Yaounde — In Cameroon, civil society groups marked this year's International Women's Day by urging women to register to vote and take on larger roles in decision making in their communities. Gender activist and singer Gracia Fonyuy, uses her voice in Yaounde to encourage women to stand up for their rights.
Among those listening to her is 45-year-old Sali Hamadikou who has, for the first time, registered to vote.
She says the most important thing women achieved during these activities ahead of International Women's Day is that they educated men to allow their wives and daughters to register to vote, in particular in the majority-Muslim parts of northern Cameroon where she is from and where she says men are accustomed to being dominant. She says she will continue to educate more men.
In Cameroon, women are underrepresented on voter rolls and in decision-making circles, from village councils to parliament.
Fon Fobuzie Martin Asanji is the traditional ruler of Chomba village in northwestern Cameroon. He says it is important to encourage parents to not only send their sons to school.
"The women should empower themselves especially educationally because you cannot be thinking of going to parliament or being a mayor when you are not educated," he said.
A local NGO, More Women in Politics, has organized caravans nationwide over the past three months and held special events in regional centers for women's day.
NGO president Justine Diffo says by targeting young women and girls, they intend to increase the number of women participating in elections in Cameroon to at least 60 percent.
Despite making up 52 percent of the adult population in Cameroon, women account for less than half of registered voters, according to figures released last year by the elections management body, ELECAM.
About a third of National Assembly seats are held by women, and Cameroon has just 31 female mayors out of the total 370 in the country.
Celestine Ketcha Courtes, mayor of Bangante in western Cameroon, says women need to use their numerical strength.
She says women should promote other women by helping them register to vote.She says competition with men is stiff but she says if women are united and have confidence in themselves, a woman with the will and qualifications can get elected.
That numerical strength was on display Wednesday as tens of thousands of women marched in regional centers and the capital.The government pledged to support efforts to offer equal opportunity to women and girls.