By Yvonne Massa Ako
In politics, just like in other fields of life, women have been relegated to the background while their male counterparts have, somewhat, jealously kept the centre and foregrounds.
Women are hardly given the chance to prove their worth in society. In politics, they are assigned menial roles like cooking and entertainment during political activities.
At the level of the homesteads, they are relegated to proscribed domestic roles, a situation that strips them off their political voice and potential for leadership. While their men are actively involved in politics, the women are expected only to vote and most often, the party of their husband’s choice.
But for the introduction of the women’s wing of political parties, women would hardly head the various structures of the party. Even when the political party is headed by a woman, men occupy most of the basic organs of the party.
There are very few cases of women heading the main organ of a party. Francoise Foning, who died a few weeks to the celebration of this 30th anniversary of the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM, performed a feat when she beat men in Douala V to head the CPDM section.
National and international civil society organisations, CSOs, pressed for gender quotas in political organisations at the 2013 Legislative and Municipal elections in Cameroon, compelling the CPDM and other parties, to allow the 30 percent quota for women; resulting in 56 women in the 180-member National Assembly, today – representing 31.11 percent.
Following that logic, a third of the seats in city halls today are occupied by women.
However, women have been leading their wings of the party successfully.
According to the Fako III WCPDM Section President, Hannah Etonde Mbua; “The issue of male chauvinism is plaguing the society, and women are hardly given the opportunity to voice out their decisions. This is because in the yesteryears, women were not allowed to acquire education in schools. They were restricted from participating in this social activity under the pretext that they had to be trained to become good housewives.
“Men in the main wing of the CPDM give us the impression that we are a second fiddle; that we are just to animate and cannot take decisions,” Etonde averred.
The Mayor of the Bamenda I Council, Caroline Bi Bongwa, observes that before democratisation or the re-introduction of multi party politics in the 1990s, she had already developed tap roots in the CPDM and as a committed militant, loyal and faithful to the party’s ideals; she remained and has always remained with the party.
She added that; “Nobody can compare Cameroon of today and what it was in 1985. The CPDM is celebrating achievements in all the domains of life. I am not an influential personality within the party, even at the Regional or Divisional level, to attempt to count the numerous achievements, but I think it is worth celebrating. I think we should think global in 2015.”
The Regional Delegate for Women Empowerment and the Family, MINPROF, Judith Moffah, on her part, affirms that, “education and encouragement constantly handed down to women has resulted in more women going to school, engaging in politics and doing business.”
The CPDM Government has also committed itself to improving women’s rights across the country; reason why they have partnered with some international bodies and forums concerning women’s rights like the Beijing Declaration Platform for Action.
The platform has 12 objectives which encourage the empowerment of women from the basic level to be able to make their own decisions and voice out their worries, even in the midst of men.
The Beijing Platform for action was adopted 20 years ago and has been active in Cameroon. As a result, many women are now active in politics; taking up challenging roles and successfully running them; like the Minister of Arts and Culture, Ama Tutu Muna, and the Minister for MINPROF, Marie Therese Abena Ondoa all members of the ruling CPDM.
President Biya, on February 28, signed a presidential decree promoting Anne Bella Nkotto to the rank of Colonel. Other women in the Cameroonian army, including Pauline Ngaska and Philomene Nga Owona were also promoted to senior positions.