Participants at anti-hate speech event in Bokova
Global Hand Cameroon, in partnership with Civic Watch that works with the r0g agency, under the #defyhatenow programme, have, in a one day workshop, educated locals within the Bonavada community in Buea on ways to spot, avoid, and fight against hate speech.
The June 13, 2023, event brought together men, women and youths within Bonavada, who converged on Bokova, which now has a mixed population, comprising indigenes of the area, settlers, as well Internally Displaced Persons who have left their own communities in search of safer ones, as a result of the ongoing Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest Regions.
During the event which was themed on “Denouncing hate and hate speech; online and offline”, participants were also schooled on misinformation and disinformation and how it also sets the basis for hate and hate speech. Using local examples, the trainer, Evambe Thompson Atra, Founder and President of Global Hand Cameroon, explained how some slangs and normalised perceptions injure people, even when the user thinks it is normal.
On information, they were urged to always process information they receive, and if they want to continue to spread it, they should first consider the implications of what spreading the information will be.
After listening, especially on the dangers of using certain words with negative connotations on particular people or groups, participants asked questions, relating to how to talk to, and refer to other groups or people in ways that do not cause hate. They also asked about redlines to respect when it comes to using speech in a constructive way.
In an interview with the media, Evambe Thompson said of the workshop was to “to teach them how to live together, how to avoid, and how to denounce hate speech because we have seen that during this crisis period, a lot of things are going on. We have seen how communities clash with the displaced because they source for resources and the communities sometimes do not want to grant them access”.
He also blamed the rising tensions on the way information is gotten and spread around communities, often without fact-checking, leading to people building and adopting biases, which, at the end of the day, build up hate and inspire hate speech, thus creating conflict.
After participating in the workshop, a community member, Azeteh Julius, said he learned a lot about things he and others had normalised, because they did not know any better. “It was so fruitful. I think we have learnt things that will help our society; how to live with others, and how not to discriminate. We learnt how to live with people from different places, and I think that will help us a lot,” he said.
He regretted that, before, they lived in harmony but, with the crisis, there has been a lot of hate and hate speech in their communities. And after learning to live and tolerate, they hope more capacity building trainings will be organised for them to adopt best practices that helps and builds, instead of divide.