Improving Cameroon’s Penal and Socio-cultural Response to Child Marriage
The question of gender justice has for a very long time been a priority of Women in Alternative Action (WAA) Cameroon. Thus, through its program on “Improving Cameroon’s Penal and Socio-Cultural Response to child Marriage”, Women in Alternative Action (WAA) Cameroon and partners, with financial support from AmplifyChange have been working elaborately on child marriage for almost half a decade, especially on raising awareness on the dangers of child marriage and also trying to create gender champions within the government of Cameroon that could go a long way to put in place a legislation that will help to safeguard children entering into children marriage thus strengthening the fight against child marriage.
The entire span of this project covers the legal reform agenda, working sessions with traditional and religious leaders, through which WAA Cameroon supported the building of inter-religious and cultural dialogue on child marriage thereby ameliorating the mindsets of these carefully selected authorities to recognize value in a girl child and in turn partner with WAA and her allies to help eradicate all forms of violence against women and the girl child. In addition, networking for advocacy and lobbying, use of media channels for community mobilization and awareness campaigns, as well as the development of a TV Spot diffused in national and community TV channels and during organized workshops. This TV Spot has generated country wide support to ending child marriage, and reduced negative attitudes or statements from key influencers. These efforts have helped in accelerating efforts to put a draft law in place to regulate child marriage and other related practices.
Child marriage as a key issue of the current project results from deeply rooted social norms that shape community beliefs and this project therefore seeks to amplify efforts that have occurred to date and reinforce some areas that we could use to achieve the momentum of political commitments for a law change, based on the early engagement from Parliament. Apart from values clarification workshops, the project also envisaged a series of proximity and community-centered advocacy strategies with the identified community and political stakeholders. The ongoing project has institutionalized a Parliamentary Network on Gender, integrating a Women’s Parliamentary Caucus into it goals and engaging Parliamentarians to commit to elaborating a law on Child marriage, setting the marriage age at 18 years and criminalizing child marriage by organizing law development workshops with MPs and lawyers; mentor the laws designing process through law firms, with comments and support from the Parliament and the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family (MINPROFF), who has been significant in the mentoring the law development process as the project unfolded.
In terms of growth and progress of the project implementation, WAA Cameroon made significant progress both in terms of project implementation and in terms of institutional growth. WAA Cameroon had a series of inception and planning meetings in this light with the ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family (MINPROFF) to contract with law firm to draft the law, meetings with key MPs of the parliamentary network on gender (PNG), to review project activities and establish processes and a meeting with all stakeholders on defining a road map on the elaboration of a child marriage law in Cameroon. There has been a preponderant interest so far as these meetings resulted to the identification of some key elements to be considered in the draft law for validation.
More so, it should be reiterated that WAA Cameroon is reputed to have proposed sustainable alternative approaches to addressing different kinds of inequalities and violence meted out on children and women in Cameroon (to wit; advocacy to help improve on laws that seems to fan discrimination against women and girls, production and dissemination of other anti-gender discriminatory materials).
Furthermore, WAA Cameroon, initiated the ‘the Queens for Peace International’ (QPI), -an initiative that brings together wives of traditional leaders, queen mothers, female traditional leaders and princesses within the framework of putting in place a platform for community peace builders and advocates for gender equality.
This work culminated with the putting in place a draft law on child marriage that was validated by stakeholders that once ratified, and constitutes yet another clear milestone achieved in the fight against child marriage. Lobbying is on-going for this draft law to be enacted at the Legislative arm of government so it becomes a legally binding instrument that will better off the lives of young girls as per SDG 5.