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In emerging democracies such as Cameroon, women’s rights and political participation are critical indicators of a country’s quality of governance. While Cameroon has ratified nearly all conventions protecting women’s rights, and international, national, and grassroots initiatives have sought to improve their status, Cameroonian women still suffer from human rights abuses and are visibly excluded from political and economic life at both the community and national level. Grassroots governance systems, customary laws, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and women’s attitudes all contribute to persistent male dominance in Cameroonian society. Presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections are coming up in 2011–2013, but it is likely that women will remain grossly excluded from ongoing voter registration and political participation.
In her presentation, award-winning development practitioner Ms. Anne-Stella Fomumbod examined the socio-cultural impediments to women’s rights, and presented the experiences and achievements of her organization, Interfaith Vision Foundation Cameroon (IVFCam), in overcoming these barriers to promote women’s rights and political participation in Cameroon. Her presentation was followed by comments by Ms. Michelle Bekkering.
Ms. Anne-Stella Fomumbod is founder and chief executive officer of Interfaith Vision Foundation, a nongovernmental organization based in Cameroon’s Northwest region that works with community-based organizations to promote human rights and democracy at the grassroots level. An advocate for women’s rights, she has successfully lobbied for the passage of laws protecting the rights of women, particularly widows, in local communities, such as the Metta Charter on Widowhood (January 2010). For her efforts to promote gender equality in local governance and development processes, she received the Women’s World Summit Foundation’s 2010 Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life, as well as a National Award for the Advancement of Women in 2004. Ms. Fomumbod had been a professional teacher for twenty-two years and retired from her work as Regional Pedagogic Inspector of secondary education in order to take up development work.
Ms. Michelle Bekkering is Director of the Women’s Democracy Network at the International Republican Institute.