YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - The 54th observance of the day honoring the African woman who, in spite of several challenges struggles to take care of her family, was observed Sunday July 31. Ahead of the day of the African woman, reporter Moki Edwin Kindzeka met eight uneducated women in the northern Cameroonian town of Maroua who have specialized in cracking stones in a quarry to raise money and take care of their kids education.
Thirty-four-year old Jenabou Abbo understands and speaks only Fulfulde, a language widely spoken in northern Cameroon. She says she was the first lady to work in the quarry on the outskirts of Maroua eight years ago, and the men openly protested her participation in what was then a male only activity. Jenabou says she first started working as carrier of gravel but today, she now excavates and crack stones.
Twenty-eight-year old Habbibba Hajara is another of the eight women who have joined the stone cracking business. She said five years after she got married her husband became paralyzed.
She said she started cracking stones one year ago because her unemployed husband was unable to send their children to school, feed them, buy dresses for them and take care of the family. She said she makes up to a dollar each day from the gravel she prepares and sells.
Feeding the family
The oldest female stone cracker here is 43-year-old Doudou Abba. She said stone cracking is the only job she was introduced to after she lost her first husband and all of their properties were seized by his family.
She said she was poor and noticed that she could make money from the excavation of stones just as the other women who were there before her. She said her main preoccupations are feeding and educating of her children.
Doudou Abba's second husband Abdoul Bello said it is thanks to his wife's job that they can successfully take care of their family. He said his fear is that her job has lots of risks.
He said since his wife started working five years ago their children have enough to eat, go to school, and can be treated at the hospital each time they fall sick. He said he is scared because at times his wife returns with injuries and he remembers the day rocks fell on one of the workers in the quarry and her legs were amputated.
Marie Theres Abena Ondou, Cameroon's minister of women's empowerment, encourages efforts that she said make women independent instead of always relying on their husbands.
"They should not give up and we will continue to work so that their conditions improve and they must also make an effort to listen, to learn and to know their rights. And also to concentrate and stabilize their families, raise their children properly, they should send the children to school, they should educate them properly so that they can be good citizens of Cameroon," said Abena Ondou.
Cameroon is using this year's Day of the African Woman to educate women on their rights and mobilize them to tackle challenges such as violence against women and climate change. The Maroua female stone crackers are being used as an example of women who are meeting the challenges they encounter and contributing to development.