Cameroon: a new activist association for lesbians

Logo d'AVAF

Logo of AVAF, the Association for the Promotion of Women. Its motto is “Women, always in solidarity.”

These days in Cameroon, although the rights and health of LGBT people are the focus of several community associations,  lesbians and transgender people remain the poor relations of the nation’s LGBTI community.

The challenges they face are  just as dramatic as those of gay men, but they do not have a dedicated place for dialogue and meetings.

Because of this situation, several activist lesbians established the Association for the Promotion of Women (AVAF) in December 2014.

Now officially recognized, this association plans to present activities focused on the promotion, education and social needs of lesbians.

An association that works for the human rights of LGBTI people

Sandrine Ateh, directrice executive de l’AVAF (Photo de l'AVAF)

Sandrine Ateh, executive director of AVAF (Photo courtesy of AVAF)

AVAF has  30 members, some of whom serve on the two decision-making bodies of the association — the board of directors and the executive board. AVAF only works on behalf of lesbians, but the association is also open to transgender people. Only lesbians serve on the executive board. The board of director also includes three men.

The association was created at the suggestion of Dominique Menoga, who is now its honorary president. The founder of the activist group CAMFAIDS, Menoga is a well-known activist from the homosexual community of Cameroon who noticed the lack of visibility of lesbians among organizations that are known as LGBT associations. Because of this lack of visibility, the needs of lesbians were not met through the activities of these associations, which in fact are focused on gay men.

Raymond Bykoukous, président de l'AVAF. (Photo de l'AVAF)

Raymond Bykoukous, president of AVAF. (Photo courtesy of AVAF)

AVAF is in contact with the existing LGBT groups in the city of Yaounde and is also linked to CAMNAFAW, which receives aid from the Global Fund in Cameroon to combat HIV / AIDS among men who have sex with men.

The new group’s mission is to work for human rights in Cameroon, specifically for the rights of the lesbian community. It will monitor the situation of lesbians in Cameroon and work on their behalf with other community-based LGBT advocacy organizations.

The need for this was evident in 2012, for example — during the U.N. Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights in Cameroon, violations of the rights of lesbians were not clearly stated because of lack of evidence, while those of gay men were.

This initiative aims to remedy the problem during the next UPR and in other reports on human rights issues concerning gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.

A new initiative for a new association

V., vice présidente et trésorière de l'AVAF, sa photo floue pour la sécurité. (Photo de l'AVAF)

V. vice president and treasurer of AVAF. Her photo is blurred for security. (Photo courtesy of AVAF)

Today in Cameroon, although some lesbians participate in the activities of gay associations, they do not have their own association with a place that belongs to their community. Gay associations provide no programs specifically addressing their concerns.

To meet this need, the goal of this new association is to help lesbians to promote the human rights of lesbians in various ways. The initiative’s aim is to enhance the image of this community and to restore its confidence about its future.

Knowing that the lives of lesbians are strewn with pitfalls from an early age and that their personal stories are tragic, this initiative responds to their social situations and the homophobic context in which they live in Cameroon (arbitrary arrests, convictions, lawsuits, rape, forced marriage …).

C., directrice des programmes de l'AVAF, sa photo floue pour la sécurité. (Photo de l'AVAF)

C., program director for AVAF. Her photo is blurred for security. (Photo courtesy of AVAF)

The year 2015 will be devoted to promoting the association within the gay community, assembling lesbians in Yaounde, and building partnerships with sister associations and potential local partners. This year will also provide an opportunity to strengthen the capacities of the group’s officers in regard to association management and human rights.

Initiative that can overcome serious obstacles

Similar projects have been successful in Yaounde’s gay community. The association CAMFAIDS, for example, has achieved positive results and won the trust of technical and financial supporters of gay initiatives. AVAF intends to continue this type of initiative, but with a focus on lesbians.

Dominique Menoga (Photo by Colin Stewart)

Dominique Menoga, honorary president of AVAF. (Photo by Colin Stewart)

The biggest challenges will be to quickly train members of the executive board about how associations work, to become known, and to attract the attention of potential technical and financial partners with the goal of sustaining the activities of the association. A further major challenge will be to open a center — a location in the city where activities can be held.

As a reminder, AVAF is a non-profit organization, apolitical, non-sectarian and dependent on voluntary participation, not allowing discrimination on the basis of race, creed, ethnicity or gender.

Long live AVAF !!

Raymond Bykoukous,
President of the Association AVAF

The first publication of this article (in French) was by the Association for the Promotion of Women on its website.

5 thoughts on “Cameroon: a new activist association for lesbians

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