21st May 2021
A REPORT ON THE INCEPTION MEETING FOR THE CREATION OF A PLATFORM FOR MALE CHAMPIONS FOR GENDER JUSTICE
IN CAMEROON THAT HELD AT THE SYNOD OFFICE PESH GUEST HOUSE ON THE 18TH MAY 2021
The convenor of the above meeting, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC), the Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba, who is the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) designated Champions’ Leader for Gender Justice in Cameroon opened the meeting with a word of prayer at 9:40 am.
- Roll Call and Self Introduction
The following Religious Leaders were in attendance and introduced themselves.
- Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba Moderator-PCC/Male Champions’ Leader
- Dr. Bessala Mbesse – Protestant (EPC)
- Hamadina – Protestant
- Imam Mohammed Aboubaka Islam – Imam of Buea
- Edube Ernest – Protestant/Baptist
- Dr. Ngando Secretary General – CPCC/CEPCA
- Fr. Francis Ncham – Roman Catholic Church
- Dr. Nditemeh Charlemagne – Executive President-CBC
- Imam Tukur Mohammed Islam – Imam of Bamenda
- CheikhOmarouHalam Islam – Supreme Leader of Islamic Council
- Ayuk Aaron – Full Gospel Mission
- Ajime Nelson Zuwed – Protestant-Secretary
- Joyce B.H. Endeley – Facilitator
- Peter IkomeyMokwe – Facilitator
- Numfor Godwin – Webmaster
- Metuge Stanley – Journalist
Archbishop Andrew Nkea
- Presentation and Adoption of the Agenda
The designated Gender Champion for Cameroon, the Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba presented the Agenda and it was moved for adoption by Rev. Hamandina and supported by Rev Edube Ernest.
- Presentation of the Concept Note
The designated Gender Champion presented the concept paper that highlighted the necessity for the Religious Leaders of Cameroon to create a platform for male champions for Gender Justice in Cameroon. The paper pointed out that there is rising domestic violence, adolescent/teenage pregnancies, especially with the ongoing Anglophone armed conflict in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon and the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. That gender-based violence (GBV), intimate partner violence and a reinforcement of harmful gender practices such as female genital mutilation, forced marriages, rape, male dominance and the disruption of the education of the girl child are some lurking gender injustices that are oppressive in our society that need attention by the platform.
- The presentation provoked the following comments
-Prof. Joyce Endeley observed that this is a laudable initiative that has brought together Religious Leaders who command a huge following of about 90%of Cameroonians amongst whom gender injustice is a rampant practice. She pointed out that there are issues of gender inequality and injustice that both the Bible and Quran decry. She continued that this platform will enable the Religious Leaders to be aware of aspects of gender injustice and be able to interpret the Bible and Quran with the sensitivity of GBV and therefore be able to correlate such interpretations with such ills in the society. She also told the Religious Leaders to be ready to face the enormous challenges they will meet in the field as champions of gender justice in the society. She concluded that due to the enormity and complex nature of the task before the Religious Leaders, they need capacity building to pursue this noble goal.
Mr. Peter Ikomey, a UN expert on Gender Studies, who co-facilitated the meeting, added his voice by saying that the quest for gender equality cannot succeed without the participation of men playing very key roles because, quite often, they are the perpetrators of GBV. He continued that this transformative venture by Religious Leaders is very important to enable these leaders to understand the various forms of GBV. He underscored that the men need to be convinced that there is GBV before engaging in transforming it. He equally indicated that such a venture will require that the Religious Leaders know the international legal framework involved.
Other issues of concern were raised by the champions amongst which were:
- If it is possible to uphold and promote gender equality in conservative societies like religion? In response to this concern, it was underscored that religious conservatism is more of a doctrinal problem rather than divine, therefore gender equality can be upheld in conservative religious societies through proper awareness and teaching.
- With respect to the place of homosexuality in gender justice, it was accepted that it is an issue, but can only be handled contextually and culturally depending on the legal framework in force in such a context.
- That for the platform to function properly, it must define its scope of operation clearly in order to avoid ambiguities.
Prof. Joyce Endeley led a lecture on issues of Gender justice where she raised a question why male Religious Leaders as Champions for Gender Justice? She highlighted that there are religious belief systems that can either be positive or negative to the realization of this project for gender justice. She explained that to successfully achieve the project on gender justice, the actors must first of all experience a certain self-deconstruction of certain negative perceptions and false assumptions.
She raised another question as to what can be there to enable the Religious Leaders pursue or not pursue this project. She pointed out that the positive aspect is that the religious belief of Christians and Muslims hold that all men are equal before God. But this is mitigated with the traditional belief that the man is the head.
In an interactive manner, the Islamic clerics present complemented that Islam holds that women are to obtain the same reward as men, and that women are the first teachers of both males and females.
This buttressed the fact there are things that both males and females do interchangeably and should be done in love, respect and not as obligations. Caution was made to the fact that any strong attachment to the customs and cultures that classify gender can be serious obstacles to gender justice.
Awareness was created to the fact that not all gender justice comes smoothly, gender justice demands fairness irrespective of the person involved. That Gender Champions, by their calling, have a duty to protect victims, prevent inequality and promote gender justice, irrespective of who is involved in all fairness.
It was highlighted that champions for gender justice must always stand with the victims and in between the perpetrator and the victim to ensure justice. She explained that although this task is very demanding, it is also doable.
On violence as a principal component of GBV, she said that violence is extreme force that violates the other person because of a lack of respect for the other person. That always, the woman and the girl child are looked upon as the lesser persons. And that in pursuing gender justice the champions should be aware that there are children’s rights that need to be respected by all.
Expatiating further, she pointed out that marital disputes are very fertile grounds or domains the champions for gender justice must be ready to venture into. And that they will have to come across some grey areas in gender justice that may require the intervention of the law.
The lecturer said that gender role is a construct of those involved, meaning that all the roles are interchangeable except the biological roles that have been defined by nature for both sexes. She urges that children at home should be made to play mixed roles in such a way that no roles are the reserved of a particular sex.
On the role the media is playing, it was observed that media has constantly portrayed the woman, especially in the entertainment industry, to look as a sex object by their indecent way of dressing. The media also needs to be deconstructed.
Further issues of violence on the woman were harped upon such as women being used as baits for promotion at job, entertainment, war, genitally mutilated and commercialized. It was pointed out that the problem of GBV emanates from domestic to the public.
She went further that to fight GBV, legislations and policies that need to deconstruct the false conceptions and construct systems that uphold gender justice need to be on the agenda of the champions. And that this makes the drive for gender justice a very challenging and expensive venture.
A focus was made on what the Holy Books like the Bible and the Quran say with respect to GBV. It was generally agreed that these Holy Books do not support GBV, but are rather against any form of injustice. That issues of GBV that are religious in nature only stem from a misinterpretation of the scriptures. Therefore scriptural language needs to be decoded.
It was emphasized that for the Gender Justice Champions to succeed in their project or task or mission, they need to partner with NGOs and GOs that are involved in the venture to fight against gender injustice and above all, they need capacity building.
Prof. Joyce Endeley and Mr. Peter Ikomey, the two facilitators at the inception meeting of Male Champions for Gender Justice in Cameroon
- On actions to be taken in the face of GBV, the following were identified:
- That perpetrators should be sanctioned while victims should be rewarded.
- That reward be given to the actors fighting against GBV and support be given to the victims.
- That rape case center, Refugee center, awareness center, reporting center be created to facilitate the fight for gender justice.
- That free legal support be made available to victims
- That there should be a lobbying mechanism to improve on the legal systems that discriminate against the female
- That victims be empowered to speak out
- That awareness created that sexual pleasure is for both sexes.
- That fear be removed from sexual education for children to know the use of the various body parts or organs.
- That in places that need dressing code, it should be applicable to both sexes.
- That inheritance laws that favour only the male be looked into
- That specific issues can be looked into with the help of the law, especially domestic violence.
Male Champions for Gender Justice in Cameroon receiving lectures on Gender Justice at meeting
- Way Forward
Agreed that issues of GBV are very complex and broad, the Religious Leaders to champion gender justice in Cameroon agreed to navigate into this project in the following ways:
- To target the male folk and the family
- To begin sensitization and discussions on GBV related issues from smaller groups and meetings.
- Write projects for capacity building
- To put in place a system of monitoring and evaluation of the field activities to fight against GBV
- To define clearly their scope of focus in the pursue of GBV
- The clarify the difference between theology and doctrines with respect to GBV
- To correlate theology with GBV
- Create projects to support victims and establish NGOs to support the platform on certain GBV related issues.
The presentations interspersed with discussions rounded off at 305pm with a word of prayer from the Imam of Buea.
The Rapporteur taking down notes
Religious Leaders posing getting set as Male Champions for Gender Justice in Cameroon
Rev. Ajime Nelson Zuwed