Health Care Cameroon (HC²), an organization that serves men who have sex with men (MSM) in the city of Bafia, Cameroon, was crowned winner of the second annual Advocacy Competition hosted by ALTERNATIVES Cameroon on Dec. 5-9 in Yaoundé, beating nine other regional organizations representing Cameroon’s ten regions.
The Advocacy Competition was organized to help young, identity-based organizations to improve their working strategies, and especially to encourage shared efforts. The participating organizations also received technical support and advocacy training at the event.
The competition is based on the observation that in Cameroon, key populations — a term used to describe people at increased risk of HIV infection — face numerous human rights violations.
According to the report made by the UNITY platform, a coalition of human rights organizations, the number of violations is increasing. In data collected by ALTERNATIVES Cameroon, total violations went from 578 cases in 2017 to 4,116 cases in 2021. These data only take into account men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people, excluding violations affecting sex workers and injection drug users, who are also among key populations.
Several types of human rights violations are regularly reported: arbitrary arrests, physical and verbal aggression, rape, denial of access to health care, abusive school expulsions, difficulties in accessing justice, abusive dismissals, sexual harassment, domestic violence, family rejection, forced marriages, and difficulties in obtaining national identity cards.
Human rights defenders have committed to carrying out advocacy actions for the protection of the rights of vulnerable groups, such as LGBTI people, women, youth, adolescents, drug users and sex workers. However, as these associations are scattered across the country, there is a lack of cohesion among these advocates.
Last year, ALTERNATIVES Cameroon took advantage of World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 to organize an activity to promote the best human rights advocacy. The first edition was a great success, and for this edition, it extended the event to the national level to allow more associations to participate.
The 10 participating organizations were:
- Health and Care Cameroon (HC²), serving MSM in Bafia
- Health and Human Rights Cameroon (2HRC), serving MSM/refugees in Bertoua
- Colibri, serving MSM in Bafoussam
- Take Care of Humans Beings (TAHBE), serving transgender/albinos in Yaoundé
- Association of Deprived and Vulnerable Communities of the Ocean (ACODEVO), serving MSM/transgender in Kribi
- ASAED-Cameroon, serving MSM in Maroua
- Denis and Meki Foundation (DMF), serving transgender/youth in Limbe
- AMAS PLUS, serving transgender/MSM in Douala
- SOS Solidarity, serving MSM in Bamenda
- Association of Youth Solidarity of Garoua (AJSGA), serving youth/MSM in Garoua
Among the members of the jury were: Jean Jacques DISSOKE, Joseph MESSINGA and Maitre ABOA Stéphane. The organizations were challenged to present the jury with advocacy on the following topics:
- Improving the response to HIV/AIDS among key populations in the next three years
- Violence against MSM
- Legal recognition of identity-based organizations
The opening ceremony took place in the presence of the representative of the European Union ambassador and the representative of the French embassy. Both thanked ALTERNATIVES Cameroon for launching this initiative, which enriches the capacities of civil society organizations.
After the first round of presentations, the jury recommended to participants that teams should improve the terms they use to elaborate their advocacy, and that advocacy should not only consist of complaints, but be able to identify the problem, the issue and the goal. The jury also focused on the choice of allies, their role, the choice of activities to be carried out, and the precision and conciseness in the formulation of the message..
At the end of these presentations, the jury advanced Colibri, HC², 2HRC, DMF and AJSGA to the semi-final round, where HC² and DMF were selected for the final. In the end, HC² was crowned the winner.
The Advocacy Competition was hosted at the French Institute with the support of the European Union, the German International Development Agency (GIZ) and the French embassy’s Cooperation and Cultural Action Service.
Courtney Stans, the author of this article, is a Cameroonian journalist who writes under a pseudonym. Contact her at [email protected].