By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Women in Cameroon have been encouraged to take advantage of networking and tap into the knowledge of empowered women to advance their economic liberty in an arena that has not been good to women across the country.
The panellists were speaking during a panel discussion organized by the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation on November 30, 2021, at the Muna Foundation in Yaounde under the project to promote Women’s Economic Rights, WERC.
The main objective of the panel discussion was to assess the role played by women in promoting sustainable economic development in Cameroon. Specifically, the panellists looked at the barriers to women’s economic liberty and prosperity in Cameroon and made proposals that can advance the economic liberty of women in Cameroon.
Speaking on the theme: “Advancing Women’s Liberty for a Sustainable Economic Growth” Barrister Nsen Abeng, National Director of CIVITAS Cameroon, an organization that advocates for human rights said: “The power of networking is very important for women… Women need to tap into the knowledge of empowered women.” “Gender-based violence limits the girl child. We must carry out advocacy to end this.”
According to the World Bank, if all forms of discrimination against women are eliminated and their skills fully utilized, productivity would increase by 40 per cent. Despite this, women still face many barriers in contributing to and benefiting from economic development.
These barriers begin with comparatively low investments in female education, healthcare, restricted access to services and assets and they are made worse by legal and regulatory constraints on women’s opportunities. As a result, the global progress in development over the last three decades has not translated into proportional gains for women.
To break the stereotypes, Dr Wilfred Pathe, Lecturer on Human Rights, Catholic University of Central Africa (UCAC) Yaounde, suggest that women educate themselves and not feel discouraged if they were not opportune to go to school, but should start something for themselves.
Statistics show that women spend 8.2 hours more than men on unpaid domestic work and 45.2 per cent of women in 2019 suffered some sort of gender-based violence,” Dr Fuein Vera Kum, Fellow in Economic Affairs at the Nkafu Policy Institute and the Moderator said.
Dr Wilfred Pathe added that there are universal laws on Human Rights that protect the girl child and women but at the level of implementing these laws, poverty distorts the mind of parents who prefer to either give the young girl in marriage or send them to the streets.
According to the panellists, a lot has changed from how women used to be regarded and where they are now. “Where we were before and where we are today, there is a lot of progress… All women need to put hands-on deck to bring about change,” Ms Alemji Hieldi Eballe, Program Assistant at WAA Cameroon.
“Cameroon has customary laws which are grounded on customs and traditions as well as stereotypical attitudes which prevent the implementation of the rights of women.”
At the end of the panel discussion, several recommendations to advance women’s involvement were made such as for women to master the Maputo protocol and the Beijing Platform; educate themselves and sensitize others and for them also to advocate for their rights.