Aeisatu Bouba was 13 years old when her family members forced her to drop out of school and get married. She managed to escape and avoided becoming a child bride, but countless others from the Mbororo pastoralist community in Cameroon continue to be coerced into early marriage and a life of servitude.
The Mbororo live isolated in small, remote communities with little access to basic services such as schools, hospitals, safe drinking water and electricity. In Cameroon, they are neglected by the authorities and discriminated against by other communities with which they are in regular conflict over grazing rights.
There are high illiteracy rates among the Mbororo, which adds another obstacle to their inclusion within Cameroon society. The problem is even more prevalent among girls. Around 98 per cent of Mbororo girls cannot read or write.
Mbororo girls are forced into early marriage, often to much older men. Most of them live in polygamous setups. Girls and women depend entirely on their husbands. This economic dependence strips them of any decision making power in the family and the community. They also are often unjustly evicted from land and are stripped of their rights when it comes to important decisions which impact them most. Mbororo women and girls experience double the amount of discrimination due to their gender, ethnicity and also harmful traditions and culture.
Forum des Femmes Autochtones du Cameroun, which translates as Forum of Indigenous Women of Cameroon (FFAC) was founded in 2010 by a group of indigenous women to create a society where indigenous women and girls are free from all forms of violence, discrimination and marginalisation.
FFAC works with minority girls (Mbororo and Pygmies), vulnerable children and young women who have been victims of gender-based violence. It organises capacity building workshops to educate religious and community leaders about harmful cultural and traditional practices. FFAC also offers psychological counselling to adolescent girl victims of gender-based violence and provides them with temporary shelter.
The organisation affords access to education and health facilities to children affected by HIV/AIDS. With the support of partners, the organisation offers psychological, medical and legal support and provides school materials to those who need it. FFAC educates adolescent girls on reproductive health and the prevention of HIV/AIDS. It is currently supporting 50 orphans and other vulnerable children infected and affected by HIV/Aids in three regions of the country.
FFAC has helped over 1,200 people, in part thanks to the strong links it has with the community where it operates. It is a girl-led organisation that works collaboratively with key stakeholders.