This department is the core of IVFCam’s development work, because the interventions of the other two departments, Health & HIV/AIDS, and Economic Empowerment are all Rights-Based.
I. GENERAL OBJECTIVES:
As an entity department, the Human Rights & Good Governance program aims at securing the human and participatory rights of vulnerable communities
II. FOCUSSED AREAS OF INTERVENTION:
1. HUMAN & PROPERTY INHERITANCE RIGHTS
2. GENDER PARTICIPATION AND LEADERSHIP RIGHTS
3. THE RULE OF LAW
NB: All three intervention areas are usually integrated to provide holistic support to any target community.
III. KEY STRATEGIES
Lobbying and Advocacy
IV. CORE VALUES OF THE PROGRAM
Promoting Human Rights and Equality.
Work in partnership with international and national human rights organizations, and the government of our country.
Committed to solidarity and building alliances of grassroots beneficiary groups as task forces.
Empower women and girls to advocate for their rights.
Accountable, transparent, inclusive.
Credits and acknowledges women’s contributions in achieving change.
1.0 WIDOWS HUMAN & PROPERTY-INHERITANCE RIGHTS:
In Cameroon, widows make up about 33.3% of the aggregate population of women (ChrisWOV-WWDP:2005). This population of women suffers from visible human rights abuses, ranging from physical torture to social exclusion.
The issue of property disinheritance is notorious within conservative local families that respect male chauvistic practices perpetrated by customary laws.
The situation of Young widows and dependent orphans is worse, as they are often disinherited of their legitimate property, immediately after their husbands/fathers die. The deceased man’s immediate-family members take away and own almost everything, leaving the widow and her orphans with nothing. This family property includes houses, house-utensils, equipment, automations, and landed property, etc.
Widowhood practices vary from one tribe to another, but the one fact established is that “widows, literate or illiterates, suffer various degrees of torture from the hands of their in-laws, and the craving for the deceased man’s property is the main focus, in all cases.”
The results of this practice are numerous: family displacement, prostitution by the widows /girl children, poverty, misery, street-life by the younger boy-children, and school drop-out.
The impact includes increased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, poverty illiteracy in such conservative communities. (AI-ChrisWOV-IVFCam-WWDP-2006-2014).
1.2 Goal of Intervention on Property Inheritance:
To restore PEACE and STABILITY within Female-headed Homes and communities at large.
1.3 Objectives of Intervention:
Create awareness and educate on “Marriage,” and “Property Rights.”
Facilitate the development, documentation and respect of local policies that protect the rights of widows and orphans to their inheritance.
Empower widows and other single-mothers, to secure their economic rights.
1.4 Target Population we partner with to effect the desired changes:
- Traditional Rulers and Councillors.
- Leaders of Community and Faith based Organizations.
NB: The Ministries of Women’s Empowerment & the Family, and Land & property Tenure are inherent government partners.
1.5 Beneficiaries: (Those for whose sake this intervention is carried out).
- Widows in general (and their Orphans, by extension).
- Poor Single women (All grassroots women, by extension).
1.6 SOME PROJECTS REALISED ON WIDOWS’ HUMAN
AND INHERTANCE RIGHTS:
1.6.1 Baseline Survey on Widowhood Practices: 2005 (in Mbengwi), 2006 (in Santa subdivision), and 2010 (in Nkambe and Misaje Sub-divisions).
- Survey findings painted the picture of the situation of widowhood, especially in the North West Region.
- Widows actual problems and needs were identified (see the Reports on the “Problems and Needs of Widows in the North West Region: 2005, 2006, 2010.”
1.6.2 Mobilized Widows into Task Forces to Secure their Rights:
(Women of Vision Common Innitiative Groups: WOVCIGs)
The popular say that, ‘Together we stand and divided we fall,’ was applied to fortify the widows and in response to the survey findings/recommendations. This has been a great strategy in securing their rights from community members vis a vis customary malpractices against them. So far, more than sixty widows groups, called “Women of Vision Common Initiative Groups,” have been founded.
For the first time in the history of Cultures, widows gained their freedom of Recognition and to associate with their folk.
- More than sixty (60) groups of young widows below 49years old have been mobilized within pilot-target communities: 2006-2012.
- Widows meet and freely share their bitter experiences and how to overcome them, and how to support one another, etc.
- Widows gained sympathy from community members and leaders, and are now being supported, especially in the area of farmlands.
- Presently, it is the widows who mobilize and organize themselves into groups, and then invite IVFCam to facilitate their registration with the government, and for other forms of support, which include health, agriculture and micro-credit (see IVFCam’s other program areas). This is clear indication of their empowerment and courage against societal hindrances.
(See reports: Mbengwi 2005; Santa 2006; Nkambe 2010)
1.6.3 Facilitated Legal Recognition of the Widows Groups for their Protection:
Historically, widows’ taskforces have been legally registered as “Common Innitiatives Groups” (CIGs) with certificates duly issue to more than sixty groups (2013-2015) recognizing their existence and activities.
As a result of this recognition:
Widows groups have gained lots of visibility with national and international organizations supporting their activities. Such funders include: The National Employment Fund, UNDP Sub-program on poverty alleviation, Women’s World Day of Prayers in Germany, etc.
Some of the groups have also been recruited, like other CBOs, as partners in the implementation of the Malaria (SUFI) Global Fund project; thanks to their certificates.
Legal Certificates of Recognition of Widows’ Taskforces:
1.6.4 Commemoration of International Day for Widows:
Mobilized Widows for Advocacy with Government Officials for their Rights:
1.6.5 Building Widows’ Capacity to Increase their Participation in the Development of their Immediate Communities:
Following the survey finding and recommendations, widows need lots of capacity building in every aspect of life, to enable them become more productive and participatory in the development of their immediate communities. If they are enhanced they will be recognized and accepted by their communities as equal partners in development.
Considering that widows are one of the least thought-of in Cameroon, IVFCam took it as part of her mission to target them for different capacity building forums.
Presidents of 15 different Widows’ Groups, as participants (sitting), and IVFCam’s CEO as facilitator (standing).
2.0 GENDER PARTICIPATION AND LEADERSHIP RIGHTS.
The patriarchy ruler-ship that characterizes Cameroon’s governance systems is a perfect reflection of the situation at the grassroots, wherein women are visibly excluded from decision-making processes, because they are regarded as “back-benchers,” good-to-be-seen-and-no-to-be-heard, and best, “Subordinates,” in power and development, even within their families. This explains why membership and offices in the basic-local structure of governance, which is the traditional-council, is by inheritance and for men only.
This mentality at the grassroots negates female-representation within national governing institutions; for example, it is only after more than fifty years of hard struggle, since independence that women’s representation has managed to reach about 33% on the Parliament and less 20% on councils (2013 elections); yet, women make up more than 57% of the aggregate population in Cameroon. Since men occupy the greater part of decision-making structures, the local and national laws, plans and budgets made are persistently designed in their own orientation while disfavoring the womenfolk. (IVFCam-GFW-USA 2006-2010; IVFCam-WDN-USA: 2012-2014)
On the other hand, the challenges for women elected or appointed to leadership positions are often greater than those facing their male peers. Women are often stereotyped as not having the same qualifications as their male peers. While this is an unfair characterization, it can create obstacles for the women, especially those holding office for their first time when they need to seek advice on their roles and responsibilities as legislators.
IVFCam’s theory of change?
If women leaders are adequately capacitated to respond to their community needs, then they will be able to change negative public perceptions of women as leaders. This can in turn ensure their re-election or re-nomination while ultimately paving the way for an increase in the number of women in leadership office.
2.2 Target Institutions we partner with to effect the desired changes:
- The Parliament
- Local and Municipal Councils.
- Political Parties
- Civil Society Organizations
- Higher Institutes of Learning.
NB: The Ministries of Territorial Administration & Decentralization, and Women’s Empowerment & the Family are inherent government partners.
2.3 Beneficiaries: Those for whose sake this intervention is carried out.
- Female Politicians: Councilors, Mayors and Parliamentarians.
- Female Leaders of Government and Private Institutions.
- Female Traditional Leaders.
- Female Leaders of Community and Faith based Organizations including Churches).
- Other interested women with prospects of leading in any institution.
2.4 Goal for Gender Participation and Leadership:
The goal of this intervention is “To increase women’s involvement and leadership in decision-making and development; both at their immediate community and at the national level, in order to enable them influence policies, plans of actions and budgets that protect their human rights & development. ”… It is only by being present at the forum and active in debates that women can successfully reverse the old order of female marginalization…….says Erika Veberyte: WDN-USA’s Director at the WLS VI training in Bamenda-Cameroon 2013).
2.5 Objectives of Intervention:
This intervention strives to achieve four objectives:
Increase community awareness on women’s participation in decision-making and development at all levels and sectors in life.
Advance women’s inclusion in the basic grassroots governance & development associations.
Capacitate and encourage prospective female leaders to aspire for political positions, in cultural, social and/or partisan sectors.
Empower female officers to lead effectively and competitively in their various offices.
2.6 SOME INTERVENTIONS REALISED ON GENDER PARTICIPATION
2.6.1 Creation of Women’s Committees on Traditional Councils (2005-2010).
The initiation of this practice, in 2005, in target villages of the North West Region, met with resistance on the part of the men, who believed that IVFCam’s intention was to seize their great power and share with women. Additionally, the men argued that admitting women into the traditional council was against culture and thus against the gods of the land; more so, the inner core (“Ngumba”) of the council was sacred.
After a period of lobbying and education, twenty (20) out of fourty (40) target traditional councils (including Mbengwi in Mbengwi Su-division, Moforbe in Santa Sub-division, and Bessi in Batibo Subdivision, opened up to the proposal on an accepted a “wing-wing,” strategy: create a committee for women only. That the women’s committee will meet on the same day as the council, but sit apart and discuss issues related to women. The leader of the women’s committee can, there after, table their demands to the council during some plenary sessions.
To IVFCam, this was a great move into breaking through cultural barriers. Of course, like all other development trends, this practice has impacted on many other councils, as even those that had initially refused to include women, now have women’s committee.
Additionally, village women of target localities now have a channel to table their requests and grievances to the traditional council, where they were hitherto not even allowed to come close to.
2.6.2 Partnering with Men to Improve Women’s Human Rights and Participation at the Grassroots.
Following baseline findings, the best and most practical strategy to improve the general situation of women, at the grassroots, is to partner with the men, especially the cultural and social leaders of the villages.
In Santa Subdivision, like in all other target subdivisions, the present increased female representation on their local council is due to the great contribution by this intervention; thanks to the Global Fund for Women, USA.
2.6.3 Training Women on Leadership (Women’s Leadership Schools: WLS in Cameroon (2011-2013):
In view of upcoming Legislative and Municipal elections in Cameroon, in September 2013, IVFCam, with support from the Women’s Democracy Network, USA; and funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), organized and ran six schools in Cameroon, for aspiring female councillors and parliamentarians, and other social leaders, of the South-West, North West, West, and Littoral regions.
One hundred and fifty-two (152) participants were trained among whom were seventy candidates for the upcoming elections. Of the seventy about twenty-five won and are presently holding offices on councils and the parliament until 2018, when their mandate will expire.
2.6.4 Training Female Political Leaders on Good Governance:
Following the Sept. 2013 twin elections in Cameroon, twenty five participants (Students) of IVFCam’s Women’s Leadership Schools (Trainings) were successful: 02 full Parliamentarians, two Alternate Parliamentarians, and 21 councillors.
This training on Good Governance then became eminent for IVFCam to organize for these Elected to better prepare themselves for the changes that lie ahead and for them to become more competitive and accepted.
3.0 THE RULE OF LAW.
The country Cameroon is made up of more than 252 different tribes. Each tribe’s identity is known and respected for her cultural norms and practices. This is probably why cultural leaders of these tribes do all to preserve and adhere to their practices. Customary laws, over the time, are more respected by the citizens of any given village, because of the mysticism attached to them, and the superstitious punishments (‘the anger of the gods of the land’) that befall defaulters.
Unfortunately for grassroots and national governance systems, the fear of “Superstitious punishments,” has caused tribesmen to tend to respect local/traditional laws over national and international laws; no doubt, issues on Human Rights and women’s exclusion prevail and persist in Cameroon in the twenty-first century (IVFCAM-WWDP 2005-2013).
Therefore, IVFCam strives to effect Change of mentality and promote the respect of national and international laws over village or customary laws.
Apart from interventions cited above specific to Widowhood, and women, IVFCam targets issues of national interest and governance (see examples that follow).
3.2 Target Population we partner with to effect the desired changes:
- Councils (Local Government)
- Civil Society Organizations
- The Media
- Community Based Organizations.
NB: The Ministry of Territorial Administration & Decentralization; and the Ministry of Regional Planning and Development are inherent partners.
3.3 Beneficiaries: Those for whose sake this intervention is carried out.
- The Population.
- The Local Government.
- The National Government (Improving Service Delivery).
3.4 Goal of Intervention:
IVFCam seeks to contribute to the respect of national and international laws, for the advancement of Cameroon’s emerging democracy and economy.
3.5 Objectives of Intervention
Create massive awareness on existing laws pertaining to Human Rights, Good Governance, Health and Economic development.
Empower communities to respect national and international laws in all areas of engagements in their lives.
Increase Participation of Grassroots population in governance and development processes
Promote Social Accountability in governance.
3.6.0 SOME PROJECTS REALISED ON THE RULE OF LAW.
3.6.1 Facilitate the Formulation, Domestication, Documentation and Publication of Charters on Widowhood:
Widowhood Charters (google “The Metta Charter on widowhood: Jan. 2010).
IVFCam’s stride into non-conventional practices, especially among cultural settings, remains unique.
Groundbreaking, she lobbied and advocated with traditional authorities of her various project localities, for open discussions on widowhood practices. This led to the formulation of laws protecting widows human and inheritance rights vis a vis international norms; documentation and publication of policies that protect the inheritance and human rights of widows and orphans within their communities.
Today, more than sixty (60) villages have their various adapted versions, which are used to arbitrate cases of property between widows and their in-laws. (This document will forever solve the chronic headache we have always had in this subdivision among families….2010 Mr. Tah, Mayor of Mbengwi Subdivision, speech…). All this is thanks to the funding of WWDP-Germany: 2005-2015; GFW-USA:2006-2012; AusAID:2010-2011.
Ironically, the perpetrators of marginalization of widows have become the Human Rights advocates for widows, orphans and women, in general through their continuous involvement and partnership in activities related to widows and women.
3.6.2 Advocating for the Effective Application of Laws on Decentralization in Cameroon: (Project is Ongoing):
The first project under this intervention area is that on “Increasing Grassroots Citizens Participation in Ongoing Decentralization Processes in Cameroon, for the period: 2015-2017.
Funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), this project will reach out to six out of the ten regions of Cameroon. It will be piloted within eighteen local councils and their constituencies, whereas the Media and Other CSOs will partner to mobilize and educate the public on their rights to decision-making.
Target Regions of the Project on Increasing Citizen Participation:
There are two English Speaking, and four French-speaking regions: North West, South West, Western, Littoral, Central, South.
Within the project period, IVFCam shall work in partnership with six Civil Society Organizations; one in each of the target Regions. These CSOs will work as Relays between IVFCam and the target Local Council; and between the target local council and its citizens.
Below are some of the partner-CSOs during IVFCam’s field visit to assess their Organisational capacities.
IVFCAM ON AN ORGANISATIONAL CAPACITY ASSESSMENT FIELD VISIT: March-May 2015.