"I have brothers and I have helped them to change too. I’ve helped them to adopt a healthier sex life"

Peer educator and English language student Gertrude Zouakeu Noutcha, 29, at Mimboman clinic in Yaounde, Cameroon

Chariette was my neighbor. We lived next door to each other. She often organized group information sessions in the neighbourhood to talk about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and early pregnancy, and unintended pregnancies as well.

When I started attending her sessions I was in a bit of unstable relationship. My life was chaotic. My boyfriend didn’t like using protection and we told each other that as we loved each other we weren’t taking any risks.

Once I caught something and I was itching a lot. My boyfriend told me that I must have caught it in a public toilet. I trusted him and I didn’t realize I could catch something. When I started listening to Chariette it opened my eyes and I realized I was running big risks. As we aren’t married and we are still studying, we shouldn’t have an unintended pregnancy. What would we do?

Peer educators Gertrude and Chariette
Peer educators Gertrude (left) and Chariette (right)

She told me about sexually transmitted infections as well. I tried to talk to my boyfriend about it but he didn’t want to hear about it, especially about using condoms. I asked for a private session with Chariette for him, and she spoke to us both and he finally understood. Today we have a much more stable sex life and we aren’t running those risks anymore. He learned how to use a condom.

After attending her sessions, I was able to save a friend with Chariette’s help. This friend tried to perform an abortion herself and she was bleeding everywhere. I remembered that Chariette told me about the Cameroon National Planning Association for Family Welfare clinic, so I called her and asked how she could be admitted. She was able to receive post-abortion care but if I hadn’t known Chariette I don’t know what would have happened.

I have brothers and I have helped them to change too. I’ve helped them to adopt a healthier sex life. There is HIV around and it’s scary.”

Gertrude Zouakeu Noutcha, 29, is a student and peer educator for the Cameroon National Planning Association for Family Welfare (CAMNAFAW)