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Summary of the Book – Women of the Reunification 

By Tricia Efange Oben

The Women of the Reunification is a biographical account of a handful of women. Their stories highlight the role of women in Cameroon at the time of Reunification between East and West Cameroon.

The book is divided into six parts. Opening with the role of Cameroonian women in the 1960s, it also looks at some of the cultural, religious, social and educational aspects that curtailed women’s rights and prevented them from realising their full potential.

 The book further takes a Close up Look at four women:
•    Josepha Mua,
•    Gwendoline Burnley,
•    Susan Eyong and
•     Gladys (Silo) Endeley.

Other women mentioned in passing include Ma Anna Foncha, Ma Muna, Ma Jua, Mrs Ahidjo, Delphine Tsanga, Alvine Ekotto, Mrs Keutcha, Mrs Ngongang Ouandji, Margaret Mbile and Mrs Jane Egbe. In the final analysis, the four women profiled are amongst those who eventually became career politicians.

Their work in their families raising children of their own and those of their extended families, (Mrs Mua had 11 children of her own, Mrs Eyong eight, Mrs Endeley six and Mrs Burnley six (in total 31 children between the four of them!!). They were all diplomats par excellence and went out of their way to do things for their communities. They were particularly strong in promoting the education of the girl child and insisted that parents send their girls to school.

They were politicians in an era where women were not allowed to be public figures; in an era when women’s biological roles were considered their greatest achievements and at a time when they could aspire to no more than being teachers. Yet, in spite of their cultural hurdles, they succeeded. They are role models to this day!!

Finally, the book looks at the legal impediments of the 1960s and how this could have been a stumbling block to women’s emancipation. Mrs. Mariana Weledji, entered the Cameroon Bar Association as the first female barrister in 1969. For her, it was an uphill struggle because she could have taken the easier route and gone into the Magistracy. But she wanted to be a lawyer, so, she tenaciously held on and today her success as one of the finest minds upholding the ethics of the legal profession is without question. 

Ma Weledji recounts that there were really no legal impediments stopping women from excelling. “Cameroonian women have their rights on a golden platter,” she insists. “But they could not and still cannot enjoy these rights, thanks to custodians of culture and other societal obstacles”.

In the final analysis, it is easy to conclude from “Women of the Reunification” that women have not succeeded in politics. Between 1959 and 1988, for example, there were 18 members of parliament. Today, there are 19 women in parliament. However, this is a dim and negative view that precludes the formidable work done by some very inspirational, influential and powerful women, to lay the ground work for what others are enjoying today without doing much to give back.

It is hoped that the work done by the Women of the Reunification can be taught to young Cameroonians today. It is hoped that the book can inspire women to achieve more because the hurdles today are nothing compared to those of the 1960s. It is hoped the book can inspire parents to pay a little more attention to their girls.

It is hoped the book can inspire Cameroonian men to be a little more attentive knowing that their successes depend on the successes of their women and that if the women are advancing very slowly or at “snail’s pace”, then society will invariably be advancing in the same way.

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