How to enhance women’s land rights in Cameroon?

Wednesday, 16th May 2018

A national workshop trains civil society organisations in Cameroon to advocate for women’s land rights.

When it dawns in rural areas across Cameroon, it is common to see women trooping to farms. Farmlands, that only about 2% of them own, according to media pundits in the country.

Expert reports suggest women contribute to the production of about 80% of all the food supply in Cameroon, yet find it difficult to access land. 

Our traditions and customs make it difficult for women to secure tenure, notes, Ms Mary Nyuyinui at the end of a two-day national workshop in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon.

The workshop trained 30 land activists to use the Rural Women's Charter of Demands on lands adopted in Arusha (Tanzania) in October 2016 following a large assembly of African rural women. The two days of training aimed to create a coalition of Cameroonian CSOs and establish a national advocacy action plan for women's land rights.

Organised by ILC members, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA) and Women in Law and Development in Africa-West Africa (WILDAF-AO) on May 3-4 2018, the workshop discussed mechanisms to reach decision making bodies on land, including customary justice systems and how to raise awareness of policy makers on women’s land rights.

Ms Mary Nyuyinui monitors cases of violations of land rights defenders. In her work, it is typical to come across a case where a woman is dispossessed from their land after the death of her husband. 

Though the 1974 land tenure ordinance offers equal opportunities for male and female property ownership, patriarchal traditions entrenched in customary tenure systems undermine women’s land rights. 

“We can notice through the different presentations and interventions that the customary law, which does not yet integrate the issue of land titles, largely governs the Cameroonian rural sector,” said Ms Vanessa Adoko Hounzoukin, land rights programme specialist at WILDAFAO. 

Under such a system, Ms Vanessa said, women are vulnerable and their rights can be violated.

Just like Cameroon, women all over Africa experience discriminatory practices in various areas of the society, particularly in the land sector.

According to Word Bank data, women own about 13% of the registered or mapped private lands in Africa.

In attempting to address this gap, rural women addressed a charter of demands on their land rights, after climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to advocate for the same rights in 2016.

Fortunately, the African Union endorsed the rural women’s charter of demands and declared 2016 as the“African Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the Rights of Women”.

But is this enough?  

The African continent needs a well-thought, careful, comprehensive approach to translate the principles of the charter of demands into national policies and concrete actions. 

Reason why WILDAF-AO wants to continue raising awareness of national civil society actors working on women land rights in West and Central Africa to actively engage in the implementation of the charter and to advocate for its inclusion in national land policies.