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AN INVESTIGATION INTO WOMEN CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE POLITICAL SYSTEM OF CAMEROON

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AN INVESTIGATION INTO WOMEN CONTRIBUTIONS TO  THE POLITICAL SYSTEM OF CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the study

Gender and politics are at an important point in history as more and more women continue to gain entry into political office and senior positions in government.  While the dominance of political scientists and elitist concepts of equity and democratic justice may help explain this trend, feminist scholars are concerned with the impact that the participation of women may have on the political system and the female community as a whole (Ako, 2017). Consequently, there is a growing body of literature dedicated to these studies with an overriding assumption that increasing the number of women among public officials would lead to the feminization of policy (Ako, 2017). Recently in Cameroon, there has been a “clarion call” for more women to be represented in parliament. This call however does not question the impact of women so far in parliament; even during the multiparty system where the highest number of women (24) represented in parliament was registered during the legislative year 2007-2012. There is therefore little understanding as to how this increment will or has impacted on policies on women’s issues in a way different from previous years when there was very low representation (Ako, 2017). Women's contributions to the political system of Cameroon have been integral yet often overlooked throughout history (Fomunyam, 2018).  Historically, women in Cameroon have played essential roles in both traditional and modern political structures. In pre-colonial times, many ethnic groups practiced matrilineal systems where women held significant influence in decision-making processes. However, colonial rule introduced patriarchal norms and marginalized women from formal political participation. Despite these challenges, women have persistently advocated for their rights and have made notable contributions to Cameroon's political development (Ngwane, 2016). While the post-independence era witnessed the emergence of women leaders such as Germaine Ahidjo and Madeleine Afité, women's representation in political institutions has remained disproportionately low. Cultural and societal barriers, discriminatory laws, and limited access to resources have hindered women's full participation in governance and decision-making processes. Moreover, Cameroon ratified international conventions and adopted national policies aimed at promoting gender equality and women's empowerment (Nkwake, 2019). There is an increasing acknowledgement of the significance of advocating for women's political engagement and leadership. To tackle gender inequality in politics, a comprehensive approach is needed, including legislative reforms, institutional adjustments, cultural transformations, and grassroots mobilisation. Gender quotas, affirmative action measures, and focused capacity-building projects are effective strategies for increasing women's presence and impact in politics. Furthermore, creating a nurturing and all-encompassing political atmosphere is crucial in empowering women to completely actualize their capabilities as instigators of transformation and drivers of advancement. Therefore, the researcher sought  to investigate women contributions to  the political system of Cameroon.

Statement of the problem

Despite their significant contributions to the society, women continue to face numerous obstacles in fully participating in the country's political system. While Cameroon has made strides in promoting gender equality and women's empowerment, persistent challenges hinder women's meaningful engagement in politics. These challenges include systemic barriers, discriminatory practices, socio-cultural norms, and limited access to resources and opportunities (Ngwane, 2016).  One of the primary issues is the underrepresentation of women in political leadership positions and decision-making bodies at all levels of government. Women remain disproportionately represented in legislative bodies, executive positions, and local councils, constraining their ability to influence policy agendas and address issues affecting women and marginalized groups(Ako, 2017).  Furthermore, socio-cultural factors, including traditional gender roles and stereotypes, often perpetuate inequalities and limit women's political participation. Deep-rooted patriarchal norms, discriminatory practices, and societal expectations undermine women's confidence, visibility, and opportunities to pursue political careers. Moreover, structural challenges such as inadequate legal frameworks, electoral systems, and party structures further marginalize women from the political process (Ako, 2017). Discriminatory laws, lack of gender-sensitive policies, and limited financial resources for women candidates impede their ability to compete on equal footing with men in elections and political campaigns. The persistence of these challenges not only undermines the principles of gender equality and democratic governance but also deprives Cameroon of the diverse perspectives, talents, and leadership potential that women bring to the political arena. Therefore, addressing the barriers to women's political contributions is imperative for achieving inclusive and representative governance in Cameroon. Hence, the study investigate women contributions to  the political system of Cameroon.

1.3 Objective of the study

The broad objective of the study is to investigate women contributions to  the political system of Cameroon. The specific objectives is as follows

Assess the level of womens contribution to  the political system of Cameroon.

Examine the contributions of women to the political system of Cameroon.

Explore the factors that limits women contribution to the political system in Cameroon.

Proffer recommendations to promote gender equality and enhance women's political empowerment in Cameroon.

1.4 Research Questions

The following questions have been prepared for the following

What is the level of womens contribution to  the political system of Cameroon?

What are the contributions of women to the political system of Cameroon?

What are the factors that limits women contribution to the political system in Cameroon?

What are the recommendations proffered to promote gender equality and enhance women's political empowerment in Cameroon?

1.5 Significance of the study

The findings of the study will be significant to the following

Findings of the study will be significant to policymakers as it will reveal the historical contributions of women to political systems, the study also reveal challenges limiting womens participation in politics in Cameroon's political landscape, the study can provide valuable evidence to guide the development and implementation of gender-sensitive policies and initiatives. 

The study will also be significant to the ministry of women affairs as it will reveal their contributions to broader efforts to promote gender equality, social justice, and human rights in Cameroon. By shedding light on the barriers that hinder women's political participation, the research can support initiatives aimed at challenging discriminatory practices, addressing gender-based violence, and dismantling patriarchal structures that perpetuate inequalities.

The study will further contribute to the existing body of literature and provides insights that can inform future research agendas and comparative studies. It facilitates knowledge exchange and collaboration among scholars, practitioners ans also serve as a reference point for future researchers.

1.6 Scope of the study

The study focuses on women contributions to the political system of Cameroon. Empirically, the study will assess the level of womens contribution to  the political system of Cameroon, examine the contributions of women to the political system of Cameroon, explore the factors that limits women contribution to the political system in Cameroon and proffer recommendations to promote gender equality and enhance women's political empowerment in Cameroon.

1.7 Limitation of the study

Like in every human endeavour, the researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. Insufficient funds tend to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire, and interview), which is why the researcher resorted to a moderate choice of sample size. More so, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. As a result, the amount of time spent on research will be reduced.

1.8 Definition of terms

Political System: Refers to the set of institutions, processes, and actors involved in the governance and decision-making processes within a country. This includes formal structures such as government bodies, political parties, electoral systems, and informal mechanisms of power distribution and control.

Women's Political Participation: Encompasses the involvement of women in various aspects of the political process, including voting, running for office, holding political positions, and influencing policy decisions. It refers to the extent to which women are actively engaged in shaping political agendas and governance outcomes.

Gender Equality: The principle of equal rights, opportunities, and treatment for individuals regardless of their gender. It entails eliminating discrimination and biases based on gender and promoting equal access to resources, opportunities, and decision-making power for women and men.

Women's Empowerment: The process of enabling women to have control over their lives, make informed choices, and participate fully in social, economic, and political spheres. It involves enhancing women's capabilities, agency, and autonomy to challenge gender inequalities and discrimination.

Socio-cultural Factors: Refers to the cultural norms, values, beliefs, and practices within a society that shape individuals' behavior, attitudes, and identities. Socio-cultural factors influence various aspects of human life, including gender roles, family dynamics, and social interactions, thereby impacting women's participation in politics and other domains.

Gender Stereotypes: Widely held beliefs or assumptions about the characteristics, roles, and behavior deemed appropriate for individuals based on their gender. Gender stereotypes often reinforce inequalities by prescribing traditional roles and limiting opportunities for women in areas such as leadership, decision-making, and political participation.


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