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The  presidential election in Cameroon was held on 9 October 2011. For the first time in Cameroon, Two Women Edith Kabbang Walla  known as Kah Walla and Esther Dang were contending in a presidential election.

President Paul Biya stood for another term; he was able to do so due to a constitutional amendment, passed in 2008, that eliminated term limits. Incumbent Paul Biya won the election with over 75% of the vote.  

 

 We have to start calling attention to the need to see that our ladies should not only be dancers and vote-givers, but that they are candidates who can be elected to play important roles in the various organs” Dr. Divine Chemuta Banda, Chairman of Cameroon’s National Human Rights Commission.

Outcome of 9 October 2011 elections

President Paul Biya, in power since 1982, was officially reelected following the 9th October 2011 presidential election in Cameroon; an election, which was described by observers as irregular, notably in terms of voters count as, for example, “even dead people voted”1 and because of intimidation and fraud claims.

As per the last parliamentary elections in July 2007, Cameroon ranked 83rd in the world in terms of number of women in parliament. As such, women currently represent 13.9% of Cameroon’s Parliament, taking 25 seats out of 180 in total.

Prior to the elections, civil society organizations have rallied to encourage women to vote. Horizon Femmes, a non-profit organization has worked extensively to incite women to register to vote and has focused on getting women involved and interested in politics – a difficult task in a society where corruption is widespread and the belief in the political system and in democracy is weak. Furthermore, a central challenge is that numerous women don’t have identification documents, which are essential in order to be allowed to register to vote2.

 

Gender equality in Cameroon

While the 1996 constitution of Cameroon upholds the principle of gender equality and states that all citizens are equal and have the same rights without discrimination, several obstacles to such equality remain. Cameroon’s legislation originates from a dual system of Napoleonic Code and common law and the coexistence of customary and written law. Furthermore, despite such texts, women have a weak political culture, which often depends on her husband’s views and involvement.

As local traditions are an important part of Cameroonian life, they occasionally adversely affect the situation of women in the country. However, traditional leaders in Cameroon are slowly changing traditional practices that are harmful to women after learning about CEDAW and the rights that it provides for women. In 2007, civil society organizations, in collaboration with relevant government stakeholders, recognized the value of CEDAW as a powerful tool to stimulate change if widely disseminated and used as the basis for understanding universally accepted human rights principles, namely those relating to gender equality3.

Finally, the Constitution of Cameroon guarantees compulsory primary education for both sexes. However, girls account for 46% of primary education students, and only 42% at the secondary level. In higher education, females account for only 23% of students. This is mainly due to sending girls to school being traditionally seen as an “unprofitable investment”.

 

Paul Biya’s record on women’s rights and gender equality

Within the government, a special ministry - The Ministry for the Promotion of Women and the Family (MinProff) - exists to work on women’s rights and family affairs.

In his speech on 25 October 20114, President Paul Biya placed an important emphasis on the role and place of women in Cameroon society and showed his commitment to reinforce equality between men and women. He appeared ready to challenge some of the rural traditions; for example that women cannot inherit property and other such customary practices, in order to promote gender equality. Biya highlighted the importance of including women in agricultural reforms and ensuring education for girls. However, until now, those promises have remained unanswered: women do not have access to property, they are still sidelined on the political participation front and it is still rare to find a woman in a position of power within the various administrations.

 

Conclusion

While the outcome of the presidential election was predictable with the re-election of President Biya, the upcoming July 2012 legislative elections will prove a challenge for Cameroon in terms of participation, free and fair elections and overall democratic procedure. With women being contenders for the first time in the 2011 presidential election, MEWC will be monitoring the number of women voting, being elected into parliament and joining the government in the 2012 elections.


Women Political Representation Statistics

 

Political Representation

As per 16.11.2011

Head of State

President Paul Biya, since 1982. Reelected 9.10.11 with 77% of the votes.

Female members of Government

10% (6 women out of 55 members of government)

National Assembly

13.9% (25 women out of 180 seats)

Next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2012.

Council (Municipal) seats

1651 women out of 10632 representatives

Number of women who ran for presidential election in 2011

Two (zero in the 2004 presidential elections)

 

 

 


“Are women the Magic Bullet for Electoral Apathy?” Inter Press Service News Agency, 12 March 2011 http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=50645

Une vision nouvelle pour les femmes, All Africa, 2 November 2011 http://fr.allafrica.com/stories/201111021444.html

 

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