In 2006, UNICEF reported that as many as 12.1 million African children had lost one or both parents to HIV-related illnesses. Children with limited parental care (orphans who lost both or one parent, children fostered out to the extended family) have very limited access to post primary school education.
Going to school is a source of hope and well-being for children in Cameroon. But most children face a constant battle to get school fees paid by their guardians and because they are forced into work to earn for their families.
In the Western Highlands of Cameroon a husband is almost everything in the family. He is the main bread winner of the household and has the final say in family matters. In fact, the importance of any wife is measured by the husband’s position or achievements in the community. The loss of a husband causes much personal sorrow, but is often worked by negative cultural practices upon the husband’s death.
Widowhood practices in the Western Highlands of Cameroon constitute severe human rights violations, and abuses all of which compound the emotional and psychological pain of the death of a husband. Some deaths are attributed to witchcraft and the wife is often quick to be accused of malpractice. The ill treatment of the widow is considered a punishment, a test of fidelity and a cleansing exercise. For a period of one year the widow is prevented from carrying out economic activities and performing her new household head functions. This affects her dependents in many ways. In many cultures in the area a woman is not allowed to inherit the husband’s property. Rather, she becomes a possession to be inherited by the next of kin or any male relative of the deceased husband.
In the area one out of every three women is a widow.
SUSTAIN offers access to income generation initiatives for women (widows, smallholder farmers), girls and orphans and helps them continue their education to escape from extreme poverty, trafficking, early and forced marriages, HIV/AIDS infection and other health risks.