Bridgers Association Cameroon

HEALTH AWARENESS

Bridgers Association Cameroon is equally concerned with educating and raising awareness on issues of sexual and reproductive health rights among women and young girls in Cameroon.

Our health program is designed to cater for the needs of underprivileged persons who can hardly access health care as well as knowledge on the prevention of diseases like HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Sexually Transmissible Infections. 

When it comes to diseases, we intervene at three basic levels:

  1. Prevention: We carry out awareness building on the existence, and ways of preventing contraction of these diseases. We carry out school programs and initiate door to door campaigns in communities and the distribution of flyers and the raising of posters with captivating messages on HIV/AIDS.
  2. Care: Here, we assist patients to access health care and proper treatment.
  3. Support: We help patients leaving with these diseases and facilitate their access to treatment. We also act as liaison between health facilities and patients.

Bridgers envisions a society in which every woman everywhere and all the times should be able to leave healthily and also have the possibility to have assistance freely and/ cheaper thanks to shared knowledge as well as resources made available to women and girls.

Here we intend to handle aspects and concerns such as:

  1. Education on menstrual cycle/hygiene and the provision of more flexible solutions to menstrual pads to young girls.
  2. Education on the rights of women to the use of contraceptives/family planning.

We achieve these by organising workshops, regular visits to schools targeting girls and with use of experts lectures are delivered on the key issues.

Menstrual Cups

The menstrual cup project has seen the light of day in Cameroon and many young girls and women are now using the menstrual cup since December 2019 thanks to Bridgers Association Cameroon. The Bridgers received the first consignment of 100 menstrual cups and 160 reusable menstrual pads on 09 December 2019 and have since then been implementing this pilot phase of the project in Cameroon. Thanks to a fruitful partnership with our partner in Costa Rica (Iron Kids of the World, we are able to Carry out Proper menstrual hygiene education, introduce as well as distribute menstrual cups and reusable pads to young girls/women in some localities in Cameroon to fight menstrual poverty and also as a sustainable way of managing menstrual hygiene while conserving our environment. One menstrual cup can be used for 10 years.

What is a menstrual cup?

It is a cup-shape sanitary device, made of medical grade silicon and inserted in the vaginal cavity during menstruation to collect menstrual blood.

What are the advantages of using a menstrual cup?

  • It is ecologically friendly: A menstrual cup can last for 10 years when properly taken care of. A woman during her life on earth generates about 60 kg of waste from sanitary pads, for this reason it is advisable to use a menstrual cup instead of using hundredths of sanitary pads that end up buried under ground and will last hundreds of years to decay in the soil.
  • Low cost: it is far more costly to buy sanitary pads each month than buying one menstrual cup that last ten years. Using one packet of sanitary pads each month for ten years cost at least 72000 FCFA but a good quality menstrual cup cost 15000 FCFA
  • Promotes gender equality: The menstrual cup is an easy way of managing menstruation. A girl that always has access to a safe alternative to manage her menses will make her to have a higher self-esteem since she will no more be afraid of getting embraced in public. Also, she will attend classes without any excuse of not having a good menstrual management, giving her equal chances with a boy of performing well at school.

How to use a menstrual cup:

Choose the right size: There are three main factors that determine the size of your menstrual cup which are: vaginal delivery or not, your quantity of menstrual flow and your age.

Don’t forget to wash your hands! You should ALWAYS wash your hands with potable water and soap before inserting the menstrual cup and upon removal of the menstrual cup.

How to fold the menstrual cup: There are many ways of folding the menstrual cup but the most common folds are: the  C-fold, the Rose fold, the seven fold and the coil fold.

Relax! Before inserting the cup (especially for the first time), it is important for you to relax for at least 30 seconds before inserting the menstrual cup, breathe in and out to relax your muscles, this will ease insertion.

Posture: The menstrual cup is placed in a squat position or with legs open and one leg on the toilet pot.

Insertion: Spread your labia with one hand and use your other hand to insert the folded cup in your virginal cavity. The cup will create a light suction that prevents leakages. To ensure that the cup has been properly placed, it is necessary to rotate the cup a little while in the vagina.

Duration of the menstrual cup in the vaginal cavity: The menstrual cup can be used for 8- 12 hour after which can be removed, rinsed with potable water and no soap for the 4-7 days of menstruation.

Removal of the menstrual cup from the vaginal cavity: To remove the menstrual cup, you should squat with your legs open then with clean hands, use your two fingers the pinch the base of the cup. The cup should be removed gently to avoid blood spillage and the menstrual blood should be disposed in a toilet pot or toilet hole.

Menstrual cup sanitization: After your menses, the cup should the boiled for 5 to 7 minutes to kill any menstrual blood residues it might contain from the vagina or you can also boil water and place it in a glass container with the cup in it for 5 to 7 minutes, then dispose the water and place the menstrual cup in the container to get dry. Afterwards the container should be closed till your next menstruation.

Now you are ready to have a safer menstruation while protecting our natural resources and promoting gender equality!

HIV/AIDS Work at Bridgers Association Cameroon

Working in collaboration and partnership with the National AIDS Control Committee (NACC) of Cameroon and we also work with other local partners on the fight against HIV/AIDS. We are seeking for more partners both International and national.

World AIDS Day celebrated every December 1st, was designated as such since 1988. It is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human Immuno-deficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body’s ability to fight disease. Its incubation phase or period being the interval from HIV infection to the diagnosis of AIDS ranges from 9 months to 20 years or longer, with a median of 12 years. Depending on the individual because some symptoms start earlier in a matter of weeks. Such symptoms include fever, sore throat, and fatigue (for the HIV virus), weight loss, night sweats, and recurrent infections. 

Routes of Transmission

They include sexual intercourse (vaginal fluids and semen), blood exposure such as injecting drug use/ needle sharing, and other sharp objects like razors and knives, occupational exposure and blood transfusion. Moreover, perinatal; transmission from mother to baby and breastfeeding.

Prevention Methods

The most effective method of preventing the spread of HIV is by abstinence. Otherwise, the use of condoms, specifically new condoms, vaccines and daily prevention pills, clean personal needles, and above all blood screening before transfusion.

However, for the infected patients their anti-retro viral drugs are aimed at slowing down the germs ability to reproduce. 

      In Cameroon, according to official statistics in 2018 by the UNAIDS, the prevalence rate of HIV has dropped currently to 3.4 percent. Compared to the 4.3 percent in 2011 and 3.9 percent in 2016. Thus in 2018, 540,000 people were living with HIV, HIV incidence, the number of new HIV infections among a susceptible population during a certain time among all people of all ages was 1.02%, the percentage of people living with HIV among adults (15-49) was 3.6%. 23 000 people were newly infected with HIV while 18 000 people died from an AIDS related illness. All this has inspired Bridgers to hold high the banner in the eradication of HIV/AIDS in her community and the enforcement of good health for the sustainable development of our communities.

More so a project was implemented by Bridgers in 4 secondary schools located in Yaoundé in April-June 2019: Ayungha Bilingual College, Christian Comprehensive Secondary School (CCSS) Nkolmbong, Champion High School, and Mada International College on the subject “Reproductive Health Care and Empowerment: Women, protect your health and future!. This consisted of a sensitization campaign to create awareness amongst the youths on the transmission, symptoms and modes of prevention of the virus given that this disease has no cure. Also, an ongoing project will be implemented in the University of Yaoundé 2, Soa based on the sensitization, education and empowerment of the youths on AIDS/HIV and the distribution of condoms and it’s method of utilisation as a means of curbing the spread of the HIV virus through sexual intercourse in youths and the soa community as a whole in the locality.

In a nutshell, to promote good health and well-being, Bridgers Association Cameroon will keep on fighting for a constant decrease in the rate of HIV in her society and the world at large.

Reproductive Health Care and Empowerment: Women, Protect your Health and Future (Ongoing Project)

Reproductive Health Care Services are mostly absent for young Cameroonians (see Engen 2013). Societal taboos concerning raising the topic of sexuality, especially for woman, worsens the situation. Reproductive rights and services are crucial for the fight against poverty and for attaining gender-equality in the society. The use of contraceptives among young Cameroonians, especially women, remains low: Only 14% of Cameroonian women use modern contraceptive methods, such as sterilization, male or female condoms, hormonal pills, or injections and implants (The World Bank 2011; UNFPA Cameroon 2012, 10). Out of those, the condom is the most popular.

 As a Consequence, the spread of sexual diseases, such as HIV, as well as early pregnancies constitute a common phenomenon in Cameroon. According to a study from the WHO from 2008-2012, about 29,9% constitute pregnancies under the age of 18 years old. Such early pregnancies often lead to the persuasion of abortions, which are mostly executed by unskilled providers. Early pregnancies equally aggravate possibilities of higher education or economic independence.

The spread of HIV/AIDS amongst youths has been a largely debated topic in Cameroon over many years, yet the fact that many young people get infected everyday with this disease is proof that there is enormous work left to be done on the ground. While attaining maturity and thus becoming sexually active, girls/women are particularly vulnerable.

Many factors contribute to the rapid expansion of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Cameroon with the leading role played by low condom use that stems from the shame that is associated with sexually active women. Women are supposed to remain in the sphere of the household, are perceived as inferior to the men in many ways and thus are perceived as the weaker sex, that needs to adapt to the men’s needs. As a result of the few economic opportunities available to women and the great power differential with men, they do not have the power to demand safer sex. Most women/girls tend to see the buying of condoms as a taboo as such, out of the shame of being stigmatized for being sexually active; they are forced to succumb to the preference of the men/boys, whom may decide in most cases not to use these condoms and thereby exposing them to high risk of disease contraction.

According to the National AIDS Control Committee Central Technical Group in their September 2010 Report, Cameroon’s HIV prevalence rate is estimated at 5.1 percent: the highest rate for the West and Central Africa sub-region, thereby slows economic development efforts and erodes the social fabric throughout sub-Saharan Africa.The National AIDS Control Committee/Central Technical Group (CNLS/GTC) in 2010 also estimates that there are 141 new HIV infections per day in Cameroon, which means six newly infected persons each hour, every day with women more likely to be HIV positive than men. Roughly three in five (60%) PLHIV are women. Thus, young women are especially vulnerable to HIV infection.Young women represent 7 in 10 of all youth ages 15–24 who are HIV positive.

Another issue that goes along with the low use of condoms is unwanted and early pregnancies. As observed by many anthropological studies (see Johnson Hanks 2002, 2005), many young women become pregnant while still attending school. As a result, they often drop out of school or have to give their child into the care of someone else. Often women get abandoned by their current boyfriend or lover ones they get pregnant and have to bear the task of raising the child by themselves and their families. The use of condoms gives women the opportunity to decide for themselves at what moment in time they want to become mothers. This is an important factor for the autonomy and self-determination of women in the society.

Goals & Objectives

  • The project “Reproductive Health Care and Empowerment: Women protect your Health and Future” is the brain child of Bridgers Association Cameroon that is aimed at creating an awareness on the proper usage of condoms amongst sexually active youths, especially girls, for the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS and put an end to the stigmatization and shaming that goes along with buying condoms.
  • This awareness would be done within school milieus as such; the targeted audience would be students in four secondary and three higher institutions in the Center Region (Yaoundé) of Cameroon  within the period of one month and half. That is from April 1st to May 14th 2019. Then, on a long run, we plan to target 5000 Students in about 20 diffierent educational institutions and we want to achieve this until March 2020.
  • We have the goal to change mindsets of young girls to have full control over their sexual lives in relation to the use of condoms and shun every trace of stigma that goes with the buying and negotiations of condoms usage during sexual intercourse.
  • We aim at engaging young boys to collaborate with young girls in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDs.
  • We have the vision to promote the reduction of the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst five thousand (5000) young Cameroonians that fall within the age range of 15-24 through our project.
  • Furthermore, we wish to raise awareness of the self-determination of a Women’s body, so that she can decide herself at what moment in time they want to become mothers, so that they are able to follow other trajectories first, if desired. 

Please, help us to realize this project. We will be grateful for any donation.