|Dadine Chantale Dsandjon|
24 years old
Dadine is the Assistant Executive Secretary of RENATA (Reseau National des Associations des Tantines, or "National Network of Aunties Association" in English), a network of more than 60 "Aunties" associations in Cameroun that bring comprehensive sexuality education to adolescents and teenage mothers. Dadine is formally trained in the prevention of early and unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, and harmful traditional practices such as unsafe abortion. more>>
Dadine Dsandjon: My father has three wives and 26 children. I am the nineteenth child of my father, and the fifth child of my mother. I grew up with my entire family in Douala, where I attended primary school. When I was 11, my father lost his job and it became too expensive to live in the city. We moved to a village and I enrolled in secondary school. more>>
DD: Traditionally, women take a lower place than men. If a man is seated, the woman must sit in a chair lower than his. She can neither look at him nor speak to him except to say "yes, father, older brother, oldest brother," and so on. A husband has the right to call his wife by her name, but the wife doesn't have the same right. She can only say "yes, my elder." more>>
IWHC: How did the experience of growing up in Cameroun differ for girls and boys, both as young children and as teens? Did the activities, interests, and perception of the future differ for girls and boys?
DD: Boys didn't have any household chores, but girls always had to be in the home. We couldn't go out or do things we wanted. The boys were out playing while we were inside helping our mother with chores. If there were parties we were invited to, we weren't allowed to go, but the boys could go freely. When we complained, the mothers would say, "They are boys. And you are girls. You have to learn to be sweet for your future husbands." more>>
DD: We never talked about these things, not even with our sisters. All our mothers told us was if you have your period, you could get pregnant. There were no details or information about how to protect ourselves from unwanted pregnancy. I have no idea what our parents thought about sex and reproductive health and rights because they never talked about it.
DD: When you have a child as a teenager, you are often not respected by others in the community. I had felt reduced to nothing - belittled - until I was introduced to Tantines.
I felt like I found someone I could confide in - someone who could identify with my problems and answer my questions about sexual and reproductive health. This made me want to be involved in the organization so that I could help others in the same way.
DD: Personally, Tantines has had an enormously positive effect on my life. Today, I am an executive officer, and I have a salary. It's as if Tantines pulled me out of the dark and showed me the light. I had been working in the fields, and now I am helping to manage an organization. more>>
DD: A major challenge facing youth in Cameroun is accessing education. There are fees, often very high, to attend secondary school. This prevents many young people from enrolling, especially in the rural areas. more>>
DD: Maternal and infant mortality, as a result of early pregnancy in particular, must be addressed. When an adolescent girl conceives, often her body is not developed enough to carry a child, let alone give birth. She is most likely abandoned by her partner, and often keeps her pregnancy a secret from her parents because she is afraid of being labeled by her family - and by society in general - as promiscuous, or even as a prostitute. This means that she never seeks any medical care, and may therefore be at risk of infection or other complications. more>>
DD: Tantines' trainings teach young people how to approach other young people and actively listen to them, as well as how to develop solutions to their problems. more>>
DD: My work with Tantines makes me feel valuable and useful in society. It makes me happy when I walk down the street and I hear people calling my name. I'm proud when girls come up to me and thank me for the advice I have given them.
DD: I hope to return to school and major in psychology at the university here in Yaoundé. I want to continue in the same field of work (helping others through counseling), so I feel psychology is the best area of study for me. more>>
DD: I would like to be the head of a nongovernmental organization (NGO), where I would work as a psychologist. The NGO would work to protect and defend the rights of children, and promote their treatment and care. I love children, and I would like to defend their interests.
I first heard of IWHC through Femmes, Santé, et Développement en Afrique Sub-Saharienne (FESADE). While I was working with RENATA, I had participated in a workshop on the FESADE curriculum. I was invited to a ceremony at FESADE - the graduation of their peer educators - where I heard a speaker thank IWHC.