Cameroon | Teaching Teens to Counter Hate
Today we hear from Jonathan Ntshing, founder of Cameroon Youth Partnership (CAYOP). Amidst increasing violence, he and his team work with youth to stop and prevent atrocities that have left hundreds dead and resulted in nearly 200,000 fleeing their homes. In 2017, with support from Nexus, CAYOP carried out a project to prevent youth from joining violent, radicalized groups.
Mukong Tracy Yolander is like most 16-year-old girls in my country. She likes watching movies and listening to music. Her days are filled with schoolwork, chores, and hanging out with friends. But, unlike most teenagers, Tracy is constantly bombarded by propaganda from violent extremist groups intent on recruiting young people like her.
Here in Cameroon, mass violence is a tragic result of growing tensions between English and French speakers. Youth are at the center of this violence, often lured in by false promises of abetter life if they join these radical groups.
In 2017 the violence worsened: schools were shut down, thousands were forced out of their homes, and torture of civilians became more common. We knew we had to act to protect our young people.
Thanks to support from The Nexus Fund, we created educational materials which have since been used by 300 young people in Cameroon. We teach youth how to recognize when violent groups are trying to recruit them and why they should resist.
“I learned that radicalization doesn’t happen after viewing one video or one post online,” said Tracy after our educational training. “Before this, I didn’t know the things I saw online were dangerous. I could have become radicalized myself. Now, I can [see it] and talk to my friends about how to keep themselves safe.”
Without this knowledge, many young men and women in Cameroon choose to join radical groups. Instead of books and music, their daily lives are consumed by violence and fear. I am proud of what we’ve done; but, our work has just begun.
With ongoing support from The Nexus Fund, we are really making an impact in our communities. We are working with French and English speaking students to understand and counter hate speech that is driving much of the violence.
Despite many obstacles, we are determined to see peace.