Men and women in various communities of North West Cameroon, come together in what they call ‘Njangi groups’. In such groups, they meet once or twice a month and discuss how the problems they face in their community, can be countered through mutual (financial) support.
By: ROSELINE KAMDEM
Subsequently, the women have developed a small financial solidarity scheme through which they donate a small amount of money. Each meeting, the money contributed by the whole group is given to one of the members, in order to support this member to carry out a project. Every woman benefits once, where after the chain starts over. Participants carry out differing projects with the money collected. Some establish or expand small businesses, others use it for construction projects (building or fixing a house) and finally, they also use it to pay for the education of their children. Altogether, it is an admirable formula which enables the participating women to obtain a free interest loan they can repay gradually.
An example of a ‘Njangi Group’, can be found in Elemighong village, in the northwest region of Cameroon. The project was initiated in 1998 and started as a group, solely for elderly women. Six years ago, in 2011, they decided to involve some men (traditional village chief and his counsellors) as participants in their project.
Consequently, this has significantly improved the social conditions and rights of women in the village. In addition, it has greatly helped to reduce the cases of gender based violence in the village. Such changes in male-female relations are a gradual process, and although it still remains difficult for women to be considered as equal to men, progress is booked since women and men meet at the (by women initiated) Elemighong forum regularly.
Since men and women equally contribute to the project, both productively as financially, some sense of equivalence is created. During such meetings, women can openly express their complexities and challenges in their relations with men, and their social position in the community becomes increasingly respected.