On Friday, May 6th, we will wear black and commemorate Marthe Ouandié. One of Cameroon’s last remaining heroines has passed on.
One of the best things that happened to me on my 50th birthday last year, was being part of the CPP delegation that went to honor Marthe Ouandié. It was incredible just being in her presence. As we thanked her for the life she had led, she continuously thanked us for carrying on the fight and gave us the courage to forge ahead.
I am a firm believer in the concept of Sankofa. To know where you are going to, you must have a clear idea of where you have come from. One of Cameroon’s greatest tragedies is the fact that our history, all of our history: cultural, economic and political has been skewed, perverted and often hidden from us. A people without history, or with a misrepresented history, is a people without identity or at best with distorted sense of self.
An essential part of our history, is the role played by the Marthe’s. Martha Moumié, Marthe Nyobe, Marthe Ouandié. How these outstanding women, all named Marthe, all married outstanding men, is a story I would love to hear. Unfortunately, as a nation, we have let those who could have told it, pass on without getting the opportunity to do so.
As admirable as their choice of spouses was, it was far from the whole story about these women. Here are just a few key facts about Marthe Ouandié.
• Along with other women of the UPC, Marthe Ouandié created “l’Union Démocratique des Femmes Camerounaises” in 1951. The women’s organization which acted strategically in concert with the UPC to win independence for Cameroon.
• These women created the first women’s newspaper in Cameroon “Femmes Kameruaises”.
• In preparation to take over the country, the UPC created the “Ecoles des Cadres”. A training center for those who were meant to govern the country in the future. There were 30 graduates in the first “Ecole des Cadres”, 6 of them were women, Marthe Ouandié was one of those women.
• Between 1949 and 1960, Cameroonian women, led by UDEFEC, wrote over 1000 petitions to the United Nations Trusteeship Council. They petitioned their economic and social rights as women, they laid complaints as to the use of rape as a weapon of war by the oppressing army, they petitioned the right to healthcare for themselves and their children!
Marthe Ouandié was obliged to flee Cameroon with her children as a political refugee. She spent many years of her life in various countries around the world. On April 15, 2016 she passed on, a heroine unsung in the country she gave her life for.
We will wear black on Friday May 6th to honor Marthe Ouandié. There is no doubt in our minds that she and the other women of UDEFEC were they alive today, would have been at the forefront of Fridays in Black.
Marthe Ouandié we honor the life that you chose to live. A life which helped fashion a fundamental part of who we are today. We stand on this strength to forge ahead and live our own lives, such that we might be honored by those who come after us.