One Ruling Patriarchy Translates his Story into Activism
Mr. Nzume Mathias is an exceptional among men in a place where patriarchy rules: he is an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights.
Mr. Nzume is a Cameroonian, married and a father of five; three girls and two boys. Driven by his personal experiences and agony, alongside his mother’s; Mr. Nzume knows first-hand the abuses of human rights that take place in Cameroon, and most especially his village in Bakossi – an ethic group in the South West Region of Cameroon.
“My life had a depression somewhere” said Mr. Nzume, a former secondary school teacher, now Chief of Service for the Family Wellbeing at the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family (MINWEF), South West Regional Delegation - Buea, Cameroon.
“I grew up as an orphan, yet my parents were alive” Nzume says. As an orphan , he says – his biological father never recognized him as his child - He would always refer to me as the son of his late brother. A man who was not my biological dad” he said
Mr. Nzume’s situation made him to become an advocate so as to bring change – a means that would end all injustice especially against women, widows and orphans. A situation he says it is not the victims making but of fate.
“It was a cruel experience and emotionally distressful”. He said.
The struggles for an identity led him to discover 2 foreign radio stations; BBC and Voice of America - a transformative opportunity which till date he remains a keen listener. This he said were one of the reasons to why he is an ardent women human rights defender.
“It all became sometimes in the early 80s”. He recollected. “I came across the radio stations: BBC and Voice of America. They had this gender hour program which drew my attention. Though, I was ignorant about the classical gender concepts; its legal instruments, principles and practices - listening to BBC/VoA enlightened me. So much such that during my under graduate degree, I chose to study a double major BSc: Law and Gender studies in the University of Buea”.
His interest in Gender studies was to have a good insight on women issues particularly traditional norms and women’s position in culture. And the Law aspect was to articulate gender concerns from a legal perspective and also using this platform to intervene in to women’s plight.
After completion of his Bachelor that is around mid-90s, he returned to his usual classroom teaching and in 2008, he was offered the position to head the Service for Family Wellbeing as Chief of Service in Ministry of Women’s Empowerment, South West Regional Delegation (MINWEF), a newly created department in MINWEF.
As head (chief) of service for the Family Wellbeing MINWEF, his main responsibility is to resolve family conflicts, improve family wellbeing and give assistance to voluntary persons interested in making family wellbeing a social concern.
Mr. Ediage, a professional architect shares his personal encounters with Mr. Nzume: “For almost 5 years, after my dad passed away I never said a word to my mother. My mother and I were never in good terms. We never crisscross path.
My life was traumatized. I was depressed. And today, thanks to Mr. Nzume’s one-on-one counseling and dialogue sessions, my mom and I are able to exchange words”.
Ms. Melanie, a professional hairstylist also said “Mr. Nzume inspires me a lot. He took his time to look at my problem. He never rushed me. At anytime, anywhere, he is always ready to give advice and help bring peace between me and my parents”.
Note that throughout 2008 – 2011 before the newly 25000 young government recruit, Mr. Nzume was the only male worker in the entire MINWEF- Buea, as well as the first man to hold the position as Chief of Service for Family Wellbeing.
Since granted this opportunity, he has managed over 600 cases of violence against women (ranges from rape [marital], domestic violence, sexual abuse), resolving of family dispute.
And under his leadership, he organizes an annual mass [grouped] marriages which is celebrated [takes place] every May 15 at the delegation center in Buea. The first mass wedding occurred in 2009 with 51 couples jointly married, in 2010, it was 49 and last year, 51.
Mr. Nzume believes that change is happening and women human rights are gradually been respected. However, he said – there is need for more comprehensive laws to fully advance women status in Cameroon; especially in the light of marriage, widowhood and sexual and reproductive health.
In addition he says – “both men and women must become partners to the attainment of women’s human rights’.
And to culminate, coming up soon is Mr. Nzume’s book entitled “The Tears of the Female One” where he shares his personal and professional experience; an in-depth insight on how society views women; the way forward for a better society for all.