Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Gender, Politics and Democratisation in Cameroon

B. Raul Kassea

Doctoral dissertation, July 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Psychology.

Gender perceptions, religious belief systems, and political thought have excluded women from politics, for ages, around the world. Combining feminist and modernisation theorists in my theoretical framework, I examine the trends in patriarchal Europe and I highlight the gender-sensitive model of the Nordic countries. Retracing local gender patterns from precolonial to postcolonial eras in sub-Saharan Africa, I explore the links between perceptions, needs, resources, education and women's political participation in Cameroon.

Democratisation is supposed to open up political participation, to grant equal opportunities to all adults. One ironic feature of the liberalisation process in Cameroon has been the decrease of women in parliamentarian representation (14% in 1988, 6% in 1992, 5% in 1997 and 10% in 2002). What social, cultural and institutional mechanisms produced this paradoxical outcome, the exclusion of half the population? The gender complementarity of the indigenous context has been lost to male prevalence privileged by education, church, law, employment, economy and politics in the public sphere; most women are marginalised in the private sphere. Nation building and development have failed; ethnicism and individualism are growing. Some hope lies in the growing civil society.

From two surveys and 21 focus groups across Cameroon, in 2000 and 2002, some significant results of the processed empirical data reveal low electoral registration (34.5% women and 65.9% men), contrasted by the willingness to run for municipal elections (33.3 % women and 45.2% men). The co-existence of customary and statutory laws, the corrupt political system and fraudulent practices, contribute to the marginalisation of women and men who are interested in politics. A large majority of female respondents consider female politicians more trustworthy and capable than their male counterparts; they even foresee the appointment of a female Prime Minister.

The Nordic countries have institutionalised gender equality in their legislation, policies and practices. France has improved women's political inclusion with the parity laws; Rwanda is another model of women's representation, thanks to its post-conflict constitution. From my analysis, Cameroonian institutions, men and more so women, may learn and borrow from these experiences, in order to design and implement a sustainable and gender-balanced democracy.

Keywords: democratisation, politics, gender equality, feminism, citizenship, Cameroon, Nordic countries, Finland, France, United Kingdom, quotas, societal social psychology.

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Last updated 28.06.2006

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