By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Despite the reforms put in place by the government of Cameroon in its Growth and Employment Strategy Paper (2010-2020), and more recently in its new Growth and Employment Strategy, to ensure access to education and healthcare for girls and women and boys/men, gender inequalities persist.
In this light, the Nkafu Policy Institute, a think tank at the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation organized the second session of the Operational Working Group (OWG) within the framework of the WERC Project this May 27 at the ST Muna Foundation on the theme: “Addressing gender inequalities in access to quality education and healthcare in Cameroon.
The session was geared towards discussing ways to address gender inequalities in access to quality education and healthcare to promote the economic rights of women in Cameroon. The members also analysed the reforms put in place by the government to promote equal access to quality education and healthcare for both boys and girls and any remaining inconsistencies; assessing barriers hindering access to quality education and healthcare services by Cameroonian girls/women and proposing policy recommendations to government and other stakeholders to improve women’s access to quality education and healthcare services.
Barrister Chefu Sirri Joy, Chairperson of the WERC Operation Working Group, OWG said: “We are trying to bridge the gap between boys and girls as far as education and access to education and social facilities are concerned. Today, most girls do not have access to education and even when the girls start at the same time and go to school as the boys, somewhere along the line the number of girls who will be in school will drop and the boys are still there.”
“The whole idea is for us to advocate on how girls can go to school equally like the boys so that they can be exposed to the same opportunities that boys have. We are talking to parents, stakeholders, and everyone in the society as we are advocating for girls to go to school. We are asking for parents to not treat their children differently; see how they can share the small resources they have to make sure that both boys and girls have access to education.”
Beyond the costs associated with schooling, adolescent girls face additional barriers, particularly at the secondary school level, primarily due to the burden of household chores and the weight of culture. In terms of health, many inequalities exist between boys and girls.
These inequalities can be explained by several factors such as lack of access to contraceptive methods, combined with low coverage of sexual and reproductive health services, lack of information on how to prevent certain diseases and conditions, low rate of assisted childbirth inadequate management of obstetric complications, limited access to health services and health insurance. As a result, women’s labour force participation in adulthood remains low and the gender wage gap persists.
At the end of the session, parents were encouraged to complete their studies as a parent’s educational status motivates them to further educate their children; campaigns should be carried out to produce birth certificates for all children so they can be enrolled in schools; NGOs, CSOs and the government should work in synergy to provide more learning facilities; make education more affordable and encourage more girls towards the science discipline.
The WERC Project developed by the Nkafu Policy Institute aims to remove barriers to women’s participation in productive activities by conducting advocacy campaigns with a coalition of government actors parliamentarians, business stakeholders, academics and the media to promote women’s economic rights in Cameroon. To achieve the project’s objectives, the Operational Working Group is tasked with exploring policy reforms that can be put in place to eradicate the various barriers that impede women’s economic participation in productive activities.