A gendered approach to tackling menstruation

Today we celebrate the international Menstrual hygiene day under theme making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030.

We celebrate with this theme at a moment when there are still lot’s of myths and shame around menstruation. At a moment when the sociopolitical crisis in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon has increased women’s and girls’ challenges in line with menstruation. These challenges range from from accessibility, affordability, and availability. For girls in most urban areas (such as Buea where I live), the cost has increased from 600 FCFA to 700FCFA.

In war-torn communities in the South West and North West regions of Cameroon, where the crisis has forced families to leave their homes to seek safety and refuge in hideouts (bushes, farms, forests), Vanessa(2021) conducted some research where she found out the following as regards how women and girls manage their periods.

A woman shared that she spends time at the river banks while the moving water washes off her menstruation. She’ll stay there till it’s night then she returns to her shelter. She’ll repeat this till her period is over . Another woman shared that she actually cut a part of her mattress and used it in collecting her menstruation. She will keep washing it when it’s so heavy and wet, then reinsert in her vagina and will keep repeating this process till her period is over.

In the Northwest, another respondent indicated that she makes use of grass used for roofing to collect her menstruation. In some cases, respondents indicated that they use spirogyra and others use unprocessed cotton gotten from plants, and use parasites that grow on cocoa plants. Others still chop off pieces of clothes and use them often to collect their periods. The risks associated with these methods of menstrual hygiene management are grave.

While the theme has an aspect of normalizing menstruation, lots of lectures and messages on menstruation, or menstrual hygiene management has constantly left men and boys at side the entire equation. I strongly advocate for the inclusion of boys and men in such conversations and interventions for a couple of reasons.

For children who lose their mothers during or after birth, or before menarche, and do not have any other female family member to support them, who supports them through this period as they question the changes happening to them. Teens ask questions such as; why do they have tender and painful breasts just during this period? Teens ask questions seeking to know why blood is dripping out of them without a cut. They ask questions such as, who do I talk to in times like this? Since this is a taboo topic in most homes, children or teens often have a hard time communicating their worries at this stage, or even having responses even if they get to ask.

In effect, some tend to use untidy pieces of clothes to catch their menses, while some stay out of school or isolate themselves during this period.

A Muslim teenager in a menstrual hygiene management session once told me “when ever I’m menstruating, I’m not allowed to pray in the mosque because I’m considered unclean at the moment”.
Again, another Christian teenager said ” I learnt that in our culture, women can’t plant crops or touch growing plants when they are menstruating because the crops will either die or not do well”. This is a reality with women of the Dikume Baluwe culture of the Oroko tribe in the Southwest region of Cameroon. During menstruation, they are not allowed to carry luggage on their backs, or cook for elderly men. All these are myths as they have no scientific backing. Though not backed, these myths are numerous, and vary from community to community and have far reaching consequences on women and girls.

How do girls feel comfortable when stained among boys when boys have no idea what menstruation is? How do girls feel okay when rather than having support from boys the Boys rather jeer or laugh at the girls? When will girls and women normalize not wrapping their sanitary pads in numerous plastic bags out of shame? When will parents (especially in rural areas engage honest and open conversations with their children (both boys and girls)?

While in the secondary school (form four) I studied biology. When we got to menstruation, my teacher (male) said it’ll be treated in the next class (form five), and we shouldn’t bother we’ll not be evaluated in the test. In form five our human biology teacher (female) asked us to study this topic as an assignment and that she wasn’t sure we’ll have it in the exams. I came to understand they found it as a taboo topic of conversation with children. But then, information is power, and we were deprived.

The conflict in the both English speaking regions has left some male children as child-headed households. How do they support their female siblings while they have no information on the subject? And how do the men who lost their wives during the war help their female children with no mother in their lives?

While I was in the primary school, female teachers had sessions with older girls on menstruation. Though in the same class, I was never included in these sessions as I was probably considered too young. But then, when children learn about periods early, they prepare better. I learnt about menstruation through informal conversations along rows in the classroom and under trees in school from older girls with nothing from my parents.

In line with the theme of celebration this year, menstruation will not be considered normal for all (age and sex), till we normalize using an inclusive approach that seeks to include men,boys, girls and women in conversations around Menstrual hygiene, and menstrual hygiene management.


“Do you still drum ” ?

I grew up between the hills and valleys of Lebialem. I had the opportunity to experience lots of what rural life could offer. When I was 13 years old, and a form two student in the secondary school, I belonged to the Sunday school group in Church, and later grew into the Young Presbyterian (YP) group all in the Presbyterian church of Lebialem. It was always amazing how i had fun in all group activities. One of these activities that I remember vividly, is my drumming experience in choral music and traditional dances. Of course, socialization patterns had spelt out clear gender roles. This alone made me seem odd in the domain. Drumming was however seen as a thing for the boys. But how I got here was based on competence.

“You’re good at it. All these boys are bullocks ” Said my songs teacher- Mr Kan Vincent. He was that strict man even adults feared. Yes he was that strict. I was happy I could stand out.
I played the role of the “drummer girl” during our rehearsals till the rally day arrived. I played the drum during the choir and the traditional dances.

It all happened on a Sunday. Our rallies were usually big events that pulled Christians from different parts of the Sub-Division. Amongst the visitors was my ICT teacher Mr Emmanuel . We called him – Homer

The looks on the faces of onlookers could only define how shoked they were. But the excitement painted on their faces got me blindfolded. I couldn’t dictate what could be written on their minds. The fingers pointed at me from multiple directions in all my innocence meant quite nothing to me then. I was the lone drummer girl among the few drummer boys.

It was on the following Monday morning when my ICT teacher arrived in class and with no delay, he could spot me in a class of over 60 students. In total amazement, he explained to the entire class how shoked he was to find a girl that drums. My classmates couldn’t wait to process it but burst into laughter. I stood with my face facing the ground. I felt humiliated. I felt shy. I felt embarrassed. I could conclude i did the wrong thing. It didn’t end there. Each time he saw me, while smiling, he would ask me “do you still still drum “? This however didn’t sound to me like he meant any thing close to good. Often, it sounded just as saying “do you still steal ” ? This went on for a couple of months.

Well, this drew my attention to the famous Igbo-Nigerian movies, Western movies and musics which portrayed men as those playing the musical instruments and above all the drums, while all the ladies did the singing and dancing. In my brain, I could quickly scan through posters and flyers,text books and story books where only male images described a drummer. Hence you could only have a drummer boy not a drummer girl. And that was my conclusion since I had no role model. I never for any reason could drum again. My desire had all been watered down.

However, the nice thing is,the narrative is fast changing and seats are being switched. My thinking was shaped by society and exposure. There’s no such thing as only boys can do this or that. If your passion should drive you towards a certain path, walk the path till you arrive.

You see, my case was just drumming in the field of music. Stereotypes like this have killed the innate potentials in many women and girls, killing their ability to discover the best version of their selves. cutting accross the world of arts through the sciences women and girls face similar challenges. Above all odds, let competence speak, and not assumptions or stereotypes.

How ever, I plan on engaging in my music lessons again. I never take it for a defeat, I take it for a lesson.


My Heroine – At The Other Side

As we grow up in our different homes and communities, we are trained to run this that activity. With this stereotyped mentalities, we find it just right and needless changing. But in total sincerity we need to change some of these assumptions, as we consider the other side of the story.

I lived the first 19 years of my lived within the hills and Valleys of Lebialem. My dad came just as work could permit. This left us spending a greater portion of our life with our mom. This made me experience so much she did, which in many occasions is considered masculine. For example

1) The man is the “bread winner of the family: I saw in her a woman who gave in all her efforts. She did multiple rapid income generating activities, just do her children don’t go hungry. She met other needs without looking up all the times at the traditional male figure. Then I knew providing for the household was not entirely a masculine responsibility, but women do this do.

2) A woman should be soft: I saw in her a woman who worked so hard on the farms. She did clear the farms in the rains, even in days that seemed like it rained cats and dogs. This was same on the very sunny days, which came with some earth scorching heat. Then I knew working extremely hard wasn’t a man’s thing.

3) A man should walk in a way, look strong and beards: I had this friend who told me I fear your mother. I asked him why, and he said she doesn’t walk like a woman should. With this funny look, he added ” and she even has some beards around her chin “. It was funny he was talking about my mother here, but we laughed over this at the time. At least we reasoned the same because we probably had the same social construction process. By now, I learnt that society has simply defined what they should classify as masculine, and what should be feminine. Beards around the chin or a walking style does not make a female become male, but community does. And it’s not right.

4) Men must exercise strength: she was, and is still a very powerful woman. I remember this day after harvesting plantain from one of our farms, a neighbour could not imagine she’s the one who did. I heard this man say this to her ” you just cut the stalk of that plantain like a man “. They both laughed over this. But I kept wondering why he said this. When he left, I asked my mom why he said that. Her response was shocking to me. She told me culturally it is believed that men are powerful and will give at most two cuts to bring down the stalk of a plantain. A thing she did at just one cut. At that age, it wasn’t funny to me. But the lesson leant is the fact that, it’s just an assumption that only men have to exhibit strength in their actions.

5) A married woman with kids should look after her kids and not taking education as an option: my mom gave birth to 4 of us. I remember I was in the primary school when my mom started with a vocational training school. She switched to a technical school, went to the high school, then to the professional school. Many castigated her. Many criticised her. Many tried to discourage her. Some in their gossips questioned if she was to look after kids or go to school. They even concluded that she can’t succeed. When i think about her and her take to go back to school, I respect her. Her move made other men in the neighbourhood to send their wives to school. Many women around her started taking the initiatives to get literate. This to me is amazing.

During my four years in in the university while studying Women and Gender Studies with a second major in Sociology and Anthropology, my thinking gradually changed. I could understand the community in which I grew up. I found the gaps and the need to bridge them. I didn’t see things same as at first.

It so happened that everything that was said left me with an image of this woman who seemed to have been so different despite her level of education at the time. I hope her moves serve as a booster to all who will read this piece.
A good number of stereotyped tend to kill the possibility of most women and girls from living up till their fullest potentials.

“Ending Female Genital Mutilation is not a choice”

FGM is a human right violation

Some human right violations cannot be wiped out completely, if cultural norms repugnant to natural justice are not deconstructed. In Cameroon, there exist over 360 ethnic groups. This implies that, although some of these groups might have some tiny similarities in their cultures, the differences in norms, traditional practices and values cannot be over emphasised. Though some of these practices are good, a number of them can be classified as serious human rights violations.

Cases as such include Female Genital Mutilation, which can still be traced in some parts of the centre, and South west regions of Cameroon. This practice is not just recorded in Cameroon. most especially as Cameroon currently records a great decrease in the FGM prevalence rates in the nation.

In the context of Cameroon, FGM is perpetrated by women on young girls, with the intention of retarding sex. In other words, preventing the girl child from becoming promiscuous at a tender age. This really sounds nice. But let’s look at it from this angle; With the practice,

.She stands the chance of bleeding till the cold hands of death snatch her away.
. She could contract HIV and other STIs.
. It makes her vulnerable to fistula(s).
. It violates her rights over her sexuality.
. She is traumatised
. It negatively impacts her psychology.
. She feels oppressed, suppressed, and violated.
. She ends up in deep and sharp pains.

This is just too much for the girl child to bare. It only doesn’t affect her at that age. It drives her adult hood.

What if we preserve her heath? What if you give her the right over her own sexuality? The questions just can’t end here.

We need to grant justice to women and the girl child.
We need to deconstruct negative traditional practices which violates human rights.
The time is now.

FGM is a human right violation directed towards women and the girl child.

The Education of children and and parenting.

The need for education in both the rural and urban areas is a burning desire for all parents and most young persons.
In as much as some parents have found it necessary to create enabling environments for the education of their kids, some parents have made education an unattainable dream.
Some constraints some of these kids encounter include huge work loads which makes children absent from school,end up on the streets, get to school very late and exhausted in a manner that makes studies difficult. These children do not just suffer from the huge work loads, but punishments from discipline authorities who never have the patience to understand why certain children often make it late to school. In addition, these children get to fail at the end of the term or accademic year. But still those who care about the “why” are few with more persons refering to them as “dull this or that”.

The worst case senario as seen on the picture above are kids who are sent to sell commodities before going to school. All these affects the child psychologically as they see their friends going to school while they can’t make it at the same time as their mates.

My observation has it that a few parents may find themselves violating the human rights of children in this manner but the proportion of extended relations who do this are numerous.

Parents (aunties, step mothers, and in-laws etc) have put a lot of children through hard times as regards education. Some have gone to rural areas to get children from poor parents promising to get them through education. While others keep to this promise,most do not. These children (especially females) end up in their homes as prostitutes, servants and constantly undergo a lot of torture in all dimentions.

I just can’t count the number of children i have met selling things like snails, puff rolls etc while thier friends are in school. When you ask them why they are not in school, some will say my step mother sent me to go and sell. Some say i will go tomorrow. Some say i don’t go to school. Some while heads down will just say nothing. I have met others crying on the streets begging for a hundred francs they misplaced while selling if not their aunts or ward (step mothers) will kill them.

In reality, we need to fight against child labor, promote the education of children, so as to guarantee a better future for younger persons for it is their human right . It doesn’t matter whose child it is but treat her/him the way you will either want to be treated, or want your own child to be treated.

Engendering Birth Control.

In many communities, birth control has been regarded as a woman’s thing. Some women even propose to their husbands but yet they refuse for reasons I can’t say. I even hear people make statements like “she knew she can’t take care of the kids and why did she keep opening her legs”.

But my brother and sisters, I want you to know politics doesn’t exist only in polls but it exist in sex too. Actually I get so worried when we give birth to just too many children than we can take care of.

In most rural communities, my observation has it that, the burden of household poverty lays on the shoulders of women and yet, more women are more likely to be poor than men. They need to search for food to feed the family by hook or by crook. Sad enough, you find the fathers of these kids at times involved in gambling activities such as draft, pari foot, and the list is long. Some of these men spend their lifetime in beer parlors. They drink to stupor before gaining consciousness of ever returning home.

What weights me down is that the same kids of this same drunkard are in the neighbourhood running around with rags on them as clothes with shattered panties, searching for what to feed themselves with, while exposing themselves to communicable and non communicable diseases. While they do this, their father is in beer parlours sharing turns. This is so typical of rural lifestyle in Cameroon. The health of children are neglected, education and development, while the health of women is put at risk. At times, this these sort of men get more than 2 women pregnant, with almost no desire or aspiration to nurture these children

Men and birth control

My partial solution to this is to educate men more on birth control methods through sensitizations and seminars. A woman may only get pregnant for 9 months but a man will get 9 or more women pregnant in 9 months.

Who Actually Can Joint the Race for the Fight Against Gender Based Violence (GBV)?

Every survivor of GBV needs help, and not blames. Whatever the sort of violence, it is never the victim’s fault. Above all, GBV is a human right violation. As such, cases of GBV need to be treated as a matter of urgency to save the survivor from the precarious outcomes. The question is, who can be of help?
Either consciously or unconsciously, we do this or that which serves as a preventive measure or a response measure to GBV. We need therefore to put our efforts together (form networks of service providers) and save more souls.
The family, friends, the traditional and religious leaders, groups, schools, the medical sector, the for legal institutions, forces of law and order or security, financial institutions, counsellors, and the list is long.
How do we do it? you can render advice, you can refer cases to competent service providers, you can sensitize, you can accompany a survivor to seek justice, you can empower the survivor economically, you can build the self esteem of the survivor and many others.
It is in this light that LUKMEF on the 20th and 21st organized the first ever National Civil Society Organizations (CSO) forum in Buea, in a bid to build a National CSO Coordination mechanism on ending GBV.
For more details on this, contact the LUKMEF office in Buea at Salvation Pharmacy building last floor at the top. Or reach me directly. You can as well report cases of GBV on our Ops4omen app on play store.


(please watch the video at the end produced by LUKMEF)

The works of Liberal feminists, have advocated the eradication of gender stereotypes which prevent women from getting into the public sector(the paid sector). The question is , who really cares about what happens to women/girls in this sector of the economy?
In policies of institutions, men and women are said to have equal chances of being promoted (upward mobility). But there is always that factor which prevents women/girls from navigating from one level (inferior level) to the next (superior level), which is often associate with better salaries, better working conditions and higher wage packages. Many factors are accountable for this such as the stereotypes and binaries that hold that men are more rational and women are emotional, women of reproductive age will likely perform the child baring role and men will not e.t.c. The worst among these factors or the glass ceiling is “sexual harassment”. Most male bosses often harass their female staff sexually in exchange for upward mobility , or a means to access opportunities which they are worth.
please watch the video, and discover what LUKMEF teaches females to do in the face of sexual harassment in the world of work.


In every community, there is that problems, or those problems which we find very inappropriate, and as such, may want to work towards addressing it/them. But the situation here is, you cannot solve a problem without knowing what actually that problem is. Hence, to identify a problem, you need to investigate why that problem keeps existing. Without this, you will never be able to get a solution, or a sustainable solution. With that done, design possible solutions, and a plan of implementation. The criteria you ought to use in deriving a sustainable solution involves, interrogating the frequency of the problem, the duration of the problem, the number of people affected by this problem, and if the problem affects either a few persons, or an entire community (severity). You will also have to inquire if the problem deprives people of their legal and moral rights. Above all, you will have to find out if inhabitants of that community find your worry as a problem and need an urgent solution. To derive a solution therefore, you will have to empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and then replicate if it works well. Remember that everything you get involved in must be well documented.
Very often, we have these big dreams to change the world, we have great ideas, but making it work is the uphill task. You ought to build a network of partners. The advantage of this is that, where ever you find yourself lacking any resource be it material or immaterial, financial or human, the next partner could always fit in. working as a team gives you the impetus, the moral booster, recognition, clarity, guidance, and support. Despite how rosy team work may be, it has its very own odd such as team players getting pessimistic, untrue to the course, absenteeism, failure to meet up with deadlines, failure to follow instructions, and the list is long. Although we may encounter these odds, there is need to brave the challenges and get going. For “change is what we want”. As a change maker, you have to lead, be discipline, work extra hard, so as to make it work.
Getting a sustainable plan, you need to clarify your mission, define what you want to sustain, build a good collaboration with partners, choose a sustainability strategy, and make sure you communicate your successes to team mates. Remember that the major reason for which we plan, is because resources are limited. As such funding becomes a greater determinant for the implementation of our designed projects. We could therefore fund raise through institutional fundraising, public fundraising, crowdfunding, and grants. But watch out for the policies, areas of priority, procedures and psychology of funders.
Be real, be true and factual. It is not all about you, but the team. With a team, your outcomes, surely will amount
to something great.

creating sustainable community solutions
group picture

during the event
during the event
at he event



The number of teenage pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, and the spread of STDs, is on a steady increase. However, the repercussions are often more visible on girls in terms of early pregnancies, school dropout, and other health risks. It is in this light that the Integrated Health Organization (IHO) seeks to “inspire better health”, through which it helps inspire hope and well being of individuals. Contraceptives are used in preventing unplanned pregnancies, STDs and for family planning. This can be done with the use of drugs (pills), sterilization of male and females reproductive organs, or barrier methods. All those at the reproductive age, males and females are capable of using contraceptives. Methods of contraception include natural methods, artificial methods, cervical methods and the calendar methods. Unfortunately, the decision either to or not to use contraceptives is mostly influenced by men even though the non-use of contraceptives affects more women than men. When contraceptives are used, birth can be planned and the rate of STDs reduced. above all, there will be a significant drop in the number of teen-mothers.

at the conference hall of the American Corner in the University of Buea.

participants after the workshop.