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 Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid