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Cameroon Women's Right: Civil Society Organisations Demand More Recognition for Their Action for the UN "Women Peace and Security" Agenda

Civil Society Organisations in Cameroon have demanded more recognition for their action for the UN "Women Peace and Security" Agenda.

The civil society organisations made their point clear during the National Convention on Women Peace and Security, holding at the Yaounde Conference Centre from July 29 - 31, 2021, an initiative of the Freidrich Ebert Foundation.

According to Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation, organizers of the conference, the convention is sending a strong signal that Cameroonian women are longing for peace.

While opening the conference, Marie-Therese Abena Ondoa, Cameroon's Minister for the Promotion of Women and the Family echoed that women to continue to be the most undermined in peace building processes during crisis yet there are the most affected. The minister also noted that the government of Cameroon is ready to work with them to achieve lasting peace in the country.

Below is the Position paper on the “Women and Peace and Security Agenda” in Cameroon.

 Can we build the future and lasting Peace by denying the history and achievements of the struggle for inclusiveness?

 For many organisations that have been involved for many years in the struggle for human rights and peace, the "National  Women’s Peace Convention in Cameroon" taking place in July 2021 in Yaoundé leaves a mixed feeling. Between thinly-veiled exclusion and intellectual recoveries, the rules of inclusiveness have been abused. Hence the necessary reminder of previous initiatives and the importance of the United Nations principle "Leave no one behind".

The struggle of Cameroonian women for the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts and social cohesion has a history, written over the years, through the commitment and sweat of women peace activists. Time can go back several decades, but the constancy for a peaceful Cameroon has remained for Cameroonian women the yeast of more and more generations of peacemakers. However, the challenges they face have continued to grow, with the proliferation of conflicts. Thanks to the support of development partners and the government, women's movements have organized themselves to create more and more spaces for women. 

An implication rooted in history

Long before the Convention of July 2021, during and after the advent of Cameroon's independence in 1960, women participated in political life and appeasement in the country. The determination of the pioneers has contributed to the emergence of women activists who have made their way to various levels of activities and responsibilities, allowing women's movements, like the Collectif pour le Renouveau created in 1982. The dynamic of women's expression favored the celebration for the first time of Women's Rights Day on March 8 in Cameroon in 1984, the creation of the Ministry of the Women’s Affairs, and many other milestones.
In 2004, the “CRI des Femmes Camerounaises”, a collective awareness-raising movement through activities and conferences across the country, was created as a memorandum on priority women's issues, following a seminar organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation for the benefit of women from political parties. The CRI has become the main means of mobilization and sensitization of women in Cameroon.

Following this work of women, the United Nations Agenda on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) took shape in Cameroon, in a context of increased armed conflicts in neighboring countries. To prevent conflicts based on UNSCR 1325, reflection on the issue began in Cameroon in 2012, during a training workshop on the contribution of women to building peace in a country in latent conflict organized in Douala from March 29 to 30. Civil society then resolved to inquire about the status of Security Council Resolution 1325 in Cameroon and initiated advocacy for the development and implementation of a National Action Plan (NAP). 

Cameroonian women and the situation in the North-West and South-West regions 

With the increasing violence and crises in recent years in Cameroon, women have regularly risen to demand peace. In this case, on September 7, 2018, Cameroonian women from the North West and South West organized a sit-in lamentation in Bamenda and Buea, brandishing photos of their loved ones killed or missing, whether they were from the ranks of the forces of law and order or separatists or civilians. 
On October 24, 2020, schoolchildren were killed in Kumba, sparking a stir that has spread beyond national borders. Then, teachers were kidnapped in Kumbo, a school was burnt down in Limbé in the South West region after teachers and students were stripped naked. The violence continued without interruption.

Following these barbaric acts and many others, Cameroonian women mobilized in large numbers a week after the killings of schoolchildren, to demand a return to peace through a march and a public declaration. 
From the call for a national dialogue on September 10, 2019, the Women's Consultation Platform for National Dialogue was set up and organized with other partners, consultations with associations and groups of women in the country and the diaspora to discuss the process to be followed collectively to make the voice of women heard during the announced national dialogue. The pre-dialogue consultation was in line with the National Action Plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325 of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Participation in the Grand National Dialogue 

This platform aimed, among other things, to engage women in the development of sustainable peacebuilding solutions for all the conflicts currently shaking Cameroon, with particular emphasis on building a culture of peace throughout the country. Thus, it will develop and submit to the dialogue table, a Memorandum containing some prerequisites for the conduct of another national dialogue taking into account the various conflicts and problems that affect Cameroon. This memorandum was unfortunately not taken into account up to expectations, as the main stakeholders and the voice of women were not sufficiently taken into account.

Following the Major National Dialogue, the platform embarked on new advocacy for the holding of a more inclusive national dialogue, taking into account the voice of women. To this end, the convention organized by FES appeared to be an extraordinary opportunity, a real catalyst that could have encouraged the government to capitalize on initiatives such as the "Cri des femmes camerounaises". 
The necessity of inclusiveness

Given this long, difficult history, but above all full of lessons learned and achievements which are struggling to be recognized at their fair value and to be capitalized by some key actors of the National of Women’s Peace Convention Cameroon and other actors (state or not), the Platform for Consultation of Cameroonian Women for National Dialogue wonders: can we build the future and lasting peace by denying the history of the struggle for inclusiveness and its main actors? Why should we pick up on what has already been done, pick up on what is already underway without the actors who initiated the action? Isn't it better to capitalize on what has been learned? Isn't it better to strengthen the existing? Isn't it time to go beyond personal quarrels and build together? 
Cameroon’s gender dimension in conflict outlines (WILPF’s GCA, 2019) that:
Every initiative addressing the theme of “Women, Peace and Security” will be beneficial if it recognizes and integrates the long and rich history women who have contributed towards peace in Cameroon. Hence, optimizing different contributions to sustainable peace and social cohesion, valorizing past hard work of women, and given a chance for the recognition of current efforts of women to achieve greater efficiency towards peacebuilding. 
Our position concerning the scope and current complexity of the situation in Cameroon, highlighted by the Gender Conflict Analysis in conflicts (GCA, 2019) is that: 
any initiative that wants to be large-scale on the theme of "Women, Peace and Security" would benefit from taking into account the long and rich history of Cameroonian women's commitment to peace; this to optimize the various contributions for lasting peace and social cohesion in Cameroon. Valuing the hard work of women over the years in favor of peace is to give a chance that our efforts are also valued for greater effectiveness of the struggle; 
any initiative that aims to be large-scale in the theme of "Women, Peace and Security" should be an opportunity to implement a global synergy around peace; the  normal differences in approaches should not make us lose sight of the essential: the end of conflicts and the restoration of peace; 
Resolution 1325 and the NAP should be adopted quite naturally as major instruments for planning and evaluating activities; 
The current challenges strengthen the idea that the fight for inclusiveness that began so long ago is far away to be at its end. It will eventually succeed and allow us all to better impact the conflicts in Cameroon: we cannot preach peace and unity by spreading the seeds of division! It is together that we are stronger. 
Together, in Peace and Solidarity.


Yaoundé, July 28, 2021
 For the Cameroonian Women’s Consultation Platform for National Dialogue

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