By Tata Mbunwe
Women in the Southwest region are already building up to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day coming up on March 8.
It has as theme, “equality between men and women today for a sustainable tomorrow”.
In Southwest’s regionals headquarters Buea, dozens of women and women civil society leaders gathered at the Buea Council Hall on Thursday, March 3, to deliberate on this year’s women’s day theme, and situate a woman’s role in attaining sustainable development.
At the occasion, Southwest Delegate for Women Empowerment and the Family, Lucia Ediage, appraised the progress women are making towards a gender equal society, but insisted that gender equality does not mean women should become competitors or rivals of men.
She said it rather means women’s voices should be heard alongside those of the men; they should also be given posts of responsibilities and they should be able to work side-by-side with men.
“Women’s empowerment is not just about showing power, but about supporting the men. Even the Bible says that a woman is a helper, but it didn’t say that a woman should carry all the load on her head. So we are supporting you (men); give us the opportunity to support,” she said.
“Women are not looking for powers to fight; they aren’t looking for power to oppress. They just want to operate side-by-side with men. They want their voices to be heard; women don’t want to be stooges,” she said in a speech.
This year’s women’s day theme, she said, suggests that, for the UN Sustainable Development Goals to be realized, both women and men must be involved in decision making for a balanced development.
The Southwest women stakeholders who attended the occasion also highlighted the importance of celebrating women in society, stating that women should be celebrated on a daily basis for their selfless input into the families and the society as a whole.
“When we talk about gender equality here we are looking at equal platforms to be given to men and women. We are looking at equal opportunities where men and women can sit on the same table and discuss about issues that concern their families; to talk about issues that concern their communities as well as issues that concern their country as a whole. When they have these same opportunities, equal roles to play, it will lead us to sustainable development,” said Stella Eteki, Chief of Service at Southwest regional delegate of Women Empowerment.
The international women’s day will be celebrated this year after pausing in the past two years due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
In the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, the day has not received the usual attention and ambiance four four years now, since crisis broke out in the two regions.
Human rights organisations say women and children are worse affected by the conflict and have undergone torture, rape, assault and many of them have been killed by both state and non-state actors in the conflict.
Amid these upheavals, some women in the regions have remained vibrant, and grouped themselves under organisations one of which is the Southwest, Northwest Women’s task Force, SNWOT, to defend one another.
Campaigns and sentisations have continued against gender-based violence which experts say is more rampant during crisis situations.
Delegate Lucia Ediage says he fight for gender equality has been progressing in the Southwest Region as many women now know about their rights and when to seek help when they are violated.