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GENDER DYNAMICS IN COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION AND DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES: A CASE STUDY OF CAMEROON

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GENDER DYNAMICS IN COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION AND DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES: A CASE STUDY OF CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

Globally, it is crucial for democratic governance that individuals, regardless of gender, have the opportunity to participate in public administration on a global scale. This is because democracy necessitates a platform that provides equal opportunities for political involvement and the decision-making process. Uhunmwuangho (2021) cites the Inter-Parliamentary Union's Universal Declaration of Democracy, which emphasizes the importance of a true partnership between men and women in the governance of society. This partnership should be based on equality and complementarity, allowing for mutual enrichment through their differences (Inter-parliamentary Union, 2017). In the field of development, community participation has been a longstanding concept that seeks to include marginalized voices in development processes, thereby promoting more equitable development (Uggoma, 2019) .

According to Cornwall (2023), community participation involves the active involvement of individuals, groups, and organizations in decision-making processes, planning, implementation, and evaluation of initiatives that affect their lives and the well-being of their communities. It encompasses a range of activities, from attending meetings and voicing opinions to volunteering and taking on leadership roles. Currently, it is widely recognized as essential for projects and programs to include local communities. However, there is ongoing debate regarding the level of participation and the individuals involved in this process. According to Chukwuemeka and Eze (2021), the active participation of women is essential for a truly democratic society. They argue that without the full involvement of women, who make up approximately 50 percent of the population, a society cannot be considered fully democratized. It is crucial to include a gendered perspective in the policy-making process to ensure the longevity of democracy.

From a conceptual standpoint, gender is determined by the conception of tasks, functions and roles attributed to women and men in society, public and private life. According to FAO (1997) referenced in Sanni (2020), gender is defined as ‘the relations between men and women, both perceptual and material. It is not determined biologically, as a result of sexual characteristics of either women or men, but is constructed socially. However, Conventionally, gender is often misunderstood as being the promotion of women only, forgetting that it focuses on the relationship between men and women, their roles, access to and control over resources, division of labour, interests and needs. Baumann (2020) further explains that gender relations affect household security, family well-being, planning, production and many other aspects of life. It tends to denote the social and cultural role of each sex within a given society.  However the society has from the beginning discriminated against female gender ranging from case where women denied equal treatment with men in the issue of inheritance, sustainable economic growth, etc. Arowolo  and Aluko 2019 emphasized that is a norm to believe that women are inferior to men in most primordial African countries; hence, they belong to the Kitchen which eschew domestication of gender.

Unequivocally,  Fonjong (2020) pointed out that the inequality of gender have negative effects that stand as a barrier for national integration in society and hinders participation in developmental project.. Some of such negative effects include; unequal cultural treatment for male and female, unequal opportunity in politics, jobs, education, etc. These factors have engulfed females, making women face many challenges in their bid to be heard and not seen alone as the society has made them.

Although, women constitute at reasonable population in Cameroon, like in other regions of the world, this numerical strength does not imply a rise in women's engagement in community development initiatives in the country (NGO Coalition Shadow Report, 2018). According to Kira (2018), women do no always repond to planned interventions, programs, projects, or policies aimed at promoting social, economic, and environmental progress within communities or societies. These initiatives may target various sectors, such as health, education, infrastructure, livelihoods, and governance, with the goal of improving the quality of life and well-being of individuals and communities, regardless of the fact that equal development opportunity for women is a goal held by both men and women, and in spite of rising support for women's equality, women have historically had low involvement in politics, decision-making roles and community development porgrammes.

Statement of problem

Gender dynamics play a crucial role in shaping community participation and development initiatives worldwide (Kabeer, 2005). Cameroon, a diverse nation in Central Africa, grapples with multifaceted challenges in achieving sustainable development, exacerbated by gender disparities deeply entrenched in societal structures (Njoh, 2010). Despite efforts to promote gender equality, disparities persist, influencing community engagement and development outcomes (UNDP, 2019).

According to Ngwana (2021), Cameroon's development trajectory has been marked by initiatives aimed at enhancing community participation and fostering socio-economic progress. However, these efforts often overlook the nuanced impact of gender dynamics on participation and outcomes. Gender roles and power relations intersect with cultural norms, institutional frameworks, and socio-economic factors, shaping individuals' access to resources, decision-making processes, and opportunities for participation (UN Women, 2019). Batliwala & Reddy, (2020) pointed that Women, despite constituting a significant portion of Cameroon's population, frequently encounter barriers to meaningful participation in decision-making forums and development projects. Similarly, Asongwe, 2023) in her study blamed traditional gender norms which perpetuate stereotypes and restrict women's roles primarily to domestic spheres, limiting their agency in community development initiatives. Moreover, Njoh & Awasom (2018) stated that disparities in access to education, healthcare, and economic resources further marginalize women, constraining their ability to engage in community development activities couple with the fact that men often dominate leadership positions and decision-making processes within community structures, reinforcing patriarchal norms and hindering the equitable distribution of benefits from development projects.

Although scholars and practitioners have increasingly recognized the importance of addressing gender dynamics in development programming, empirical studies examining the specific nuances of gender dynamics in Cameroon's community development context remain limited. This study seeks to fill this gap by conducting a comprehensive analysis of gender dynamics in community participation and development initiatives in Cameroon.

1.3 Objective of the study

The broad objective of this study is focused on gender dynamics in community participation and development initiatives: a case study of Cameroon. Specifically, the study seeks to:

Find out if gender inequality has significant effect on participation of women in community development initiatives.

Ascertain the dynamic causes of gender inequality towards women in Cameroon. 

Investigate the factors affecting women’s participation in community development initiatives.

Explore strategies for promoting gender-responsive community participation in development initiatives in Cameroon.

1.4 Research Questions

Does gender inequality have significant effect on participation of women in community development initiative?

What are the dynamic causes of gender inequality towards women in Cameroon?

What are the factors affecting women’s participation in community development initiatives.

What are the strategies that can be adopted for promoting gender-responsive community participation in development initiatives in Cameroon?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

Ho: There is no significant effect of gender dynamics on women’s participation in community development initiatives.

Hi: There is no significant effect of gender dynamics on women’s participation in community development initiatives.

1.6 Significance of the Study

Findings of this study will be helpful for various stakeholders, including policymakers, civil society actors, and academics. By shedding light on the nuanced gender dynamics within community participation and development initiatives, the study can inform the design and implementation of more effective and inclusive policies and programs. Policymakers can use the findings to develop gender-responsive strategies that address the specific needs and challenges faced by women and men in Cameroon.

To community developers, by exploring the relationship between gender dynamics and development outcomes, the study can provide valuable insights into how to maximize the impact of community development initiatives. By ensuring that interventions are gender-sensitive and address the diverse needs of both women and men, development practitioners can enhance the sustainability and effectiveness of projects, ultimately leading to more positive development outcomes.

Empirically, the study can contribute to the academic literature on gender and development by offering empirical evidence and insights from the context of Cameroon. Researchers and scholars can build upon the findings to further explore the intersection of gender dynamics, community participation, and development outcomes, enriching theoretical frameworks and methodologies in the field.

Scope of the Study

The scope of this study borders on gender dynamics in community participation and development initiatives: a case study of Cameroon. The content examined the dynamic causes of gender inequality towards women in Cameroon, factors affecting women’s participation in community development initiatives and strategies for promoting gender-responsive community participation in development initiatives in Cameroon. The geographical scope of the study will focus on Northwest region of Cameroon.

Limitations of the Study

Due to the case study approach focusing on specific communities Northwest region of Cameroon, the findings may lack generalizability to other regions or countries. Therefore, caution should be exercised in extrapolating the results beyond the study context. More so, the study's sample selection process may introduce bias, as certain communities or demographic groups may be overrepresented or underrepresented. This could affect the validity and representativeness of the findings. Limited time and resources may restrict the scope of the study, impacting the depth of data collected and the comprehensiveness of the analysis. This could result in overlooking certain aspects or dynamics relevant to the research questions. Despite these limitations, the researcher will acknowledge and address these challenges transparently to enhance the credibility and rigor of the study.

1.9 Definition of Terms

Gender Dynamics: Gender dynamics refer to the social, cultural, economic, and political factors that shape the relationships, roles, and interactions between men and women within a given society or community. These dynamics encompass power relations, norms, and expectations related to gender identity and behavior.

Community Participation: Community participation involves the active involvement of individuals, groups, and organizations in decision-making processes, planning, implementation, and evaluation of initiatives that affect their lives and the well-being of their communities. It encompasses a range of activities, from attending meetings and voicing opinions to volunteering and taking on leadership roles.

Development Initiatives: Development initiatives refer to planned interventions, programs, projects, or policies aimed at promoting social, economic, and environmental progress within communities or societies. These initiatives may target various sectors, such as health, education, infrastructure, livelihoods, and governance, with the goal of improving the quality of life and well-being of individuals and communities


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