Workshop facilitator: Dr. Doreen Mekunda, Lecturer, University of Buea.

The socio-political crises that have enveloped the South West and North West Regions of Cameroon have necessitated action by Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), cultural organisations, civil societies and even individuals to seek ways of empowering the affected populations; Bakundu population inclusive.

The Bakundu are one of the most hit ethnic groups in the South West Region by the current socio-political crisis in the South West and North West Regions. Many Bakundu villages have been burnt, many have been deserted by villagers for fear of the unknown and the population has drifted from the rural areas to urban centers seeking refuge and safety. Before moving to urban centers, the population faced deplorable situations back in their various villages and even after this movement; they still are facing a plethora of problems: limited access to employment opportunities, social amenities like water, health, nutritional services and lack of education and money to carter for their day-to-day needs. Many households have been displaced multiple times and the members of these households continue to face substantial challenges that range from violence and threats of violence coupled with the above mentioned.

The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are generally low skilled because they have been removed from their agricultural-based rural origins. Because they have been cut off from their most important productive assets (farms and land), competing with a more urban population with high skills is a big challenge at the start-up phase for them.

Lack of livelihood has triggered family separation, sexual abuse and gender-based violence, with women and girls appearing to have been subjected to higher rates of abuse. The men in Bakundu villages find themselves unable to play their traditional role of breadwinner since they are on the run on a daily basis. Children no longer go to school, thus, they are forced to contribute to the families’ income.

It is against this backdrop that a workshop to train Bakundu women and girls on bead work was organized in Kumba, the chief town of Meme Division that is the highest receptor of the IDPs from Bakundu villages. The two-day workshop that ran from March 23-25, 2019 was to gather Bakundu women and girls to help develop skills that match the local market needs. Thus, items like threads, ropes, beads of various types and colors, together with leather, rubber flip-flops, pairs of scissors, candles, gas lighters, jewelry buckles and other training materials were provided at the start-up phase. During the workshop, women and girls learnt to produce beads of all types, flip-flops, leather slippers, bracelets, rings, hear gears etc, so they can build their livelihoods.

This livelihood support programme saw the participation of 150 women and girls since bead work is considered a women affair. Due to the plethora of problems faced by the IDPs, it was discovered that if they continue without some income generation activities, they may be found in even more worsening situations like theft, prostitution etc.

Income generating activities designed for the interest of the IDPs from the Bakundu villages, not only improve their quality of life for individuals, it also helps avoid protracted dependency on their host families and exposure to further abuse and discrimination.

Thus, the workshop to train Bakundu women and girls in bead work was to develop the IDPs socio-economic conditions in order to create opportunities for enhancing their economic potential and that of the host communities. This also is to make the Bakundu women and girls self-reliant as well as intensify their role in the economic growth of their communities and to raise awareness among IDPs.

Through the workshop, the Bakundu women and girls received comprehensive information about income generating activities because, as one of the objectives of the workshop; effective provision of vocational training, the IDPs could, with their products, solve their day-to-day problems they might be facing recently and even in the future when they might have regained their original habitats.