Cameroon: Nkafu Policy Institute’s Experts Examine Women’s Access to Inheritance
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The inability of women to freely access and control productive resources places them in a weaker position in terms of agricultural productivity and economic growth, food security, family income and equal participation in governance. It is within this framework that the Nkafu Policy Institute of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation has organized a panel discussion on “Enhancing Women’s Access to Inheritance in Cameroon” under the Promoting Women’s Economic Rights in Cameroon (WERC PROJECT).
Barrister Dimu Davis, lawyer and legal consultant said: “The law has provided several means for women to get justice. Women need to be aware of these laws and to be bold enough to claim their rights. Traditional authorities should embrace what the law has put in place to facilitate women’s access to land and property.”
Discussions during the 10th-panel session centred on Discussing the concept of women’s inheritance rights and the reasons for the persistent gender inequalities in this area in Cameroon; Highlighting the effectiveness of measures put in place to promote women’s inheritance rights in Cameroon and Proposing some strong policy recommendations to address the barriers faced by women in accessing inheritance in Cameroon.
According to a report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2019, only 3 per cent of women in Cameroon own a house without a land certificate and 1.6 per cent have a land certificate in their name. Although they have access to some plots of land, they cannot have control over them, as they do not benefit from the inheritance rights of their parents and husbands. Thus, when land is at stake, women have little opportunity to assert their rights.
The Cameroonian legislation on inheritance is not discriminatory. The law has a level ground for every Cameroonian. Under both laws (Common and Civil), children are equally protected,” Barrister Chefu Sirri Joy, Lawyer, Human Rights activist said.
“In court, males or females as long as your family agrees to it and seen as someone capable of administering the estate, the court does not have a problem with females… A woman has the liberty to acquire a piece of land in her name, her husband’s name or both, in a case where they signed for joint.”
“Be it, man or woman, access to property or inheritance should be guaranteed. Stakeholders should engage in sensitizing women on their rights and how they should go about seeking justice in case they are deprived of what is rightfully theirs,” Aoussina Tizi Pierrette, National president of Action Network said.
In Cameroon, a framework was in place to protect women’s inheritance rights. This reference framework includes: the Constitution of Cameroon, the Civil Status Registration Ordinance, the Non-contentious Probate Rules of 1954, Section 46 (1) of the Administration of Estates Act 1925, and the French Civil Code of 1804 serve as the foundation for this framework (1). In some cases, customary systems have provided women with secure rights to use land and resources however, recently women have experienced greater difficulties protecting rights under these systems.
“The family should know that the girl child has a role to play in the society and they are equal to men. They are not a threat but are there to compliment and so it is their absolute right to inherit lands. To women, it is not our place to stay quiet but rather to search, be patient and be persistent because the law has abolished all that was in place to hinder you from inheriting,” Barrister Dimu Davis added
“We shouldn’t just stay down when we feel we are being challenged and our rights being taken. We shouldn’t stay back and think all is lost because the law has provided every means for us to seek redress.”
Barrister Chefu on her part said: “Education is not just for someone who we think is in authority. Every one of us has the responsibility to school people on the fact that both men and women have equal rights. If we do not carry out this education at the very basic level, all the work we have done will go in vain. So let us all get to work and make our community better.”