Promoting social cohesion and peacebuilding through vocational training in Cameroon’s SW Region
04 April 2023
More generally, the platform provided a safe haven for vulnerable populations and a place to positively exchange with peers
"We started on a low scale, with limited materials and resources; the centre could only host about 10 to 15 learners. The situation got worse when the centre got dilapidated and shut down, due to the difficulty in our region," recounts Madam Sally Derval Lifanda, President of the Fako Empowerment Platform (FEP), in Buea, the capital of the South-West Region of Cameroon.
The Fako Empowerment Platform is an initiative founded by eight grassroots organisations in the South-West Region of Cameroon. It was created to improve livelihood opportunities for vulnerable youth, women, survivors of gender-based violence (GBV), and internally displaced persons through vocational training. More generally, the platform provided a safe haven for vulnerable populations and a place to positively exchange with peers. In 2019, the centre was forced to shut down its activities due to the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions of the country.
In addition to rehabilitating the physical building of the FEP, the Programme provided the centre with 63 sewing machines for the tailoring workshop, as well as kitchen and catering equipment to allow students to run the catering services. A Tech Hub was also constructed and equipped with computers and IT accessories to serve as a research centre for local youth and encourage learning, particularly in the STEM field.
"Access to these services has significantly rekindled confidence in the vulnerable youths and women; they now have the required skills, are economically empowered, and can take care of themselves." Madam Sally confirms with confidence. "We hope other partners could come in and provide start-up kits for the learners to gain full independence, and a bus to transport vulnerable youths who live in hard-to-reach communities," noted Madame Sally, highlighting the need for further support.
The empowered youth and women are happy with the outcome of their empowerment and now dream of a better future. "I stopped schooling in form five due to numerous constraints. But today, I can support my needs, thanks to the opportunity I had to learn tailoring at the Fako Empowerment Platform. I now make assorted designs, including party and traditional wears." Ms. Martha Limunga a 22-year-old trainee at the centre.
"I was passionate about graphic design but could not afford it. When I found the Fako Empowerment Platform, I found a ready solution to my worries. Today, I am a qualified designer with many clients, while also training other girls and boys in graphic design." Njing Linus, a graduate of the FEP Tech Hub.
Other key actions of the programme to improve social cohesion and promote peace and security include working with partners to facilitate the issuance of lost certificates like ID cards, birth certificates, and academic certificates; bringing the affected communities together through socio-cultural activities like festivals and sports competitions; advocating for peacebuilding through workshops and the creation of committees to mitigate risks in the communities; and empowering media houses through training and the provision of equipment that will permit them to produce quality programmes for peacebuilding and reach more people in the communities.
"Alongside promoting social cohesion and peacebuilding, the programme is also working with the government and partners to rehabilitate essential infrastructures, especially schools, health centres, and roads, and to support the revitalization of the local economy to promote income-generating activities and generate employment opportunities in the region." Ivo Lysinge, Project Coordinator, UNDP Recovery Programme, SW Region, Cameroon.