'Every day for me is women's day' commented CoP ambassador Daphrose Ntarataze Barampama live on CRTV (Cameroon Radio TV), a major broadcasting company in Cameroon. Daphrose, CoP’s new President Amina Dikedi-Ajakaiye, Executive Officer Kate Monkhouse and women from Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Switzerland and host country Cameroon gathered in the capital city of Yaounde for a three-day gathering that focused on the renewal of spirit and resources of the African Francophone CoP teams.
In celebration of the UN's International Women's Day, Daphrose was interviewed about Initiatives of Change International's (IofC) Creators of Peace (CoP) program. Daphrose spoke about the transforming methodology of Creators of Peace Circles (CoPC), the principle activity of the program 'Creators of Peace Circles are spaces for reflection and compassion. They are spaces to heal wounded memories', she commented on the TV station that covers all ten regions of Cameroon.
'Peace is contagious. We are here in Cameroon to look at the root causes of extremism with Initiatives of Change and the role women can play in helping to tackle this issue', Daphrose commented in the TV interview. Part of the agenda for the CoP teams in Cameroon is to explore CoP's input in addressing this focus area of IofC International.
Following the TV interview, the group of 11 women (six more arrived the following day) went to the First Lady's march at Cameroon's 32nd celebration of Women's day. 1000's of Cameroonian women from all sectors of life marched in celebration of the courage and determination of women around the world. It is a day to reflect on the progress made and to call for change. 'The story starts with us, in each of our hearts' stated Amina in the opening of the gathering. It was a special day for the CoP women and an appropriate occasion just before they got to business of looking at peace in Francophone Africa the following morning.
The first day of the gathering started with each woman identiying a quality for themselves; passionate, connection, patience, service, humanitarian, peaceful, Ubuntu – the activity demonstrated the powerful diversity and strength in the room. The women described their activities, challenges and needs as Creators of Peace in Francophone Africa. The needs and challenges were real as the room heard of stories from communities in Rwanda and DRC where living peace is especially hard.
One success story came from Burundi where Daphrose, her husband Angelo, Elvanie and other CoP team members deliver a peace circle every two weeks as well as implement a holistic livelihood development plan alongside CoPC. They have impacted hundreds of women and the work has now spread to Mali. 'It is a synergy of support and with this increasing synergy around Africa, the politicians might listen to us', Amina commented.
The days were subtly based around the ten gathering points of a peace circle which included daily morning reflection for inner listening, exploring the women's circles of concern, what builds and destroys peace, qualities of a peacemaker and forgivness. This was combined with a strategic overview of future-plans and opportunities. The women learned tools to takeaway that will help them carry their CoP work out in their respective countries, also shape their use of IofC and CoP methodology in their lives and countries. ‘Our tools and methodologies are our uniqueness. We each have a duty to live our own peace – peace in action, every day', Amina powerfully commented.
On the second day, the delegation of creators of peace were invited to meet Catherine Abena, Minister of Women Empowerment and Family, a Ministry department of the Government of Cameroon. Madame Abena received a gift from Amina on behalf of CoP. The group discussed the challenges women face in Cameroon and collaboration opportunities for the future.
Each country has developed their own action plan and contributed to a shared vision of meeting spiritual and material needs of women and local communities affected by conflict and poverty. There will be collaboration and opportunities for partnerships as teams strengthen their own capacity and set up projects to run Creators of Peace Circles for students, market women, genocide survivors, community leaders, widows and refugees.
This is a group of passionate, intelligent and determined peacemakers. They are not daunted by the grave challenges they face, they are led by their spirits and hearts for their countries to overcome these challenges and to engage women in their role as creators of peace at every level of their societies. 'My capital is my values' as Daphrose stated in one of the many powerful discussions.
'I have not experienced a lot of peace in my life but these nights, I have slept well knowing that so many women in Africa are working hard for peace, starting with themselves', commented one Cameroonian participant.
Written by Talia Smith
You can watch here CoP Ambassador Daphrose Ntarataze and CoP's new President Amina Dikedi-Ajakaiye's messages on International Women's Day.