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Happy International Women's Day!

March 8th, International Women’s Day, is a day for women.  In Cameroon, women buy a “pagne (a very colorful, patterned cloth),” march in a parade, and at the end of the day, spend the night drinking and dancing.  It is a day to celebrate women and all that they do… and boy, do these women do a lot!  Cameroonian women are responsible for pretty much EVERYTHING – cooking, washing, cleaning, fetching water, taking care of the children, farming the family’s field, and selling their farm’s produce at the market.  In many cases, if the husband is unemployed or absent, they are the sole economic provider for the family.Breaking Ground at the University of Dschang Radio Station, talking about gender equality for International Women's Day

Unfortunately, despite their vital role in society, both legally and practically, women’s rights in Cameroon have much progress to make.  Adultery, when committed by a woman, is punishable by law through prison sentences and fines… but for a man, adultery is only punishable if it takes place in the marital home and is “habitual (art. 361).  Although rape is criminalized, if it takes within a marriage, it is not punishable by law (art. 296).  Legally, the man is considered to be the head of the family (art. 213), and is entitled to control of their marital property (art. 108 and 215).  Outside of the law, women are expected to conform to certain cultural norms, often preventing them from achieving equal roles in society.

I recently asked the woman who runs my neighborhood bar what she thinks about Women’s Day, and I was both surprised and pleased by her answer.  “I think it’s sad that Cameroonian women, instead of fighting for their rights, have one day in the entire year where they can drink.  Cameroonian women’s rights are far behind the rest of the world, and we need to work for them,” she said.Breaking Ground organized a girls' soccer tournament in Ngaoundere on March 8

Breaking Ground is in agreement, which is why many of our development programs choose to focus on women and girls.  Our women’s entrepreneurial program is designed to empower women and give them the skills they need in order to increase their economic role in society.  The girl’s soccer program teaches young girls vital skills, including health topics such as HIV and breaking down gender roles, and encourages them to become future leaders in Cameroonian society.  Last week, Breaking Ground participated in a radio show at the University of Dschang, discussing topics such as gender roles, gender equality, and the future of women in Cameroon.  Breaking Ground hopes that, with programs such as this, women will, some day, benefit from equal rights and opportunities around the globe.  

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