countries, women are less likely to be able to negotiate condom use, and they are more likely to be subjected to non-consensual sex. (Source: UNAIDS)

Many widows have also been widowed by AIDS. These factors all contribute to the very high infection rate among them.

Importance of Annual Widows’ Meetings

CAFENEC recently celebrated International Widows’ Day on June 23, 2014. In previous years, during their campaign “Humanize Widowhood Rites”, all the widows came to celebrate. This year, CAFENEC had very limited financial resources. Not all the widows could attend.

Around International Widows’ Day, CAFENEC hosts workshops for the widows. Discussions are held raising awareness about the rights of widows, training, and education.

CAFENEC gives each widow the opportunity to express themselves without fear. During annual discussions, they realized that widows do not know their rights and obligations. Widows continue to lag behind in terms of education about their rights, training, and access to resources of everyday life. Many are stripped of their own property, their inheritance, and entitlements after the deaths of their husbands. Without the benefit of the deceased’s pension, they find themselves poor, unfortunate, and reduced to begging to raise their children.

Objectives of CAFENEC

  • To raise national awareness and public opinion on the situation of widows, in the context of high visibility and better management.
  • To establish a platform for exchange with widows, their children, and widows’ support associations, and to lay the foundation of an action plan to support their concerns.

Women Lead the Way

CAFENEC’s board of directors has six members, all women.

The organization has 75 active members, including counselors and many volunteers. One in five members have no financial means to pay their dues.

CAFENEC’s Recommendations for Africa

  • If resources permit, partner organizations involved in widows’ conferences should create an African Synergy against widowhood rites in Africa.
  • Working together will massively raise the awareness of leaders, which in turn will restore the smiles and taste of life for African widows.

Please see the contact information for CAFENEC here.

Maysaa Al Tameemi is an English Lecturer at the University of Diyala in Iraq. She has an extensive background in a variety of international organisations, most recently working as a Manager for the Women’s Community Center, part of the Danish Refugee Council. Maysaa has provided vocational training to talented but vulnerable women, as well as health and human rights awareness sessions. After being widowed in 2011 Maysaa focussed her work on tackling the stigmatisation faced by widows in society and helping them rebuild their lives.

Although she is now remarried, Maysaa’s Action Plan will focus on continuing to support the large number of widowed women in Diyala. As a result of widespread sectarian violence many of these women’s families have been displaced, lost their main source of income and suffer discrimination with regards to social welfare allocation. Maysaa’s project aims to empower these widows through leadership and training programmes, giving them the necessary tools to advocate for their own rights within government and society.