Featured Storyteller

CAMEROON: My Father Became an Accidental Feminist

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Posted July 6, 2017 from Cameroon
Photo © Diego Cervo

Through her leadership and achievements, Clodine proved to her father that girls are a worthy investment.

“In beer parlors, funerals, and celebrations, my father speaks about the need to empower women and girls.

In his wildest imagination, my father never considered himself a feminist. He viewed feminism as a Western concept to avoid. He saw women and girls as “weaker vessels” and believed advocating for women and girls was a deviation from the norm.

As the patriarch of our family, my father was a faithful believer in male superiority and the concept of the male breadwinner. These beliefs led him to treat his male and female children differently.

The birth of five female children was no event. We were considered “additional” blessings while his male children were the “real” blessing. According to him, we would eventually get married and be part of another family so there was no need to invest in us. My father proudly celebrated the birth of his three male children, his heirs. He believed that at last, with the birth of my brothers, he would die smiling because the family was now in good hands.

Unfortunately for my dad, life unfolded contrary to his expectations. His male children did not live up to his dreams. They neither prioritized education nor committed to family well-being. They exhausted family income. My father barely survived the heartbreaking challenges they brought.

Many patriarchal families in my community believe, like my father did, that the male is the king. They disregard the contributions of female children. I’ve heard stories of male children who sold the family house when their parents were still alive, leaving the parents to die in misery. Even after tragedies like this, families continue to put the male children first.

Fortunately for my sisters and me, my father rose from slumber early enough to rescue our situation. It all started when at 18 years old, I excelled in advance level examinations which qualify students for university. While my brothers used their tuition fees on things other than their education, I graduated from university with distinction and later enrolled for a master’s degree.

Reality dawned on my father that unlike our brothers, the females in our family were succeeding beyond his expectations. He had no choice but to redefine his priorities, which he did with humility. At last, the scales fell from his eyes.

My father began consulting with me as the most educated member of my family. He told me his frustrations with his male children and explained details of our family property, trusting some to my care. He valued my contributions. Instead of the voiceless child, I became a partner in family affairs.

My father has since committed to deconstructing stereotypes about women and girls. In line with the adage that “charity begins at home,” he explored all opportunities to foster the empowerment of his female children. He sent us to good schools, provided for our needs, and sacrificed all he had for us. Then he proceeded to advocate for equality between women and men, boys and girls, in our community.

My father became radical and unstoppable in his fight. In beer parlors, funerals, and celebrations, my father speaks about the need to empower women and girls. He said NO to early/forced marriages, NO to sexual abuse, NO to preference for male children, NO to all forms of discrimination against women. Defying the customs in our community, he willed his property to all his children irrespective of sex.

My sisters and I have excelled in our education and in male-dominated spheres like arts and crafts. We are seen as a pacesetting family known not just for our excellent performance in education and work, but also for our relentless effort to empower our fellow sisters.

We train adolescent girls in bead making, traditional attire, make-up, manicure, pedicure, and fashion. We give workshops in youth groups and hairdressing salons where we provide counseling and talk about things like social ills and career opportunities.

Our father is our team leaderand he is key to our success. He uses his position in the community to influence local development actors including religious, cultural, administrative authorities, and family heads. He speaks out against cultural malpractices that promote inequality and he advocates for equal opportunities to all without bias. His testimonies have empowered many.

My father has never regretted being a feminist, and he has become unstoppable in his fight for equality and emancipation of women and girls.


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Comments 19

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  • Amandalyn
    Jul 06, 2017
    Jul 06, 2017

    Thank you for sharing your father's change in perspective. I hope more men can come around in the way he did. Congratulations to you too for pursuing your dreams and on helping others to pursue theirs!

  • Clodine Mbuli Shei
    Jul 08, 2017
    Jul 08, 2017

    Thank you Amandalyn, My desire is that many more men and boys join the feminist movement and make the world a better place.

  • Evelyn Fonkem
    Jul 07, 2017
    Jul 07, 2017

    thanks Clodine for sharing your story.Its high time many more feminist fathers take the lead to break the glass ceiling about gender inequality

  • Clodine Mbuli Shei
    Jul 08, 2017
    Jul 08, 2017

    Thank you Evelyn. As you say, our success in advocating for gender equality will be achieved when men and boys take the lead to enhancing equality .

  • Julia O
    Jul 08, 2017
    Jul 08, 2017

    Hi Clodine,

    What a great post! I love your writing style and I love the story you told. It's so cool that your dad became a feminist. It's also so cool that you've worked hard all your life and are making a huge difference to others in practical ways. You're also changing societal norms which will ensure changes down the road for all girls, boys, women and men in your society. Way to go to your dad too for changing his beliefs and now fighting for equality!

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Best wishes,

    Julia

  • Clodine Mbuli Shei
    Jul 08, 2017
    Jul 08, 2017

    Hello Julia, thank you for your inspiring words. Im just unstoppable in this fight. Will fight with all i have even my pen and voice. Thank you again

  • Louisashei
    Jul 08, 2017
    Jul 08, 2017

    Courage Activist, I am overwhelmed with your activism.  I was inspired by this story.Forward ever

  • Clodine Mbuli Shei
    Jul 10, 2017
    Jul 10, 2017

    Hello Louisa, 

    Shining the light in our little corners and communities will slowly but steadily emancipate the woman folk. Lets get the men and boys on board fro greater success

  • Nakinti
    Jul 09, 2017
    Jul 09, 2017

    Hello Clodine,

    I have never stopped reading this story about your dad. It inspires me every time I read it. It is heartwarming to see daughters proof society and patriarchy wrong -- and of rise above stereotyped expectations. I am so proud of you, and I am sending love to you father, the new born feminist.

    Love

    Nakinti

  • Clodine Mbuli Shei
    Jul 10, 2017
    Jul 10, 2017

    Hello Nakinti, 

    I am so excited with your comment on my post. Getting connected to activist like you is a boost to my work. As we unite our efforts, we will definitely break the glass ceiling. 

  • Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
    Jul 10, 2017
    Jul 10, 2017

    Hi Clodine,

    Thank you for such a lovely story. Your father is indeed a hero in many of our eyes. Breaking the stereotypes of society is not an easy task but we are glad that he did and is now advocating for the female child. We pray for his long life so that he can transform the thinking of men in your community and the world over. Thank you for sharing and may God continue to bless your family. Stay blessed my dear sister. 

  • Clodine Mbuli Shei
    Jul 14, 2017
    Jul 14, 2017

    Hi Anita, 

    Thank you for your encouragement. As you say, I always pray that my father continue to influence and transform the thinking of his fellow men in my community. He is really unstoppable 

  • Sophie Ngassa
    Jul 10, 2017
    Jul 10, 2017

    Dear sis Clodine, I was so happy to read the success story of girls in your family. This is a good example for other families to follow. I applaud you and your sister for your leadership role. Keep on the good work dear. You really make me proud. 

    Your dad will inspire other parents to do same. Thanks

  • Clodine Mbuli Shei
    Jul 14, 2017
    Jul 14, 2017

    Oh sister, 

    am so glad for your encouragement. So happy to meet inspirational activist like you . Together we will get our families and communities involved in advocating for gender equality in our communities. Thank you

  • christelle
    Jul 11, 2017
    Jul 11, 2017

    Bonjour et vraiment trop de courage pour changer le monde

  • Clodine Mbuli Shei
    Jul 14, 2017
    Jul 14, 2017

    Merci beacoup Christelle,

    je sius tres contente. Nous somme ensemble.

  • Anne Dupont
    Jul 13, 2017
    Jul 13, 2017

    Dear Clodine,

    What an inspiring story about you and your sister's setting the pace for feminism!  I love the fact that your father saw your potential and accomplishments and changed his ideas.  Fantastic!  Keep up the great leadership and tell your Dad how proud you are of him.  I love that he is your best advocate and I hope that his is inspiring other men.

    Warmly,

    Anne

  • Clodine Mbuli Shei
    Jul 14, 2017
    Jul 14, 2017

    Dear Anne,

    Thank your so much for your comment. Our success is our dad and we will continue as much as we can to make our community a better place. Will tell my Dad again how proud i am of him. 

    Thank you dearly

  • @atallgood2
    Jul 14, 2017
    Jul 14, 2017

    Thank you so much for sharing.