Maliatou is now a 20-year-old young woman. She lives in a host community to internally displaced people in the Northwest region of Cameroon.
Before the crisis, unlike most parents in the community, Maliatou’s parents believed in education and encouraged her schooling, which took her up to Primary 6, making her quite an exception. However, the outbreak of the socio-political crisis in the region worsened the situation.
Schools, markets and businesses were shut down, people sought refuge in other parts of the country or neighbouring countries, and violence became commonplace. With schools closed, more girls found themselves pushed into domestic assignments or forced into marriage, as a source of economic security for their families.
The same happened to Maliatou. “As a result of the crisis, I dropped out of school. My parents gave me house work to do and I was supposed to prepare for marriage,” says Maliatou.
In such an uncertain and difficult setting, Plan International in Cameroon developed a project to provide support and protection for children and adolescents affected by the crisis in the Northwest region. Maliatou was one of the young people who participated in the Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) set up by the project.
“EU humanitarian funding to this project is helping provide vulnerable children with a safe and nurturing environment,” says Serge Soubeiga, Head of the EU’s Humanitarian Aid Office in Cameroon. “Protecting children whose lives have been disrupted by conflict is essential towards ensuring children’s holistic well-being.”
Building a new future
Maliatou is enjoying a recreational game organised as part of Plan International’s Child-Friendly Spaces activities. © Plan International, 2020.
During her first weeks at the centre, Maliatou was very reserved and hardly interacted with anyone. As days turned into weeks, and then to months, she gradually integrated into the recreational and creative activities that were held.
Today, Maliatou has blossomed into a vibrant person. “Maliatou leads group activities in the CFS. She encourages and mobilises other children and youths in her community to participate in the activities of the CFS. I feel so happy and fulfilled by the way she is developing her social skills and empowering girls to do the same,” says Courage, a social worker.
Maliatou is very determined to continue her education. She now informs her peers about their hygiene and sanitation, and their rights. “Thanks to the activities of the CFS, I am now confident and can fit in easily with others. I now know that, as a young woman, I have the right to decide on what I want; I will go back to school so that I can learn and become what I want to become,” says Maliatou with a broad smile on her face.
Just like Maliatou, more than 33,000 children and adolescents, including their parents and guardians, have benefitted from this EU-supported project.
“We have reviewed our country strategy, and emergency response plans, highlighting the most affected areas, and plan to reach the most vulnerable children and youths, especially girls. The availability of more resources will allow us to implement the strategies more effectively,” says Dr Collins Sayang, Head of Programmes for Plan International Cameroon.