THE ROLE OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOM FIGHTING AGAINST WOMEN DESCRIMINATION IN THE SOUTHWEST REGION
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As women make up the majority of the population, economic growth, development and reconciliation will be hard to achieve without the support of women. Women still play a minor role in politics and face challenges in playing a substantive and influential role in decision making and conflict resolutions. According to Unama (2009:19) women are continually confronted by enormous challenges that exclude them from political processes vital for peace and security. This applies particularly to rural areas and semi urban. Additionally, the escalation in women discrimination continues to take a heavy toll on Cameroon civilians. The continued prevalence of discrimination against women and harmful practices stemming from pervasive discrimination continue to be of serious concern (Calfas, 2015:36), and domestic violence is on the rise (Latifi 2013:45). In 2015 increased incidents of targeting, threats and intimidation of women in public life was observed across the country, particularly those outspoken activists promoting women’s rights.
Women’s participation is key for implementing development projects and resolving conflicts in a better way. As women can have an important role in a country’s peace talks, conflict resolution and economic development, women’s support without any forms of discrimination is needed in order to lead Cameroon forward. They are needed not just as voters, but as actors, which will enhance stabilization in the security transition and development (Calfas 2015:48). More gender-balanced security forces or national commission for human right are not only more representative for the population, it might also be crucial in managing reports of violence against women. Women should not only be a source of disputes; they should also have a place at the table in solving them, with a good constitution, and a committed president and first lady, several Africans countries are already moving in the right direction, furthermore, increasing women’s representation at the local level without any forms of discrimination is also a challenging task (Calfas, 2015:45).
However, what is considered to be vital and what freedoms are the essence of life might vary between societies and individuals, or across time and space. Thus, human security and discrimination cannot be a static concept. For human security to be valuable it requires a dynamic character that can adapt to particular individuals and societies, it becomes evident that the concept encompasses far more than just security from violent conflict. If further includes complying with human rights and to give everyone access to education and health care, and an opportunity to achieve their ambitions in life. Human security is a complex concept, including several interrelated building blocks necessary to achieve both human, and thus national, security (Chenoy, 2007:35).
Furthermore, with respect to fact that women discrimination is still gaining in many societies around the globe with Cameroon not been an exceptional to various forms of women discrimination, national commission on human rights and freedom fighting against women discrimination, There are two important pillars of human security, namely to protect and to empower women. Human security seeks to protect people from menaces, while at the same time empower people to be able to take care of themselves. Thus, the concept brings together human elements of security, of rights and of development. The first key to human security is therefore the protection strategies, which means shielding people from menaces. In order to arrive at protection, people’s rights and freedoms must be upheld. Human security identifies where protection is missing and provides ideas for how to improve it (Commission on Human Security [CHS], 2003).
As national commission on human rights and freedom fighting against women discrimination is dynamic in nature, it is therefore important that people participate in formulating and implementing these protection strategies. The second key is the empowerment strategies, which enable people to develop their “resilience to difficult conditions”, this means giving the people ability to act on their own behalf. By empowering people especially women who are the most vulnerable to discrimination, they get to develop their potential both as individual citizens and as communities. They become able to recognise when their rights and dignity as citizens are violated, and act upon that. Further, empowerment can create opportunities for work, help people address local conflicts and even mobilise for the security of others, the prerequisite to empowerment is thus for the national commission on human rights and freedom fighting against women discrimination to provide education and information to society about ills of gender discrimination (Tickner, 2014:65).
Human security emphasizes the importance of basic education, particularly for girls. Basic education is a fundamental human right and the capability to read and write improves the quality of life. Further, educational skills directly affect security, as illiteracy and innumeracy are themselves insecurities (CHS, 2003). Education can be fundamental for health security, especially for girls, as the impact of an educated woman on her family’s well-being is consistently strong worldwide. Education can also give freedom, by providing people with knowledge to promote their own human security as well as that of others. Lack of education and knowledge is a limiting factor to communication and might limit people’s political voices, which results in more insecurity. Formal skills and knowledge will help people gaining confidence and be more proactive in society and political life. Educational deprivation is therefore of utmost concern, because without it people are “disadvantaged as productive workers, as fathers and mothers, as citizens capable of social change” and human security’s promotion of the right to education is especially important whenever there is discrimination and lack of equality in access to education. It is thus important to keep focus on the individual as larger units might discriminate against some of its members. This applies especially to women, whom may be discriminated against both in the household and in the society as a whole (Tickner, 2014:12).
The representation of women in politics is low in Cameroon. Apart from the National Assembly where there has been some notable advance with 31, 11% of women, a delay persists in the other institutions: Government 16% (11 women out of 68 ministers), Senate 26%, (with the last senatorial elections of 25 March 2018, the number of women increased from 20 to 26 out of a total of 100 senators), municipal councils 8%.24 No women were selected as candidates for the presidential election of 7 October 2018.25 In addition, 3,108,453, i.e. about 45% of the registered voters for the presidential election, were women. Furthermore, women were poorly represented as leaders of local commissions and polling stations in the last presidential election. Women additionally face various barriers limiting their participation as voters and candidates, even though they represent about 52% of the population. Politics continues to be considered a man’s domain. Many women do not have a voter’s card, and if they do, they sometimes are vote and can face reprisals and violence from their spouse for voting (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom [WILPF], 2019)
In social and economic matters, wages remain unequal between men and women, especially in the private sector, the majority of women work in food-producing agriculture, informal sectors and face underemployment, which hinders the exercise of other rights, including participation in political life.
In Cameroon, 30.39% of those affected by conflict are women, followed by children (17.13%), only 4.21% of the population perceives women as relevant actors in conflict management. In addition, almost all peace mechanisms and processes in Cameroon do not include women, who are often relegated to the status of victims. This suggests a great need to build the capacity of all key actors and to highlight the particular, specific and considerable nature of women’s contribution to conflict resolution processes. The Boko Haram crisis and violence in the South West and North West regions have profound impacts on the social, economic and cultural rights of the people in the affected areas. More than 680,000 people have been displaced by the conflict in Cameroon; the majority of them are women and children, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The most affected regions are the Far North and the North West and South West regions where the violence has a specific impact on women and girls (WILPF, 2019).
Women and girls are also particularly affected by the destruction of socioeconomic infrastructure such as hospitals, health centres and schools. Access to education for children in the South West and North West regions is currently very limited with the on-going crisis, leaving girls at risk of early pregnancy. Thousands of children residing in these areas are no longer attending school, several schools have been closed, others have been burned, and teachers, parents and students have been threatened, kidnapped or killed. Inaccessibility to basic social services also exacerbates problems related to access to health care, especially for pregnant women, which exposes them to pregnancies at risk (WILPF, 2019)
According to Priyali (2015:25) despite the progress in the past 15 years, the achievements look fragile, women still suffer from insecurity, discrimination and violence which affects their ability to participate in the public sphere, women’s presence in the political sphere is still low compared to men, especially in rural areas. While women are present in the security sector, they have a lower level of participation than men, and do not take part in decisions and national strategies. Even though women are physically present in peace councils, they are often not engaged in relevant peace discussions.
Cameroon women have traditionally been excluded from the public sphere, but have recently emerged as a political and social force, as their participation in civic and political arenas is increasing. Most importantly, their participation is crucial for further development of the country and achieving stability in national security. However, women still face vast challenges, in the form of violence, security threats, lack of education and employment opportunities, which are limiting their opportunities in life.
Cameroon rural women’s participation in local community, rural semi urban as well as city is limited and most often they either seen been marginalized or discriminated in all sectors in the country and the majors challenges facing rural women, as well as their opportunities for participation, the study aim shows how these threats are severe obstacles, limiting women from participating in community life and pursuing their ambitions. Violence, oppression, lack of education and employment opportunities, and limited access to legal protection are highly critical threats facing many Cameroon rural women on a daily basis. The concept of gender, contextualized and rooted in Cameroonian society, is essential for understanding how women experience discrimination, insecurity, how it affects their lives and the role national commission on human right and freedom fighting against women discrimination in south west region with the case of Buea.