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Advocate for a widow’s right and put a smile on her face 


October 12, 2013

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The situation of women’s rights in Cameroon can be described as one of inequality in the application of the Cameroon law. The situation is even worse when the woman is a widow or the girl an orphan. In Cameroon there exist at least 4 bodies of legislation which legally guarantees the protection of women’s rights and equal treatment before the law. These laws include:
• The Cameroon Constitution
• The Penal Code
• The Civil Code
• The UN Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which Cameroon has ratified.
Unfortunately, as far as matters of adultery, marriage, rape, ownership of property and access to justice are concerned, the Cameroon’s Penal Code (art. 296) and (art.77 with respect to the termination of marriage); and Section 361 and 296 on rape is applied with huge disfavor against women. The Unconstitutionality in the implementation of both customary and international law in Cameroon has provoked an upsurge of a new kind of violence against women (especially widows) not only by local enforcement officers in rural Cameroon and enclave villages but also with impunity by multi-national companies that have taken over huge previously nationalized companies such as the Cameroon Tea Estate.
The recent forcing of thousands of villagers from their farm lands by companies such as Herakles Farms and the Tole Tea Estate in rural Cameroon without compensation and the frequent molestation of women rights activists by officials of these companies and other corrupt security and penitentiary officials has unveiled the extent to which these companies and officials are ready to go in abusing the rights of rural women especially widows whose farm lands were the only source of livelihood; if nobody steps in to stop their unconstitutional abuse of women rights in Cameroon under Cameroon and International law which it has ratified; it is likely that all the lobbying and advocacy efforts put in these past years by activists to see to it that the constitutional provision which refuses women from owning or having rights to land title or certificate is removed; will all be undermined by the current action of these companies. We are daily eye witnesses of how the Civil Code’s art 215, 223, 1421 and 1426; which guarantees the right of women to work, ownership of property and safety in the matrimonial home respectively have been reduced to a main piece of framework whose interpretation can be done by anyone and applied according their personal benevolence. Now is the time to take rigorous and time bound action and campaign for justice; educate and train rural women in Cameroon to defend and protect their rights as guaranteed in the legislations in force- using non-violent campaign tactics.

At the moment Tole Tea Estate and Herakles Farms have displaced a further 200 widows from their traditional farm lands while 6 of the women rights protesters have been arrested and jailed without any pretrial. Although this could be a high risk engagement for women rights activists against powerful companies backed by corrupt government security officials in the area, Human Is Right believe the arrest and jailing of some of our women rights activist colleagues in Buea Central Prison merits and requires an equal offensive campaign to protect women rights activist and also defend the land rights of women in rural Cameroon against an increasing political strategy of government to private rural lands to foreign companies. By Campaigning and filing court cases for the immediate release of some 6 women rights activist in the Buea Central prison in Cameroon, in addition to the organization of trainings for rural women on non-violent tactics; Human Is Right will be advancing women’s rights by protecting threatened women activists and empowering them with specialized training on non-violent campaign tactics. This is an offshoot of the training our group received during the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Non-violent Conflict and Women’s Rights in the United States.
This situation was not anticipated, we were shocked by the recent molestation, brutalization and jailing of 6 of our women rights activist colleagues by security officials in the Buea central prison for protesting against the abuse of women’s land rights in rural Cameroon by the Tole Tea Estate and Herakel Farms. We want to launch a campaign to remove ALL of our activist colleagues from prison and train women in villages in rural Cameroon where land rights abuse are being perpetrated and press for justice through compensation or the return of the farm lands to the women and widows in these villages .

Human Is Right proposed response to the current land right abuse and arbitrary jailing without any pretrial of women rights activists in rural Cameroon include:
1. Filling of 6 motions in court for the immediate release of imprisoned women rights activists on the grounds of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention
2. Appeal to the National Anti-Corruption Commission and National Commission for Human Rights and Freedom for the immediate restoration of farm lands seized from rural women in Cameroon
3. Training of 4 rural women groups in villages where the farms of these companies are located on non-violent campaign tactics
4. Creation of an underground newsletter/journal to serve as a platform where abused women can voice their stories about any continued violence from these companies.

The intended results are as follows;
• Immediate release of 6 of the arbitrary jailed activists from prison
• Compensation or restoration of all farm lands seized by these companies
• Establishment of a bi weekly journal which collates and publishes stories and evidence of any continued land and other rights abuse of rural women by these companies in Cameroon.
The proposed action is urgent because of the need to defend the rights of our fellow women activist imprisoned for over two weeks without any trail by corrupt security officials and loyalist of foreign companies. We also want to provide support in real time to women in rural Cameroon whose farm lands have been seized by the Tole Tea Estate and Herakle Farm companies. These women have been driven out of their land which constitutes a sole source of income and livelihood for their families. Out of the 200 women displaced by these companies, up to 65% are widows.
This action is a lifeline and hope for most of these women who are helpless in the face of these powerful companies. They are demanding for either compensation or restitution to their original farm lands. Their planned strategy to defend their cause through violent attacks against officials of these companies is not a good one in the long term; there is an urgent need to organize and train these women and their group heads on strategic non-violent campaigns for more effective and sustainable results, and also to collate some of their stories to inform an external audience and attract a proactive intervention and political response from international human rights organizations and community. The funds are needed immediately by our group to be able to act in a timely fashion and also, because without such assistance we will not be able to respond to this new challenge and violence which these companies have stepped up against women and their farm lands in rural Cameroon; to the extent of arbitrarily imprisoning and jailing women rights activists.
Directly 6 women rights activists who are currently in the Buea central prison will benefit from this action; an additional 200 women who have been displaced currently from their farm lands will equally benefit from this action with training and other technical support. Indirectly up to about 1000 women in four of the targeted women land rights abuse villages (Tole, Mondoni, Moquo and Wotutu) will benefit from this action.
The grant will help in leveraging the fight for women’s right and resistance against abuse by intensifying the awareness campaign on women’s rights and also, adding up to the number of success stories of women land rights reclamation victories; thereby inspiring and motivating other women and rights activist groups in the region to press for more space for women participation and consultation in the domain of agriculture, decision making and policy formulation.

Human Is Right is involved in a series of efforts and actions to defend human rights in general in Cameroon. Some of our past successful activities include the Prisoners Rights project wherein Human Is Right provides legal support and training to prison inmates, thereby helping to protect abuse of the rights of criminal defendants.

What your donation can help support:
$50 funds a widow’s attorney fees.
$100 pays for transportation to go to a village with very poor road network.
$600 will help fund a widow’s small business to feed her family.
$1,500 pays the court fees for filling the arrested women activist’s cases in court.



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