Between the townships of Batschenga, Ntui and Yoko in central Cameroon, Africa a 200-kilometer stretch of red dirt waits for asphalt. The UN Women “Gender Road Project” is still underway but it is already changing lives in many ways, from economic empowerment and land ownership to education.

 

Economic empowerment: Women lifting each other up

In Yoko, the women’s cooperative SCCOMAD is helping women increase their crop yield and income. “Because of the road project, we decided to start a cooperative and to empower women in our village,” says Tukuri Marie Chantal, an active member.

Guindong Jaqueline, another member, explains further: “We realised that the road was going to bring workers and the population will increase. Through the cooperative we can grow enough food and we will have a ready market to sell to.” Once the Gender Road Project is completed, women farmers will have improved access to bigger markets to sell their produce.

Women come to work on the 26-acre cooperative land, growing cassava and potatoes. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

Women come to work on the 26-acre cooperative land, growing cassava and potatoes. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

But the cooperative is not just about income—it’s also about solidarity. In this impoverished area where social protection barely exists, the cooperative gives women a support system that they never had before.

 

Land ownership: “No one can see the joy in my heart”

Awaho Talla is the first woman in her family to own land.

When UN Women started the Gender Road Project, the Yoko Council granted Talla a 400-square-metre plot of land—a gift with significant potential to empower both her and her daughters.

Awaho Talla is a mother of five, a member of the indigenous Mbororo tribe and the first woman in her family to own land. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

Awaho Talla is a mother of five, a member of the indigenous Mbororo tribe and the first woman in her family to own land. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

“I am a Fulbe woman from the indigenous Mbororo people,” explains Talla. It’s important to have land and property under my name because in our tribe, the men take at least four wives and it’s the responsibility of the women to secure a future for themselves and their children. Now that I have property, I can take care of my own children.”

Now Talla is teaching her daughters the importance of property ownership and education. Such developments are steps toward a brighter future for women and girls in the region and around the world.

 

Education

Nbdemke Elizabeth (left), Yeng Chimine (right) and Chimine’s mother Vivian (centre) celebrate the girls’ newly-acquired birth certificates. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

Nbdemke Elizabeth (left), Yeng Chimine (right) and Chimine’s mother Vivian (centre) celebrate the girls’ newly-acquired birth certificates. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

An estimated 3,000 children living in communities along the Gender Road Project do not have birth certificates. While many women don’t give birth in hospitals, a child doesn’t get immediately registered at birth. Obtaining one later is expensive and difficult. Not having a birth certificate closes doors to many essential public services, including education.

Odette Bienel, a community worker with the UN Women project, explains that without birth certificates most girls don’t go to school or drop off at the primary level. “This in turn caused a lot of teenage pregnancy and early marriage.”

Through its advocacy and assistance, the UN Women project has helped 200 children get their birth certificates within a year, and 155 more are in the process.

Neighbours Nbdemke Elizabeth and Yeng Chimine are among them. Both want to become doctors when they grow up.