GROWING INTO A WOMAN IN CAMEROON
My transition from childhood through adolescence to being a Cameroonian woman is one packed with several experiences; some I find funny, some hurtful and some just surprising. Growing in an overly conservative society did not really prepare me for what to expect as a woman in this century. I pride myself in my rich heritage and culture. I pride myself in the strength of home training in Cameroon. I pride myself for the sanctity given to marriage in my community. However, as strong as all these may be, I believe it still did not adequately prepare me to be a Cameroonian woman.
As I transitioned from childhood to adulthood, I was taught first that becoming a woman meant I was one day going to be a wife and a mother. Through those years, I learned how to cook; as they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I learned how to look after the needs of a house whole and be a mother to my younger siblings. I remembered severally; whenever I was playing or watching T.V. and had to be called to cook or do house chores and complained, my mum will say; “You will have to be someone’s wife someday and not your brothers…” That was it…I grew to understand the changes in my body and had to teach my mind to go with it…Owing to the conservative nature of my community, sexuality, relationships and men were hardly discussed between parents and their children. Most of what I got to know on these topics came from the television and books I read.
As I found my way through boarding school, I gradually began to realize what being feminine in Cameroon meant. I watched my colleagues date and wondered what the hype about that was about. Buried in my books, I made it through secondary and high school void of any male relationship. As an excited young woman, I happily ventured into the university. It was another world different from the conservative world I had been brought up in. It was here where I found out a young Cameroon woman was viewed by a young Cameroon man as an object on a trader’s tray…Through my university years and beyond, I realized beyond the protected walls behind which my parents shielded me was a world where women were objectified, demeaned, used and broken. Irrespective of how smart, beautiful or talented a woman was in Cameroon; there existed a guy who would not look past her breast and skirt. The good girls get messed up by bad guys who will one day look for a good girl and marry…
As I pondered on this and asked myself what went wrong, I realized the question I should be asking was rather, “Where did it go wrong?” It went wrong at our homes…the traditional method of raising children where more pressure is put on the girl child to be a wife has failed. We are training wives, but are we training husbands? We are raising ladies, but are we raising gentlemen? As we teach our daughters to be wives and to submit to husbands, it is but fair we raise sons who will love and respect women. Sex and sexuality should be incorporated in home discussions in order to prevent the crazy experiments going on in our school systems and society as a whole. We should kill the culture that defines a woman only as a wife or mother. We should kill a culture that discourages women from pursuing visions beyond the milieu of marriage. In an age of great immorality, our children need to be more equipped to face the world…As much as we cherish a conservative culture that shies away from certain issue; we should keep in mind that if we don’t choose to talk about these things when they matter, when we choose to talk about them, it would be too late.