Written by Fomuso Blessing Nabila to future generations of women of Cameroon:
Dear Future Women of Cameroon,
I believe you will have advanced very much as a society by the time these words reach you. From where I write in 2016, women are bonded by corruption, bribery, and unemployment, and most of all, by violent cultural practices perpetrated against women and girls. Grandmothers and mothers iron their daughters’ breasts flat with hot stones to keep the girls looking as young and unwomanly as possible; it is a feeble attempt to prevent the male gaze from falling over their loved ones. In my lifetime, it is difficult to protect girls from rape and child marriage.
Women cry wondering when all of these issues will end. I feel their pain because I, too, am a woman and I have been hurt by some, if not all, of the practices that affect my sex.
Yet a storm is brewing and times are changing. I have met good people and I’m part two organizations that combat gender-based violence. Alongside other organizations, my sisters and I share strategies and ideas about how to make life better for all girls and women.
Future women of Cameroon, I feel better knowing that through the joint efforts of countless women, we will have almost completely eliminated the practice of breast ironing. Already, we’ve forced a spotlight to shine over this previously hidden practice. The male-dominated media ignored gender-based violence, so we’ve infiltrated their domain and demanded our voices to be heard.
By the time you read this, I will have been long buried. I imagine that Cameroon’s future ensures a greater quality of life for all genders, but I have no doubt you and my children’s children are still battling the last vestiges of patriarchy. Yet as you can see from past experience, you need only to stand together and do something about it rather than sit and complain.
You are not alone. You stand on the shoulders of other powerful women. Look at what we’ve done. In the future – your present – many women are in the government. Once, a president was in power for over 30 years. He was neither a feminist nor progressive. But in your time, our country will become more democratic. You will vote a women into office, and your schools will be brimming with girls, future leaders, all of them.
I feel very happy, because I am starting to see the beautiful fruits of our labor. In the future, this fruit will be ripe for the picking.
Future women of Cameroon, you wear the mantle of our country and it is up to you to continue raising your voices.
Fomuso Blessing Nabila is Country Director for Gender Danger, a non-profit organization in Cameroon that fights against gender-based violence. She is also the Advice Project’s Cameroon Program Director and she leads a weekly Advice Project media and writing class for teen girls in Bamenda, Cameroon.
Blessing wrote this letter to her future self during a writing workshop at the 2015 Advice Project Global Leadership and Empowerment Summit at the Inotawa Expeditions Ecolodge in the Peruvian rainforest in July, 2015. In all her endeavors, Blessing dreams of a transformed society where there is respect for human dignity, equality, and lasting peace. (Click here to read Blessing’s full bio, and watch a brief video with Blessing, below.)