June has been a month of transition for GCI. We said goodbye to one intern, Dimitrios Lais, and welcomed two more, Rachel Braden and Ariel Bilyeu. Rachel arrived on June 1st and has been working diligently on implementing the CAMs workshop curriculum in the village of Mbalangi. Ariel arrived on June 17th, and will be working in GCI’s Prisoners’ Rights Project.
The CAMs workshop series enjoyed a great start yesterday, when GCI held its first two workshops for a group of fifty community leaders from Mbalangi’s six quarters. On Tuesdays at 3pm, GCI gives two workshops, each one hour long, for members of Mbalangi’s Quarter Councils as well as leaders of local social groups. This Tuesday’s workshops were titled “Introduction to Good Governance” and “Equal Participation of All Members of Society.” The CAMs workshops include a combination of “icebreaker” activities, interactive discussions, and informational lectures about the day’s topics. Tuesday’s workshops enjoyed active participation from the community members, and GCI staff members had the opportunity to discuss important topics (such as corruption and respect for human rights) with a thoughtful and perceptive audience. Particularly impressive was the strong turnout from Mbalangi’s wider community, including its youth. Our next workshop will be this coming Friday, June 22nd, at 10am, and will be held for the members of the Mbalangi Traditional Council.
Human Rights Hour
GCI has also resumed its broadcasts of our popular Human Rights Hour, which is broadcast every Monday evening from 6:30-7pm on 91.8 Lake Site radio in Kumba. This month we are focusing on the topic of torture, as June 26th is the International Day Against Torture. On June 11, we introduced this topic and discussed the many different forms torture may take, including physical, emotional, and mental. It is widely acknowledged that while torture is officially illegal in Cameroon, it is still perpetrated by government officials and private citizens alike. Torture is symptomatic of the wider problem of corruption that Cameroon struggles with every day. To illustrate this point, GCI welcomed a special guest who spoke of his experiences with torture as an inmate in the Cameroonian prison system. As always, we opened the lines to accept calls from listeners who had witnessed or suffered human rights abuses. We ended the program by reminding our listeners that we broadcast each Monday at 6:30.
On Monday June 18th we continued with our topic of torture. We also introduced our new interns, Ariel Bilyeu and Rachel Braden. Rachel took some time to outline the work of the CAMs Project in Mbalangi, and Ariel shared some of her goals for her work on the Prisoners’ Rights Project. Rachel also shared with our listeners her experience working with a victim of torture. While she was working in the United States, her law firm was fighting a client’s extradition charges by citing the UN Convention Against Torture. Under the Convention, a country shall not return a foreigner to their home country if the foreigner faces certain torture upon his/her return. Both Cameroon and the United States are signatories to the Convention.
We also discussed domestic violence and corporal punishment in Cameroon and in the United States – both forms of abuse which can amount to torture. One problem in addressing domestic violence in particular is the embarrassment and unwillingness of victims to report their abusers. This is a message we hoped to stress in our June 18th broadcast: anyone who believes they have been a victim of torture should not be afraid to come forward, for only in speaking out against it can we hope to stop its occurrence. Our listeners should not hesitate to call in with their questions or comments, and we look forward to hearing from them this coming Monday, June 25th at 6:30pm.