Cameroon: Women x-ray Challenges in Ascending to Leadership positions

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

The fifth-panel discussion on Promoting Women’s Economic Rights in Cameroon (WERC Project), this Friday, April 28, 2022, at the Muna Foundation in Yaounde was under the theme “Challenges faced by Women in ascending leadership positions in Cameroon.”

Organized to promote women’s economic rights in Cameroon, the Coordinator of the Nkafu Policy Institute, Dr Kibu Odette, said: “It is important to note that many Cameroonian women hold positions of responsibilities but their economic power remains lower because they have limited access to decision-making positions.”

Speaking during the panel discussion H.E Ama Tutu Muna, Member of the NCPBM and president of the working group on Bilingualism pressed on the need to shift from material empowerment to mental empowerment. She adds that prosperity and attraction lie in our thoughts so we need to enrich ourselves mentally to develop the confidence we need to lead in any position we find ourselves.”

“… I insist that women were not born with a cooking spoon. In a home, a couple must decide which role works for them. The power of knowing yourself is so important. Leadership is not about your mindset. I have always seen myself as a human being and not a woman.”

Many Cameroonian women hold positions of responsibility in national and international institutions but their economic power remains low, particularly because of their limited access to strategic decision-making positions. Although the representation of women in the national assembly has increased significantly in recent years, from 8.9% in 2007 to 31.1% in 2020, they remain underrepresented in the territorial governance (with only 9% of local councillors), in the government (6%) and the ministries directly related to the regalian functions of the state (defence, economy, finance, justice, etc.).

“Women need to acknowledge each other more. People say women are their own worst enemies but I say women are their own best friends. For us women to access leadership, we need to lead ourselves first,” Yaa Gladys Shang Viban, Former Cultural Affairs Specialist at the US Embassy Yaoundé and Gender Development Consultant said.

“Without them, I would not be where I am today. We need to support each other and acknowledge the strength and weaknesses we have. Women should assume their responsibilities and step up to the plate. The opportunities are tremendous for women and whatever they do they need to bring their passion and excellence to it.”

The objective of this was is to provide a platform for high-level experts to discuss the need to promote women’s access to decision-making positions to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Cameroon. It also focused on mapping out the women who have marked Cameroon by their leadership over the past decade; Identifying the challenges/discriminations faced by women in accessing leadership positions in Cameroon and analysing ways to advance women’s leadership in Cameroon (strategies to overcome the challenges faced by women in accessing leadership position in Cameroon).

With more women sitting on boards and becoming CEOs, the dynamic is changing, with avenues opening up for qualified women to ascend the career ladder. Companies can help by setting policies that foster an inclusive and respectful workplace. Professional development and training can also help empower women for leadership roles. By joining associations and organizations, women can network and learn how to reach their goals while overcoming the challenges they face in reaching the top.

“Women need to be more daring in taking roles of responsibility beyond the titles given to them to muster leadership skills,” Ndifor Caroline, Country Lead and Business Development Manager, British Council Cameroon said.

“Men manipulate women to believe that or them to ascend any position they have to step on each other and that is not true… We can achieve a lot by supporting one another.”

Sexism, veiled or overt, holds professional women back. Sexual harassment, inequitable work environments, and subtler forms of sexism place a huge burden on professional women working toward their goals. Deeply ingrained attitudes and biases against women keep professional women from getting their deserved respect and finding opportunities for advancement. While professionals tend to assume their male colleagues are competent, they less frequently afford their female colleagues the same good opinion.

“While trying to ascend leadership, African women should not forget the roles they play in their households,” Ebenezer Lemven Wirba said.

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