“In Cameroon, with the exception of Mme Kah Walla, no woman has been so involved and dedicated to a career in politics.”
By Christian Djoko, Lawyer & Philosopher
History can bear us witness that no woman was candidate at the 2018 presidential elections in Cameroon.
That apart from Mme Kah Walla in 2011, no woman since the independence of Cameroon in 1961 has ever been candidate at the presidential elections in this illustrious nation.
Even in major decision bodies of the state or political parties, they remain literally ‘invisible’.
Why this minority of the female gender in Cameroon’s political scene? Why the absence of women in decision –making bodies in the country?
These questions we seek answers to, with an aim to call on women to play active roles in the issues that concern good governance in the country.
Between Marginalisation and Discrimination
In 1980, Cameroon had 5 Women and 43 Men in public offices of the state, in 2006, Cameroon government comprised of 6 Women and 55 Men. In October 2018, the Cameroon government has 7 Women (ministers) , 1 minister delegate and 2 state secretaries out of the 64 members of government. It is clearly seen that the inclusion of women in the nation’ s state affairs is on a decline, going from 10.42% in 1980 to 9.84% in 2006 and lesser in 2018.
In addition to this decline in Women’s participation in holding key positions in the governance of the country, it will be worth it to notice that until this date,no woman has held the position of Prime Minister nor any key positions in the economy, defense, territorial administration or security sectors.
They are often appointed to positions that are deemed ‘womanly’ like the Ministries of Social Affairs, Basic Education, Women’s Affairs etc.
We can therefore agree that apart from Mme Kah Walla no woman has crossed the threshold of the political scene in Cameroon to say the least – with a rare exception of a few who have dared to occupy roles where they only existed to push the propaganda of large political bodies. In this case, it is also worth noting that their online presence, digital ‘noise’ and online activism never saw the day on a physical scene. Never was felt by the population. Never took them to the positions they needed to occupy so their voices can be heard and presence felt.
As competent and intelligent as they are, with great leadership skills, we have rarely seen them top the lists in municipal, legislative or senatorial elections. Which leads us to say that truly the political scene in Cameroon has been hijacked by men who have turned the state into an exclusive ‘Boys’ Club where they do not care about the important role Women can play in making decisions that can alter the fate of this nation.
This issue of Women’s participation in key offices in the country does not only apply to the political scene! Women are rarely seen in enhancing the socio-economic state of affairs in the country. In effect, as we climb the career ladder, women seem to disappear as we go higher. Even in professions they are really passionate about like health care and education. In these careers too men are seen to be the decision makers. A clear example is the fact that no major hospital in Cameroon is led by a woman!
It is worth stating here that this marginalisation is not recent. In a book published by Pierre Flambeau Ngayap in 1983, the author underpinned that “Being a Woman (in Cameroon) does not favour managerial positions…That In 24 years, only 7 Women became administrative heads occupying key positions in managing state companies.
This phenomenon which we can rightly term ‘sexual apartheid’ was also evoked in Professor Roger-Gabriel Nlep who affirmed in his book derived from his doctorate thesis that there was no equilibrium in the partition of tasks attributed to men and women especially tasks in governance and administration. Women were not considered for top position jobs.
None has ever been nominated in the position of Technical Adviser, State Correspondent etc.
Usually we get the flimsy excuses that Women are not interested in playing these roles, they are not bold or daring enough, they are more concerned with raising families etc excuses which tend to conceal the real reasons behind such practices in order to maintain a status quo which will keep the country sinking because of lack of human intelligence to innovate and implement new ideologies.
However, this situation and non-participation of Women in key roles in our society, their incapability to influence decisions can be altered! We can change that by implementing policies, educating and changing mindsets.
We must make Politics accessible to Women.
Political doors must be opened to women. Deserving and able Women must be considered and adhered into political parties. If they are worthy of leadership, they should be allowed to lead.
We should not forget that Cameroon took part in the Maputo Protocol which encourages Womens’ voting rights and gender equality in political systems. The government therefore needs to implement the Maputo Protocol which will encourage more women to join the political scene.
Mentioning and honouring heroic female politicians will also encourage and incite other women to join the club. We should not underestimate the role of the woman in building the society…such women if hailed properly will pull their fellow women to join them in leading and enhancing decisions made for the betterment of the country.
I think it is time that Women in Politics should not be exceptional but we must get to the level where this should become a norm in our country.
Where we get rid of the bias we feel about ambitious women. Where ambitious women should be known and applauded for their heroic acts and their audacity turned into national glory for posterity.
Where men would lay down their egoism and petty insecurities and embrace strong and visionary women who have the passion and drive to lead the nation to its better days.
Where In Unity Cameroonian Men and Women will be in one accord not because of their sexes but because they share a common vision, a common ideology, a common goal which is to develop the nation and that not only a Man can bring about that development but a Woman too can!
Building the Future
The 2018 Presidential elections in Cameroon broadened our knowledge and widened our perspective on the situation of Womens’ involvement in politics in Cameroon.
Suffise it to say that it is time for Cameroonian Women to wake up and answer the call.
It is time for women to break limiting barriers, not as in a way to imitate doctrines from the West, but to participate in building a future for generations to come.
Let us be at watch however not to make and harbour the same mistakes made by our leaders. That of barely increasing ministerial positions that add no value to the lives of Cameroonians. Let us watch to the effect that true female political leaders are raised to transform this nation to the wonderment of the whole world.