Family Centers Expand Education in Cameroon

School dropouts and women in the community find economic and social empowerment through courses at governmental Women’s Empowerment and Family Centers in Cameroon.

Publication Date

Family Centers Expand Education in Cameroon

Publication Date

BAMENDA, CAMEROON – Rekiatou Manu, 18, was among the 30 graduates this month of the Bamenda Women’s Empowerment and Family Center in Bamenda, the capital of Cameroon’s Northwest region.

Manu dropped out of school during her second year of secondary school. She says her father insisted that she pursue a vocational education instead of general education. So last year, her parents enrolled her in the Bamenda Women’s Empowerment and Family Center, a governmental institution run by the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family.

“I was trained in sewing and decoration in this center for one year,” she says. “It has been one year full of quality education and training.”

Manu says she was skeptical at first and had no idea what transpired at the center. But she soon found out.

“When I got to the center on the first day,” she says, “I understood fully all what was happening at the center, and I picked interest in it immediately.”

The center named Manu the best student in sewing and decoration at this year’s graduation, which took place on Nov. 9.

“I am filled with joy,” Manu says, smiling and moving her body in excitement. “I am so excited that out of the 10 trainees that specialized in sewing and decoration, I emerged as the best and took the prize for the best student in sewing and decoration. My parents will be so proud of me.”

She says the center not only equipped her with sewing and decoration skills, but it also equipped her with civic and moral lessons that she will hold onto for her entire life.

“Moral and civic lessons were major courses in our program,” she says. “Our teachers were good. They taught us all that we needed to know.”

Manu says she is eager to share her knowledge with others.

“I will pass these lessons on to my children,” she says, “in fact, to anyone that I come across in my lifetime.”

Manu was the lone graduate from the Mbororos, a traditionally nomadic group that has partially settled in the Northwest region and has begun to access education. She encourages more Mbororo women and girls to come and gain training from the center.

“I call on my fellow sisters of Mbororo origin to come and enroll at the center, and they will not regret it,” she says.

Students say the Women’s Empowerment and Family Centers empower them to learn vocational skills and civic and moral lessons that will enable them to gain employment and even employ others. Parents have also begun to enroll in courses and say that the centers need more publicity about their offerings. Administrators call on more women, girls, boys and men to enroll in courses and make use of the many opportunities at the center.

The Bamenda Women’s Empowerment and Family Center is one of the specialized technical units opened by the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family in Cameroon in 2005. In the Northwest region of Cameroon, there are four women’s empowerment and family centers in four different divisions of the region. The Bamenda center is the biggest and boasts sophisticated equipment.

These centers aim to provide skills training to the community. Long-term courses include sewing and decoration, crafts training, catering and hotel management and computer lessons. Short-term training, known as punctual training, teaches basic skills in cookery and baking, sewing and other areas.

“The objective of the center is to offer moral, civic and skills training to persons who enroll at the center,” says Beatrice Ndoping, director of the Bamenda Women’s Empowerment and Family Center.

This academic year, 45 women and girls enrolled at the Bamenda Women’s Empowerment and Family Center, and 15 dropped out for different reasons, such as pregnancy and childbirth, Ndoping says. Thirty completed the program and graduated in November in three disciplines: crafts, catering and hotel management, and sewing and decoration.

Mirabel Ndenechu, 19, won the awards for best student in catering and hotel management and best all-round student during this year’s graduation at the center.

“I cannot express the joy I have today,” Ndenechu says. “My heart is filled with joy. I give all the credits to my trainers and my director, Dr. Ndoping. They all contributed in bringing out the hidden talents in me.”

Ndenechu says she never knew she could become a great cook. She also didn’t know she had multiple talents, such as cookery, sewing, decoration and crafts.

“The Bamenda Women’s Empowerment and Family Center is a genius center,” she says. “They were able to discover my skills, perfect my skills and make my future bright.”

Ndenechu says she is going to expand the reach of her education by becoming a job provider.


“I am going to make good use of my talent, good use of the revolving loan that the center offers, start up a catering business that will offer employment to other Cameroonians,” she says.

She laughs at her new ability to not only find a job, but also to create jobs.

“The truth is, I am going to become an employer,” she says.

Even parents are beginning to take advantage of the center’s offerings.

“I did not know the center offers all this trainings to women and girls,” says Cecilia Ngu, a parent who attended the graduation ceremony.

Learning about the center has made her want to sign up for courses as well.

“I must enroll in the upcoming punctual training,” she says. “I want to equip myself with some baking skills for Christmas.”

Ngu say that the center should make the population aware of its offerings.

“Many women do not know about the importance of the center,” she says. “They need to be sensitized.”

Ndoping calls on more community members to make use of the sophisticated equipment donated by the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family. The Ministry of Secondary Education also donated more than 100 million francs ($200,000) worth of equipment this year through a project called Projet d’Appui à la Réforme de l’Enseignement Technique et de la Formation Professionnelle.

“We call on the Bamenda population to come and make use of these equipments, to come and gain economic empowerment,” Ndoping says.

Ndoping says this call includes boys and men.

“We call on men and boys to also come and enroll,” she says. “The Bamenda Women’s Empowerment and Family Center is not for women only.”

Registration is currently open for new courses, which will commence this month. Courses cost 30,000 francs ($60), plus 2,000 francs ($4) for registration, Ndoping says.