Partner in focus – CDVTA

One of CDVTA's clubs for the elderly, Cameroon. © All We Can/Guillaume Debar

Community Development Volunteers for Technical Assistance (CDVTA) in Cameroon has been an All We Can partner since 2004. It works to improve the quality of life of marginalised elderly people through advocacy, training, and inter-generational communication.

Older people’s rights in Cameroon

CDVTA works tirelessly with elderly people to help them realise and assert their constitutional rights. At local level, staff and volunteers have helped individuals to attain ID cards and therefore the opportunity to vote and travel. At a national level, their programmes have enabled elderly people to raise their voices on a range of policy issues.

CDVTA also assists elderly people in developing income generation activities such as goat rearing to alleviate poverty and have created a network of older people’s clubs. These clubs act as a hub of support for people that might otherwise become isolated and lonely, and allow older people to share skills, knowledge and friendship.

Tabita Chi’s story – songs for change

Director of CDVTA, Francis Njuakom Nchii, says that Tabita Chi is one of the older people that has inspired him the most during his time overseeing the work of CDVTA, as she has been able to use her own talents for the good of those around her. A widow with five children and two grandchildren, Tabita has become a leading voice for change in her community and has even been to speak to Cameroon’s Prime Minister about the rights of elderly people.

Tabita is a member of the Ngefeboh Elderly Social Club in the Boyo 1 project area in North West Cameroon, and has brought to the club an excellent knowledge of local songs and a great singing voice! After joining the club in 2009 she found that she could use her singing and dancing to lead and inspire other elderly women. She became highly respected by her club and was quickly promoted to the rank of ‘animator’ in the group. Due to her leadership skills she has been chosen many times to represent her group during advocacy meetings with senior government officials and policy makers. Tabita has coordinated members of other clubs in the area and has led them in singing advocacy songs during national celebrations and during large conventions.

In 2010 CDVTA trained Tabita’s club in production of medicinal ointment, a balm with ingredients from wax and medicinal plants, used to treat rheumatic pain, arthritis, general body pains and skins infections. The club was also trained in soap and washing power production. This training was to enable the club members to generate income and improve their living conditions. In addition to helping the club produce ointment and washing powder, Tabita started producing her own ointment and washing powder at home. With income generated from selling these, she then bought a female goat which produced kids, raising yet more income.

Francis speaks proudly of Tabita’s achievements: “At the start of this year when I visited her, Tabita told me that her son has just graduated from university with a Masters degree. Thanks to the sales of ointment, washing powder and goats she had been able get enough income to pay for his studies. She is also paying her two grandchildren’s schools fees for primary school. When her children and grandchildren are sick, she pays for their medication with income raised from the sale of these items. When other clubs realised that Tabita was solving many of her problems by herself they too started looking for ways to raise their own income.”

Tabita has been to Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, to meet with the Prime Minister (2011), the Minister of Women’s Affairs (2012), the Minister of Social Affairs and the Representative of the United Nations High Commission for Human rights (2013). Tabita has spoken to these officials about problems facing by the elderly and has encouraged the government and the United Nations to provide more care and support to older people. Tabita has been able to use her positive attitude and ability to sing to lead other elderly people to make big changes in their own lives and has also been able to raise her voice for policy changes that will leave a legacy for others in the future.

Find out more about All We Can’s partners in Cameroon