Saturday, January 24, 2009

Promoting Gender Equality to Empower Women

Promoting Gender Equality to Empower Women
By James Achanyi-Fontem
Cameroon Link
Gender inequality continues to cause serious problems in Cameroon like in other parts of Africa and elsewhere. When women lack control over resources such as land, they are unable to make decisions which improve family income. Without control over family income by growing cash crops or animal breeding, women contribute their time and labour only to maintain subsistence levels, and are more severely affected by poverty than men. And cultural traditions, which bar women from activities such as tree planting, limit their ability to conserve and promote environmental sustainability.
Land and property rights, in particular, are slowly taking centre stage in almost every public forum convened by Cameroon government officials or civil society, and women are taking a leading role in the fight against discrimination with the creation of many female only organisations. Gender equality is a human right and at the heart of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It is a must before overcoming hunger, poverty and disease in our communities. Gender equality means equality at all levels of education and in all areas of work, equal control over resources and equal representation in public and political life. This web page looks at eliminating gender disparity in all sectors of life because we cannot enjoy development without security, we cannot enjoy security without development and we cannot enjoy both development and security without respect for human rights.
Gender equality promotion starts in most cases with the promotion of women and property rights, which is considered a national issues in Cameroon and a global concern in other regions of the world.
Cameroon Link sees women and property rights promotion as another way to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women.
Both men and women have recognised in Cameroon that women are entitled to land access, security of tenure and the right to own property, though only a few respect the legislation, causing this issues to remain on the debate list. Cameroon law does not discriminate against women’s rights to inherit property, but customs and traditions of individual communities continue to prevent their access to that property when their partners are deceased.
By raising this issue, Cameroon Link is trying to help women change discriminatory laws and customary practices regarding inheritance, women's direct ownership and control of land, and women's co-ownership of family land through human rights activism and advocacy action.
We want to help women to become aware of their rights through popular education, legal aid clinics, media campaigns on women's access to land and property, and celebration of "International Women's Day" every year on the 8th March.
Through social mobilisation during health development community meetings, we raised a women's rights advocacy issue and stress the need to involve men, women and children in discussions on property matters.
This has raised women's spirit to fight for their rights and deal with greedy relatives who make women suffer by kicking them out of their matrimonial homes and taking all their property.
It is often very sad to hear that a woman lived happily with the husband for close to twenty years, but when death knocks at the doors of the family, sometimes due to simple malaria, sickle cell disorder or HIV, the whole world crumbles on the woman when the partner is no more. Even the joy of having been the darling of her in-laws disappears like a flash of light from a torch that is put off. Everybody turns hostile to the widow, from her husband's brothers to his parents, as everybody demands a share of the property. Some widows have even been forced from their homes following the deaths of their husbands by several methods.
The awareness campaigns undertaken by Cameroon through the COGESID Women Gender Councils is now getting women want to be the masters of their own destiny. Cameroon Link’s men’s initiative action is getting them to present their own activities and development plans for their future. Some women are beginning to speak a different language. This means that the promotion of WABA Men’s Initiative can lead to diversity among women as a source of richness, strength, knowledge and energy if gender mainstreaming is effectively applied in some circumstances..
As endorsers of the WABA men’s initiative expand their activities, it should be noted that there is no single formula for recommendations on tenure types for women's access to land and property. Registered titles may be appropriate in some situations and customary titles for others.
The provision of legal security and equal access to land and property for women requires action not only by governments, but by all sectors of society, including the private sector, non-governmental organizations, communities and local authorities, as well as by partner organizations and entities of the international community.
We are inviting governments to realise that women need an equal voice in decisions that affect their lives - from within the family to the highest level of government. This is a key element in women's empowerment. For a long time, men have dominated decision-making at the highest levels. Preventive and corrective measures for the expected undermining of women's land and property rights due to current trends of economic policies must be prepared and implemented.

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