Empowering women in Cameroon has gone a long distance but its still yet to reach the intended destination.
Cameroon has signed major international and regional commitments on equality between men and women. Although these laws have been taken over other laws, preference for customary laws remains. this implies discrimination against women and girls in rural areas still prevails and today we see inequality manifest in different forms. The updated code in 2016, now gives to men and women equal rights (UN Foundation,2019). However, in practice men still dominate in almost all sphere with well paid income. Early or forced marriages are criminalized unless their consent is taken into consideration. Unfortunately, today most girls are brainwashed into marrying which gives their consent. Education is the highest means of empowering women and girls with knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in development process. When families are poor the people most likely not to go to school are the girls as priority is given to men since girls are said to be married off.
The rural communities in the East unlike other parts of Cameroon still have lots of girls not going to school, most women are housewives and compelled to violence perpetuated by men. Cameroon has been experiencing an unexpected large-scale influx of refugees and displaced persons since January 2014, due to the civil war in Central African Republic and the Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria and Chad. The three regions hosting these refugees – Far-North, Adamawa and East regions also have the highest poverty indices in Cameroon – 65.9%, 53% and 50.4% respectively (UN Women Africa). In the East, the responsibility for the various daily activities – preparing meals, fetching and storing water, taking care of the children’s hygiene and household hygiene, taking care of dependent people in the family and community (people in a situation of disability, older or sick people orphans) primarily relies on women and girls. Women spend an average of 8.2 hours more per week than men on unpaid household tasks leaving them to rely on the men for daily upkeep (Relief Web, 2020).While men seek to replicate the masculine ideals of support and head of household, the current political and economic context puts them under increasing pressure. With the crisis and economic hardship, men’s frustration at being unemployed, unable to fulfill the socially expected role of provider and protector of the family, combined with the fact that violence is considered socially acceptable in some communities, leads to a recourse to domestic violence as a means of asserting their authority and domination. Women and girls are often subjected to violence for sustenance or protection leaving them very poor. Education for the pygmy’s community and refugees is not valued worst of all educating the girl child. In areas still offering schooling possibilities, boys are in some cases privileged when school fees cannot be paid for all: While they go to class, girls are responsible for domestic chores and small trade to support their families.
Investing in girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment set a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Once educated and empowered, girls and women can bring income for themselves which allows women to rise out of impoverished living situations to a better life and participate in different areas