CAMEROONIAN WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY FRONTLINE ADVOCATES

Reny
Posted September 20, 2018 from Cameroon
Women pictured during a sit-down strike organised in the South West region of Cameroon, demanding for the effective reopening of schools in that area.

Let me take you through my beautiful country, Cameroon where our women have an age-long tradition of advocating for peace and security.

Thrusts in West and Central Africa, Cameroon is bound by Equatorial Guinea to the southwest, Gabon to the south, Congo to the southeast, the Central African Republic to the east, Chad to the northeast, bordered by Nigeria to the west and north and the Gulf of Guinea to the west. Its political capital, Yaoundé, and its biggest city which is also its economic capital with a seaport, Douala, are transit points to ecotourism sites as well as beach resorts like Kribi – near the “Chutes de la Lobé” waterfalls, which plunge directly into the sea – and Limbe, where the Limbe Wildlife Centre hosts rescued primates.

French and English are the official languages of Cameroon. The country is often referred to as "Africa in miniature" for its geological and cultural diversity with over 120 ethnic groups co-habiting since 1960

With the tallest mountain in West Africa, Mount Cameroon (an active volcano that stands over 4,040 m and 13,250 ft.) located in Buea- South West Region, Cameroon is famous for producing coffee, cocoa, cotton, bananas and oilseeds. Cameroonian cuisine is one of the most varied and cherished in Africa due to its location on the crossroads between the north, west, and centre of the continent. Furthermore, there is diversity in ethnicity with mixture ranging from Bantus, Semi-bantus and the Sawas.

After World War I, the territory was divided between France and the United Kingdom as League of Nations mandates; Southern or British Cameroon under the British colonial system and French or Eastern Cameroun under France.  On January 1, 1960, French Cameroun gained independence from France under President Ahmadou Ahidjo. On October 1, 1961, the formerly British Southern Cameroons united with French Cameroun to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. Ahidjo stepped down on the 4th of November 1982 and left power to his constitutional successor, Paul Biya who has been president of the Republic of Cameroon since then, with a multiparty presidential regime.

Thirty-six years down the line, Cameroon has known just one president who has served as much he could,  providing the people with basic needs yet, not enough to keep a people happy. With the advent of education and technological innovation, the inhabitants of the smaller part of the country (English speaking regions of Cameroon) rose to demand for equity in the judicial and educational sub-systems.  Following non-response from the leaders, the protest which started peacefully by lawyers and teachers has then escalated into an armed conflict in which thousands have been killed and countless rendered homeless.

The English regions of Cameroon have a group of post-menopausal women known as Takembeng. Takembeng is a female social movement in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. Towards the end of colonial control and in the early years of independent Cameroon (the 1950s and 1960s), these local practices became a crucial tool for larger political protest. A group of women exercising moral guardianship involving women in rural communities protesting against policies especially agricultural policies that disfavour the community.  They also mobilise to bring down individuals who violate key community moral standards, subjecting the community to sufferings.

The most significant accomplishment of this female movement was in 1958-1961 in the Kom communities, North West Region of Cameroon. The event started on 4 July 1958 in the town of Njinikom when women who were upset about the existing agricultural policy, surrounded the location of a meeting and forced the local council member C.K. Batholomew to flee to a local church for protection. The news spread and led to large shutdowns of schools, undermined both traditional and colonial authorities, set up roadblocks around the region, and disrupted most aspects of life. Government in the area was largely replaced by the women who organized a separate leadership structure and were able to influence the situation around the region. This protest led to the change of power and political stability the region enjoyed thence.

With the advent of technology and the enlightenment that education brings, the Takembeng movement has greatly evolved as more educated women lead their peers to raise their voices demanding the respect of human rights and the promotion of  peace and security in the country.

As the socio-political crisis in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon persist and with the new academic year in view, the women become more disturbed with the constant loss of lives and insecurity that reigns. Women burying their husbands and children unexpectedly, children’s inability to enjoy the basic human rights which is education as schools in this part of the country are all shut down or burnt due to the socio-political crisis.  Being the mother of humanity, the women in the English speaking regions of Cameroon often take to the street staging either a sit-down or stand-up strike with placards calling for ceasefire and the intervention of the leaders of the country.

Different class of women joined the movement and hard-pressed on the leaders of both the separatist group and the government in power for a dialogue between both camps. The women demanding for schools in the area to be reopened, for armed men to evacuate school premises so children could attend school without fear. The acclaimed Ambazonian leaders (the separatist group fighting for the independence of Southern Cameroon) that have been adamant to the call for school resumption in the area finally heeded to the cry of the women and the children in that part of Cameroon embraced school anew.

My country, Cameroon recently launched a policy termed “More Women in Politics” which advocates for insertion of women in more decision making positions. The inclusion and presence of women in the government has evolved with the passage of time. The Minister of Women's Empowerment and the Family, who is a woman, championed a movement which led to the government to enhance women's participation and representation in public service and decision making positions.

The results are glaring as the representation of women in political positions increased: in the National Assembly for instance, the number of female Members increased from 25 in the eighth legislative period to the 56 in the current ninth legislative period; female representation in the National Assembly is 31.1%. In the 100-member Senate, there are 21 female pioneer Senators elected and the others appointed by the President of the Republic. Out of the 360 mayors elected following the 2013 Council election, there are 31 women representing 6.7%.

The different elections which were expected in 2018 (the elections have been suspended till further notice), specifically the council, parliamentary and senatorial elections provide a rare opportunity for lobby, advocacy and civil society organisations to lure political parties into nominating more female candidates.

With the nation at heart, more women must be nominated in the various elections. It will be an opportunity for political parties to take the gender component contained in the Electoral Code seriously. Though efforts have been made, the representation of women in power is moving at snail-pace and there is a need for the number of women in political positions to be considerably increased.  It does not only entail having women in power but most importantly, having women in position involving key decision making.

Women are mostly harassed sexually at work place and at school, when they succumb to the harassment they gain nothing and if they shun the sexual demands, they still suffer very poor working conditions directly or indirectly imposed by the adamant male oppressor. Therefore there is a need for women to be properly and evenly represented so their voices can be heard. Women must stand with each other if advocacy policies must be taken into consideration.

Women need to be more involved politically, women currently have very little political influence in Cameroon,  Takembeng Women can be a grass root movement that rallies women with a common goal to bring positive change to the country and address women's issues. Something like sexual harassment in work place is a very common issue in a lot of work places in Cameroon, sometimes these women give in not because they want to, but because if they don't they'll loose the job offer or career advancement and possibly their job and there isn't a credible body that they can report these allegations to in other for them to be investigated and appropriate actions taken. So what a grass root movement can do is rally women and inspire them to run for office where they can be a part of the policy making process or write the policies themselves.

Thus, women must collectively speak up against sexual violence for peaceful and respectful work environments. Women must team up like the Takembeng movement to outright political policies that endanger them and their loved ones. More women must rise to politics and even lobby for the presidency. Women must be supportive within themselves, give themselves a chance to lead and take decisions.

(c) RENY

 

 

This story was submitted in response to The Future of Security is Women .

Comments 24

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Jill Langhus
Sep 21, 2018
Sep 21, 2018

Hi Renette,

Thanks so much for sharing such a wonderful and informative account of recent Cameroon history and how the current war erupted. I've been wondering about it. It's great that women are becoming stronger in the political realm, but how can even more be represented there? Do any of the Takembeng women have strong influence in politics? Do the Takembeng women have a website and/or social media pages to follow and to get even more women, worldwide, to follow them and their movement to make it even stronger?

I totally agree with you that women need to speak up collectively, to team up with Takembeng or other similar movements, that there needs to be way more women in political positions, and that all women must support one another. All of those are excellent points.

I do hope the situation in your beautiful country improves soon.

Good luck with your submission. I hope you were also able to fill out the corresponding survey on security, as your voice is very important to be added to collective that will be sent to policymakers:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/definesecurity

Hope you have a good day!

Reny
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

Hi J, sorry i have had a hard time connecting with my World Pulse family lately.
Unfortunately, the Takembeng does not have a strong representation or influence in politics. The movement has not developed much, it has since remained at the rural level.
But i think this is worth noting, this group of women mut form a team of policy influencers if the voices of women have to be heard

Jill Langhus
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

Hi Reny,

Yes, I can imagine:-( I hope you and your family are safe, though?!

Oh:( Yes, that would be a good idea.

Take care:-)

Jacqueline Namutaawe
Sep 21, 2018
Sep 21, 2018

As women, collective bargaining is very crucial in all issues we are fronting. Many thanks for this account of Cameroon history.

Reny
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

Yes my dear, we must collectively speak up and support each other for our advocacy to find solace

Beth Lacey
Sep 21, 2018
Sep 21, 2018

Such a compelling story on the need for women to collectively speak up! Thank you for educating us.
Beth

Reny
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

Thank you Beth for reading through

Esther Fabonmi. O
Sep 23, 2018
Sep 23, 2018

Way to go people, women will shape Africa better if only they team up to find their voice. African women will rise afresh. Kudos to you all in Cameroon

ARREY- ECHI
Sep 25, 2018
Sep 25, 2018

Beautiful Recap of the Socio-political history of Cameroon and the genesis of the present woes.
Women's voices need to be heard.

Fatima Wahab Babih
Sep 27, 2018
Sep 27, 2018

Hello sister Ayuk,
what an educative piece! I have learned a lot about Cameroon from your piece than I knew before, thank you very much. In spite of all the negative events taking place, learning about the women of the Takembeng movement makes me feel hopeful that Cameroonian women have the ability to engender change. Often times the few women that are put in power in African countries do not engage in advocacy on behalf of women, they are too busy trying to appease the men who put them there. This is why getting a critical mass of women in key leadership is important.

Thanks again and May God bless the women’s struggle in Cameroon and wherever women are marginalized!

Reny
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

oh dear Fatima, I'm glad through me you could learn more about my country.
It is my pleasure to always tell our stories to the world

Princesse MUHINDO
Sep 28, 2018
Sep 28, 2018

Bonjour Rénette,
C'est beau vraiment avec cette idéaliste histoire de femme au Cameroun.
Merci beaucoup d'avoir partager votre histoire.

Reny
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

Merci Princesse Muhindo,
c'est mon pleasir de tourjour partager avec le monde les histoire cache de notre pays

Jane Howard
Sep 29, 2018
Sep 29, 2018

Very compelling and informative. My thoughts and heart are with the strong and powerful women of Cameroon!

Reny
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

Thank you Jane,
i keep hoping for peace and calm to return

Jane Frances Mufua
Sep 30, 2018
Sep 30, 2018

Reny ,

Thanks for this article. I am glad to have been part of a similar exercise in the northwest region of Cameroon for the same purpose. You will agree with me that much still has to be done. We need to be more united as this time to speak out for peace to reign .

Reny
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

oh Jane, that is beautiful. Women must team up at every level to drive positive change and put an end to all forms of voilence

Tamarack Verrall
Sep 30, 2018
Sep 30, 2018

Hi Renette,

Your description of the history of Cameroon, of the Takembeng movement, and of the current violence is so important. What you and other WorldPulse sisters have written are the only news reports I have seen. Now I understand even more. The peaceful leadership of the Takembeng movement is especially important to know as the wise and nonviolent guidance of women is so rarely reported. I hope to find news reporters in my country willing to cover what is happening in yours.
My best wishes for your safety and for the safety of all in Cameroon, and for a fast end to this horrible and dangerous fighting and destruction.

In sisterhood,
Tam

Reny
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

Thank you Tam.
If there is any way i can be of help as news reporter, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Leina
Oct 02, 2018
Oct 02, 2018

Thank you for this powerful and didactic piece sis Reny,nothing can defeat the force of unity.Hugs,Leina

Reny
Oct 03, 2018
Oct 03, 2018

Heartily received dear Leina
Thank you

Adaeze Chianumba
Oct 05, 2018
Oct 05, 2018

Such an interesting story about Cameron. Thank you for sharing. I do believe that more women should rise up in politics it will help to change a lot and bring about equality.

Tarke Edith
Oct 05, 2018
Oct 05, 2018

Hi sister
Thanks for letting our sister know what we are going through in this part of Cameroon sis it is terrible mum

JANEKALU
Mar 08
Mar 08

Dear Renette, thanks for sharing your experience and what is happening to women in cameroon. We really appreciate all your efforts

with love
janekalu.