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Cameroon workshop provides new tools for human rights workers

In Cameroon, dozens of human rights observers gathered last month for training in human rights and in how to keep themselves and their data safe.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

June 2020 human rights workshop in Cameroon.

By John Enama

A total of 1,380 cases of violence were perpetrated last year against LGBT people in Cameroon, according to the 2019 annual report on violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression of sexual characteristics.

The cover of the report about violence against LGBTQ+ Cameroonians in 2019.

That report, “Guilty Silence”, created by Humanity First and Alternatives-Cameroon in collaboration with other local LGBTI advocacy organizations, documented the country’s ongoing problem of anti-LGBT violence.

One of the attempts at solving that problem is the Prides-CM project, supported by the European Union. A “project to strengthen the inclusion, diversity and equality of sexual minorities in Cameroon,” it is being implemented by three local identity organizations (Humanity First Cameroon, Alternatives Cameroon and Working for Our Wellbeing).

As part of the project, 30 paralegal observers attended a workshop from June 3 to 5 in Douala, aimed at improving workers’ understanding of human rights, improving data collection process for human rights observers and bolstering digital security.

Yves Tonkeu, advocacy coordinator at Humanity First Cameroon, said that “physical data security also includes people because people are also data”. It is important for each observer to carry out a risk-assessment before any investigation into a case of gender-based violence, he said.

Topics for the workshop included the concepts of gender, gender identity and gender expression.

Participants also learned new techniques for presenting educational talks, including slide shows, videos and online games.

Safety rules related to the Covid-19 pandemic were in effect, including mandatory masks, use of disinfectant gel and social distancing.

In Cameroon, gender-based violence occurs in the context of the nation’s law against sex between two people of the same sex. However, human rights observers have room to maneuver, since the nation has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights demands respect for the individual rights of each citizen.

The author of this article, John Enama (a pseudonym), is a human rights activist in Cameroon.