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CAMEROON: Vocational Training Center for African Women

Local Partner: Association pour la Promotion de la Femme (APF) – Association for the Promotion of Women

Year: 2010


The human development index shows Cameroon as 144th out of 177 countries in the world, with a life expectancy of 49 years. The rate of unemployment for women in the urban area is 49%. One of the priorities of the central government is the improvement of the country’s human resources, which is crucial for the revitalization of the nation’s private sector and for a sustainable, home-grown development. Women have a fundamental role in the progress of the country. They need to be much better prepared to contribute to the socio-economic landscape of Cameroon.

Sorawell is a center of professional training for women seeking careers in the hospitality industry. The school’s three-year program qualifies the women to work in hotels, restaurants, bakeries and even in private homes with unparalleled culinary arts and housekeeping skills. In 2009, thanks to Harambee USA funding, 33 young women were able to enroll in the program.

“The daily work during the three years of training is divided into practical activities (menu planning, cooking, etc) and in-classroom sessions, which include, among other things, classes in foreign languages (indispensable for those who work in hotels), hygiene, nutrition, geography, chemistry and math” says Gnes Bulekhani Ambenje, teacher at the school. “The activities are conducted at a strong pace and usually the first few months prove very taxing for the girls. The majority of them have always lived in barracks and struggle to realize the importance of house cleaning and maintenance. Appliances such as the vacuum cleaner are outside of their experience.” That is why the relationship between the teacher and the students is very important: the teachers train the women to use the new tools and help them change their attitude towards housekeeping. Other hotel schools in the country have students attend weekly demonstrations without active class participation. The women of Sorawell are engaged in hands-on activities in addition to a general education curriculum. This requires a greater commitment on their part but also gives them a competitive advantage in the job market as soon as they graduate.

Sorawell students learning how to bake

Hermine Yumeng Kouam is an alumna of the program who decided to pursue three more years of specialization. During her studies at Sorawell, she learned how to cook but also how to select and balance nutritious foods. Now, Hermine takes care of her family by contributing financially to household expenses and improving their health thanks to her knowledge of hygiene and nutrition. Hermine recalls that the first month of the program was difficult and that she was at the point of dropping out. Then she decided that, since she was offered the possibility of acquiring a quality education, it was worth taking advantage of even if it meant overcoming hardships. Today, the results of her perseverance are tangible not only from the professional point of view but also on a personal level. Through the classes dedicated to personal development Hermine has gained a sense of what it means to be a working person (an awareness she did not have before). She has also learned how to take better care of herself and those around her. During her specialization, Hermine is learning how to manage a little capital and supervise personnel. With each day, she draws a little bit closer to fulfilling her dream of opening her own bakery.

Besides the training program targeted to the hospitality industry, Sorawell organizes other educational activities to teach women the basics of self-sufficiency and financial management so that they can create and manage small private businesses. For example, the Center has implemented courses for women from the villages outlying Yaoundé, to help them create a micro project of development in their area. Unaccustomed to seeing the importance of investing in training, the participants showed a certain degree of reticence at first. Now, they are reaping the fruits of their hard work and good results. Some of the projects developed during the courses at Sorawell have in fact won a grant from the government to be continued.

View more educational projects funded in Cameroon.