News / Africa

Lawyers Push for More Opportunities for Women in Africa

FILE - Yvette Azane Ngwemetoh, of Cameroon, a representative of rural women attends a meeting on occasion of the International Women's Day.
FILE - Yvette Azane Ngwemetoh, of Cameroon, a representative of rural women attends a meeting on occasion of the International Women's Day.
Despite the strides, big and small, made on behalf of Sub-Saharan Africa’s women and children, many of whom are still vulnerable to wars, conflicts and antiquated traditions, much remains to be done to meet humanitarian and development goals set by world bodies. Such is the conclusion of a group of some 300 female lawyers from across Africa who met for a week in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, to discuss the impediments to improving the welfare of women and children.

Since its creation in 1944, the International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA) has concentrated on advocating tackling the challenges facing lawmakers and society in the pursuit of protecting the human rights of women.  

Nigerian-born lawyer Okarafor Ezinva, one of FIDA's vice presidents for Africa, told VOA that advocacy alone is not producing the expected results.

“The millennium development goals that relate to women and children in most countries are the ones that are yet to be attained, and there is no likelihood of them being attained," she said. "Maternal mortality - the statistics are disastrous in Africa. And so beyond the advocacy, what else do we do to ensure that we move the level of this course? And, more importantly, that we change the statistics that relate to women in politics, in business, in government, wherever it is, to ensure that the status of the women is better?” asked Ezinva.

Change of strategy needed

The female lawyers were devising ways to change strategy as they fight for more attention to be given to women and girls, especially in Africa, where they say traditional practices still hinder progress.

They intend to pay more attention to cases filed in courts concerning human rights abuses affecting girls and women.

Cameroonian-born barrister Mbuya Gladys, who is also one of FIDA's vice presidents for Africa, said the focus will be on fighting harmful African traditional practices, like early marriages and the belief that woman should play only secondary roles in society.

“Custom that is good should be kept. Any one [custom] that is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience should be thrown away. Let me take the case of FGM [female genital mutilation], places where they cut female genitals," Gladys said. "That is a custom and you see a woman bleed to death. Is that a good custom?”

Some beliefs hard to let go

Some Africans still hold firm to their beliefs that no matter how educated a woman is, her role should be exclusively caring for the home and family.

Fobusie Martin Asanji, the traditional ruler of the Chomba people in northwest Cameroon, told VOA that they inherited such practices from their ancestors and will not let them go. He said that in his area for example, a woman cannot be a chief.

“She is there to organize the family, the royal family. Feeding, entertaining visitors, organizing the fon's [chief's] many wives and his many children," he said. "So she is actually a wonderful collaborator of the fon [chief]."

More women leaders, still too few opportunities

Women have made significant gains in political and legislative roles in Africa; Liberia and Malawi have female heads of state, Senegal's new prime minister is a woman and in Rwanda, women hold almost two-thirds of the seats in parliament.

Females make up the majority of the population of most African countries and therefore many think they should be capable of utilizing their numerical strength in democratic processes.

However, in many countries, that is easier said than done. Lawyer Vera Minang, who is a member of FIDA, blames the slow progress and limited opportunities for women on the widespread illiteracy of females in Africa.

“Women will still be women," she said. "But we are talking about equality of opportunities. If a boy child has an opportunity to go to school, let the girl child also have that same opportunity to go to school. If a man has an opportunity to do night work, a woman should also have an opportunity to do that night work because that may be the only vacancy that she may fit into. We are talking actually about substantial equality, we are not talking about competition.”

The lawyers from Africa and beyond are expecting an Africa that offers equal opportunity for men and women.

Lawyer Ebaka Eko from Cameroon told VOA that even if it takes a long time, progress in rights for women will eventually happen.

“We are dreaming of that woman who lives that unenviable position of being a perpetual dependent [becoming] this woman who is independent, who is economically strong, who can take decision in the public sphere, who can rule the world,” Eko said.

The association of female lawyers was created close to 70 years ago to champion the rights of women and children and promote their socio-economic well-being by creating and raising legal awareness.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid