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CAMEROON: Marginalisation of women, an obstacle to access to water

The non-involvement of women and girls in the water and climate sector is hampering Cameroon’s efforts to achieve universal access to water. The Cameroon National Water Partnership (GWP-Cmr), in collaboration with the Cameroon Ministry for the Promotion of Women and the Family and UN Women organised a gender café on 17 August 2022 in Yaoundé, for the inclusion of women in decision-making circles on the water and climate sector.

Institutional arrangements for the development and management of water resources rarely take into account the primary role of women as the main users of water and custodians of the living environment. This lack of recognition considerably hinders the achievement of objectives in terms of access to water and climate resilience. This is the observation made in Cameroon by the Cameroon National Water Partnership (GWP-Cmr).

To reverse the trend, GWP-Cmr and its partners, the Cameroonian Ministry for the Promotion of Women and the Family (MINPROFF) and UN Women, are campaigning for the inclusion of women and girls in the water and climate sector. During a gender café organised in Yaoundé (capital of Cameroon) on 17 August 2022, these three entities sensitised stakeholders on the socio-cultural constraints and obstacles linked to taking gender into account in the water sector. « The patriarchal system does not give women a voice. They have knowledge that they would like to share, but do not dare to do so, because of shyness and lack of self-confidence that characterise them, due to their family upbringing, » explains Murielle Elouga of GWP-Cmr.

The studies conducted by the organisation show that the distribution of social roles is disadvantageous for women in terms of household water supply. The modes of access to and management of land are still dependent on a customary and patriarchal logic (74.4% of men are landowners against just 39.6% of women). Women are exposed to security crises and demographic pressure on water and land resources.

Including the gender approach in water policies

The three northern regions of Cameroon (Adamaoua, North and Far North) are among the main study areas of GWP-Cmr. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, these three regions need about 7,500 boreholes to be safe from lack of drinking water. This harsh reality is the result of the low rainfall in this northern part of Cameroon, which has only 30 to 100 days of rain per year.

To effectively eliminate water stress in Cameroonian communities, a consequence of climate change, the GWP-Cmr studies recommend, among other things, the revision of water policies to include gender-transformative approaches that not only recognise the systematic inequalities between men and women, but also address the root causes of these inequalities.

The studies carried out by GWP-Cmr are part of the Water, Climate, Development and Gender Programme (WACDEP-G) implemented by the Global Water Partnership – Central Africa (GWP-Caf). WACDEP-G aims to promote a transformative gender approach in the water and climate sector, addressing gender inequalities. The programme, which started in 2020, will run for three years (2020-2022) and includes capacity building activities for women in the water and climate sector, knowledge sharing, gender institutionalisation in the water and climate sector and fundraising.

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