Women’s Access to Resources in Cameroon

This article is submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Gender and Trade Certificate Gender and Trade Department, UNCTAD Virtual Institute.


There are still significant social, cultural and economic development gains to be made in ensuring women’s equitable access to and control over resources. The impact of inequality in access to resources represents a global challenge with implications for individuals, families, community and national levels. This paper examines women’s access to resources in a broad sense, including legislations, human rights and freedoms, economic empowerment, trade, social protection, basic needs, economic resources generated at the national level through budgets, trade, and development assistance; jobs and employment landed property and other productive resources; and education. The United Nations and its agencies have demonstrated leadership in identifying and systematically and effectively addressing discrimination against women in relation to access and control of resources. There are lots of solutions campaigns in Cameroon on women's limited access to resources and education, violations of women’s rights, persistent discriminatory legislation; violence against women, including harmful traditional practices such as early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation; public and political life, leadership and health services.

Legal and Policy Framework

International legal and policy instruments layout a clear foundation for women’s rights to resources. These rights are guaranteed in various international human rights instruments, including Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa addresses women’s access to resources. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol has been ratified in Cameroon, but the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) has still not been ratified. Cameroon’s laws remain deeply discriminatory towards women and, despite observations and recommendations made by the CEDAW Committee to the Cameroon government in 2000 and 2009, no significant legal reforms have been undertaken to increase the protection of women’s human rights, except for the creation of the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Family Promotion. Furthermore, customary law is applied alongside statutory law, creating numerous contradictions and inconsistencies. In practice, customs and traditions in Cameroon weigh heavily against the implementation of statutory laws. In rural areas customary courts often settle property and domestic disputes (CEDAW Committee, February 2009)

Politics, Jobs and Full Employment

Although labour law guarantees gender equality, providing for equal access to employment and equal wages for equal work, women are still employed mainly in the informal sector. Furthermore, sexual harassment in the workplace is very common and is not punished by law. Following the September 2007 elections, out of 180 parliamentarians elected, only 25 (13.8%) were women. The Standard theory applies.

Land and Ecosystem Management

Women constitute 52 per cent of Cameroon’s 20 million people, produce 80 per cent of Cameroon’s food needs and yet they own just two per cent of the land in Cameroon (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 2012). One of the key problems relating to women’s land rights in Cameroon is a lack of knowledge of women's statutory rights. Women’s rights activists are intensifying their efforts to push governments to speed up land reform processes and establish clear legislation securing women’s rights to own, access and control land and other natural resources. “Cameroon’s rural women, like those of other countries in Africa, are grappling with numerous challenges, including poverty, preventable diseases and the impacts of climate shifts on farming and other aspects of their daily lives. We need policy reforms that protect the rights of this vulnerable group in society, especially the right to own land and other resources,” (Catherine Abena Ondoa, 2014).

Output and Income Control

In Cameroon, both women and men are responsible for selling agricultural produce along with some help from other household members. However, women do not get control over their income. Evidence shows that the majority of women are involved in producing cash and non-cash crops, vegetables etc, but still, they do not have control over their income. Mainly because the rural households and marketing institutions work within a wider framework of patriarchal systems that were tilted in favour of men’s control of major household resources.

Economic Empowerment and Financial Resources

Women’s economic empowerment is the single most important factor contributing to the equality of women and men. A specific focus on women is necessary given the reality that women comprise the majority of economically disadvantaged groups. Gendered power structures and social norms lock both women and men in positions that limit both their productivity and their ability to choose the lives they want to live. Financial inclusion for women has resulted in increased household welfare and more vibrant local economies.

Women and Cross Border Trade

Women are heavily involved in agriculture and forest produce cross border trade as farmers, harvesters and small-scale traders. It is a key means for many women to diversify the income stream of their household and reduce their financial dependence on men. Hence, it is of particular importance to analyze the value chain from a gender perspective. Women face substantial constraints relative to men in developing their businesses, which limits their value-added and the contribution of their trade to their household's income and the economic growth of Cameroon in general.

Recommended Approach

- Ensure that international human rights instruments, such as the Convention on the elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, are incorporated into national law as applicable and those reservations are removed;

- Ensure that women’s equal right to access, use and control of resources is recognized.

 - Ensure that discrimination against women is prohibited in all areas, including laws, customs and practices;

 - Recognize that women have an equal and independent right to acquire, administer, control, use and transfer property irrespective of their marital and family status;

 - Prohibit discrimination against women concerning access, use and control over other productive resources;

 - Ensure that women from marginalized groups, such as indigenous women, women living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, women with disabilities and minority women, have equal access to land and other productive resources as other women;

 - Ensure that the situation of particularly marginalized and or excluded women is adequately addressed through specialized programming and outreach, and through the adoption of temporary special measures and;

 - There should be a bottom-up assessment, informed by grassroots perspectives, to identify who is marginalized concerning access of use and control over of resources, and to develop specific protection measures for women and girls.


Catherine A O, 2014 www.journalducameroun.com/article.php?aid=16924 Retrieved from Internet February 18, 2016

Cameroon Gender Equality. Retrieved from Internet February 19, 2016 CEDAW http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/co/

CEDAW-C-GUA-CO7.pdf Rretrieved from Internet February 18, 2016