Since the start of the crisis in 2016 in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, over 712,000 people have been forcibly displaced throughout the country –and more than 4,000 civilians killed. As a result, at least 2.2 million people needed humanitarian aid in 2021.
Forcibly displaced women often face a lack of resources and support, which makes them more vulnerable to gender-based violence as well as economic and sexual exploitation.
Starting in 2021, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) started offering a new home and an array of psychosocial and livelihood activities for twenty-one displaced young women at St. Martha’s Home in Douala, Cameroon. This program aims to help them overcome atrocities they lived through while fleeing their communities, as well as help them with their educational, social, and economic reintegration.
Safe spaces, such as St. Martha’s Home, allow women and girls to heal and transform oppression and trauma from the past into empowerment, resilience, and new opportunities for their futures.
This project is possible with the of support of JRS USA and Alboan in collaboration with Caritas and the Jesuit Parish Our Lady of the Annunciation in Bonamoussadi. You can view some photos from the project here.
Here are some powerful testimonies from a few of the women and girls in St. Martha’s House.
“Due to the situation in which I found myself during the anglophone crisis, I could even date three men. Not because I liked it but for survival, because I wanted to make a living for my younger sister and myself.
“I knew it was wrong, and I could get sick. So, when I heard about JRS’s program, I did not hesitate to join the group.
“I am happy and grateful for the new life and hope ahead. I also want to live a positive life to be an example to others.”
“I had lost hope during the crisis because I saw many of my friends killed. I lived in fear. I was almost raped when I was heavily pregnant. Thanks God, I escaped.
“Nevertheless, the shock precipitated a premature delivery, and I lost my twin babies. I have lived with that pain, and I used to cry almost every day.
“In St. Martha, I have found a home and I am very happy with my training in Catering and Hotel Management.
“I have always wanted to be able to cook good food. My dream is to sell in a restaurant one day.”
“Before I heard of JRS, I worked with a lady in a restaurant. She overworked me and didn’t give me my wages. I learned she was giving my wages to my mother according to their agreement. I felt as if my mother had sold me. It was very painful.
“Whenever I complained that I did not want to continue working with that lady, my mother would scold me. I asked the woman to pay me, and she said no. I left and went to stay with my uncle. I knew I would not go to school again.
“I heard about St. Martha, and I decided to come to gain confidence in myself, start a new life and go back to school. Nowadays I am going to school. I found hope.”