By Boris Esono Nwenfor (Cameroon)
With some one week to go to the celebration of this year’s edition of the International Day of the woman, the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA), says women need to be innovative and should not wait for administrators, but should institute their own peace process so as to bring an end to the present crisis in Cameroon.
This year’s women’s day will be celebrated under the theme: Think equal, be smart and innovate for change.
In an interview granted to this reporter February 26, authorities of the Gender Department of the said institution enjoined everyone in the society to bring an innovation, not necessarily for agriculture but also innovation in terms of changing our mindset as concerns women’s representation in decision making bodies.
To Violet Yigha Fokum, Gender Officer CHRDA, the Anglophone crisis has brought with it several ills that have greatly affected the women. “Most of the solutions to this issue however do not include women. How then can a society in which women are excluded strife for change when a greater part of its population is excluded from the decision making process”.
“We are therefore calling on every decision making body, administrator to look at women and it is only when they listen to these women and hear their experiences on what they think can be the best solution to the present crisis can we be able to initiate a successful peace process in which we can solve the present Anglophone crisis”. “It is therefore imperative that we start changing our mindset, the way we think about the position about women and to bring them to the table to look for solution to the present crisis. Women should not also wait for these administrators but they should take the bull by the horn and initiate their own processes of peace”.
According to Quinta Fon, volunteer-Gender Task Force, the international women’s day gives an opportunity for a message of equality to be passed across the society, and women’s voices to be heard. It is an opportunity for women to be encouraged and for them to evaluate themselves. “The international women’s day is celebrated across the world and not just in Cameroon. In this light, women’s issues can be head in the society and everywhere”.
Talking on measures to get women involved in the decision making process, Abrelegwi Ngoasong, Humanitarian/Gender Coordinator proposed the following: “meaningful participation, that is women should not only take part in conflict resolution processes but women should be present and their multiple interests should be represented. In Cameroon now for example, there are fewer women on the peace commissions, even the Gogomo commission has just one woman there. “…. We want the ideas of these women who are in the various commissions to be reflected at the end and if it does, it is going to be better for the society”.
“We want a situation where women are given a space for them to create and contribute effectively in the peace process, which requires an enabling environment-like equality before the law, security and protection from violence, access to knowledge and training social and financial support” she added.
“This 8th March we are not looking at a situation where women come together eating and celebrating, lifting the “Kabars” but women have to look at the circumstance of other women especially in the Anglophone regions where women are in the bushes. It is time for women to say enough is enough and their issues need to be addressed”.
She concluded: “We are calling on the government and other armed groups to respect international laws, respect the Geneva Convention and associated protocols. We are asking them to respect them so that CHRDA can render their services to the needy”.
In a bid to console persons affected due to the Anglophone crisis, the center in the days ahead will be organizing a one day capacity building workshop with Internally Displaced Persons on sexual and Gender based violence. “
The crisis which started in 2016 has seen thousands of people displaced to Nigeria, hundreds killed and others seeking refuge in the bushes and other regions. The situation is even dire with women-especially those pregnant who give birth in bushes; women being raped, no sanitary pad with leaves being used instead and other prevailing issues facing women due to the crisis.
The celebration is coming at a time when violence in the SW and NW Regions has escalated drastically. Separatist forces have been calling for a boycott of major celebrations in the country. The New Year was barely celebrated; same with the Youth Day and the just passed Mt Cameroon race of Hope which witnessed a low turnout from the population. With the celebration coming a day to the separatist leaders going to court, many have expressed skepticism if the ambiance that usually characterized the day will be observed.
CHRDA is a non-governmental organization with various sections that seeks to fight for the rights of citizens. It encompasses the legal, Democracy, Humanitarian, Communication and the Gender Departments.