Peace Tongues Cameroon, a peace-oriented non-governmental organisation, has engaged a campaign to sensitise Cameroonians on COVID-19, using the various local languages.
The campaign, carried out mostly online, is done in various local languages, to get the population more engaged, and also to break any barriers that might be faced by locals, in learning and understanding how the virus is spread, and what needs to be done to avoid it.
Explaining the rationale behind the use of local languages to sensitise the population, the organisation, in a report stated that “As a way of fighting coronavirus (COVID-19) and creating awareness without leaving anybody out, Peace Tongues, PT Cameroon, seeks to sensitise every Cameroonian of the dangers of COVID-19 and what we all must do to protect ourselves and stop the spread of this disease; in different Cameroonian dialects to ensure that the messages get to everyone.”
Through recorded videos in different local languages, the organisation says it has reached to countless Cameroonians across the board, with messages on what they should do to avoid contracting the virus, and what they should do if they are infected. The campaign, for a start, has paid particular interest in the crisis-ridden regions of Cameroon, Northwest and Southwest.
On why PT uses local languages, the organisation stated that it chose the peoples’ languages, because “Language is not simply a medium of communication, but also a carrier of meaning, culture, values between generations. Peace Tongues seeks to build peace through indigenous languages, downplaying the English and French colonial divisions”.
Asked what prompted the organisation to engage in this anti-COVID-19 campaign using local languages, and what is expected at the end of the campaign, the Executive Director, Christantus Begealawuh Nchongayi stated that, “No society functions without a culture and culture is symbiotic with language. With more than 250 indigenous languages, I believe that Cameroonian tongues could greatly contribute to peacebuilding and national cohesion undermining, French and English colonial languages now becoming a source of conflict.
Generally, communication is an essential tool for peacebuilding and in our context, local languages are the main channel through which we communicate or trust each other and is essential for grassroots peace-building.
“Our indigenous languages are part of our culture and culture itself is a means in which people communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge and attitudes towards life. Considering that many people are sensitive about their indigenous ways of communication in Cameroon, our indigenous languages tend to be a positive tool for peace-building and reconciliation. This is what prompted us to engage in such a campaign.
It is a campaign that is not going to end, but its achievements can be seen through its efforts to showcase Cameroon’s multiculturalism, linguistic tolerance and above all in its community-based approach to peace-building and nonviolent communication.
“In the context of the present pandemic, our achievements can also be seen in some of our campaigns, including our awareness campaign on the coronavirus through different community leaders using indigenous languages and Cameroonian tongues for sensitisation. Together with our energetic communication team and entire PT family, we intend to roll out many of such initiatives in the days ahead”. Christantus Nchongayi stated.
Apart from COVID-19 sensitisation, the organisation states that its core mission is to use local languages to promote peace within communities, with a goal that the peace message and culture will spiral to the society and country at large.