Overcoming traditional powers in Cameroon so that women can make decisions

Gathered around the Prefect of the Noun and the High Commissioner of Canada, these ladies are ready to assume their role within the Faada.

The northern area of ​​Cameroon is a well-known geographical area with deep cultural and religious beliefs.  While women form the majority of the population, they are not yet seen as being equal to men. For example, women are taught to bow down to men and avoid making eye contact. In addition, boys are granted rights to education whereas girls are confined to domestic chores.

The High Commission of Canada to Cameroon partnered with the Adamaoua Girls and Women Association (AGWA) and Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) to raise awareness about gender equality and to persuade traditional leaders to make changes towards an equal society.

Changing traditional powers

The traditional royal council (or Faada in the local language) is considered very important in regulating social life in communities in Cameroon. The council governs members of the community by deciding what beliefs and behaviours are considered acceptable. Women are excluded from taking part in these decisions.

Introducing the idea of female participation on the council was considered a bold idea which could have had dooming effects such as social rejection. It was necessary, however, to convince the leaders and some women that this was not an act of defying authority but rather a change to help strengthen society.

Success for equality

The contributions from CFLI and the bravery of community members led to five traditional leaders agreeing to change and therefore, the Charter was signed for integration of women in offices. The Charter now states:  "the status of a notable woman of the Faada gives the woman the rights, advantages, privileges and considerations equal to her male colleagues’, as defined at the time of her enthronement decided by His Majesty the siege lamido."

In addition to this success, it was noted that the initial objective was to have ten women promoted in two traditional chiefdoms however, the final count was 33 women promoted in five traditional chiefdoms.  This demonstrated how community members saw value in this important change.

Mrs. Fadimatou Balla, a social leader, feels euphoric and shares that she has earned more respect from members of her community. More and more women come to Mrs. Balla for guidance. A change that is welcomed by all women as in the past, women were forced to share their problems with men.

“Women in the community show more enthusiasm for collective initiatives, including International Women's Day, which was only a relative one. It's incredible! It is a real revolution on the move here, believe me".

Advancing gender equality

Canada is a world leader in the promotion and protection of women’s rights and gender equality. These issues are central to Canada’s foreign and domestic policies. Advancing gender equality supports long-term sustainable economic growth, social progress, and sustainable development.

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