Anne Nsang, journalist UN Information Officer, Cameroon.
How important is March 8 to you as a woman, and to Cameroonian women in particular ?
For me it is a special day because the United Nations asked the whole world to focus on me as a woman and on women in general. It is a special day set aside for us to be considered as important partners in the development process. It is also a day for women to reflect on how far they've evolved on women's empowerment. Cameroonian women can boast and beat their chests and say their efforts have not been in vain. The march past that concludes it all, symbolizes the joy and pride of being a woman despite some discrimination. It is like a birthday in which we evaluate our lives, ponder on what we've so far achieved and make sure the future is bright.
Are there certain feminine chores that are no longer fulfilled by women because of the notion of women's emancipation ?
I do not belong to that school of thought where women refuse to accomplish certain feminine prerogatives because of the much-heralded talk of gender equality and women's empowerment. Women, according to the United Nations, should assume their role as partners in development. My husband is the head of the family, and l don't want to advice women to be recalcitrant towards their husbands. However, we must close that gender gap, because women are capable of handling any function just as men. It is a matter of women organising their time so that they don't abandon their household chores. We still have that intrinsic role to play in the society. Unfortunately some women, call them feminists, have an extremist understanding of the concept of women's emancipation and gender equality.
As an elite Cameroonian woman, what have women of your professional bracket done for the emancipation and empowerment of the rural woman?
I'm happy that I've been able to influence rural women through my program "Women and Development". We have sensitised women who have never been to school on issues such as women's rights on inheritance, widowhood, marriage, matrimonial violence, etc. We also sensitised these women on ways of selling their farm products to the urban areas. This is one of the ways that they can get themselves empowered. When we went to Small Babanki in the North West Province, we found that the women had an idea of creating a health centre. The idea also spiralled into more associations for economic empowerment and, a little hut was transformed into a health centre. We have so many laudable examples in many places we've gone to. I think we've done a lot especially in helping rural women know their rights.
From March 8, 2004 to March 8, 2005, what has changed in the status of the Cameroonian woman?
Globally, a lot has been achieved in terms of economic empowerement. But the pace is slow and it varies from country to country. In Cameroon, women are aware that they have to empower themselves and President Paul Biya often mentions that we can't achieve anything without the participation of women. In Cameroon, we are seeing many women in decision-making areas. In the last cabinet shake-up, women are actively occupying key positions as Secretaries of State which are vital to decision-making. But we still need more women in decision-making areas. The media has to play a more positive role, a sort of watchdog to help government, the civil society, and NGOs to achieve gender equality. Institutionally, there are a lot of women in major institutions especially at the United Nations were female candidates are given priority in job vacancies. Kofi Annan's deputy is a woman.