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

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


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