Some civil society activists have called on the government of Cameroon and the civil society to synergise efforts in order to fight against discriminatory practices that put women and girls on the fringes and deny them access to inheritance.
The call was made yesterday, August 10 during a zoom discussion organised by the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation on the theme “Enhancing Women’s Access to Inheritance in Cameroon”.
The meeting brought together experts from the legal domain, women’s rights activists as well as sociologist and anthropologists to analyse the various succession patterns in societies in Cameroon and the place of women on the trail.
Setting the premise for discussions, Barrister Joy Chefu, one of the panelists of the day stressed Cameroonian legislation is not discriminatory on issues of inheritance
“The law has a level ground for every Cameroonian but when we start talking about discriminatory laws in Cameroon, it is going to fall under the customary laws that have been made by the people themselves; the different customs and traditions. But as far as the Cameroonian nlaw is conmcerned, it is level-grounded,” she said.
However, she stressed that the national and international laws override any customary law in Cameroon which is repugnant and does not provide for equity.
Her views were corroborated by another legal consultant, Barrister Dimu Davis who frowned at the fact that most customary laws in Cameroon turn out to be patrilineal than matrilineal.
“Law has evolved and has moved from that position where women no longer have the right to inherit to where women now have the right to inherit,” she said.
However, Pierrette Tizi, civil society activist and National President of the Action Network Community Empowerment, said the practice on the field leaves much to be desired. She drew inference from some societies in the Far North Region of Cameroon where women are not allowed to gain access to inheritance.
“Women in most parts of the regions can not inherit from their husbands but boys are allowed because they are seen as the gender that will continue the family lineage. A woman is always seen as one who will remarry and continue her life(after the death of her husband). This is what has obtained since our forefathers whether in the Mayo Sava Division or any other division,” she said.
She however noted that there are communities where women can inherit only when their husbands or parents decided to will a part of their properties.
The panelists all went on to present the situation in other regions as well as in court and proposed a number actions which will end all forms of discrimination against women.
They called on the civil society to reinforce advocacy especially in rural communities to get more women to know their rights but also sensitise men and traditional societies and work with traditional rulers on the place of the need for women to access inheritance.
“The State has a role to play, the State in partnership with international organisations should also be able to carry out sensitisation activities and take a firm stance against societies that descriminate against women,” Pierrette Tizi said.