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Feminism dates back to pre-colonial history in Cameroon as women groupings can be traced back from indigenous and primitive traditional practices of generations past. These groupings commonly cut across different tribal boundaries having different ways of expressing same. In some communities the women gather as guardians protecting the integrity of womanhood and they were spontaneous in rebuking and shaming individuals who break key rules or tried to scorn womanhood.
The women also provided key ceremonial functions in communities throughout the country. Such gatherings were built to maintain and promote moral values of the community. Individuals with outlandish behaviour are ostracised or fined. The practices differed in various communities.
In most of the gatherings, older women of post-menopausal status gathered together to determine the severity of the wrong and the punishment to inflict on the wrong doer. Such wrongs ranged from practicing witchcraft, abuses relating to women’s genitals, physically abusing family members or pregnant women, incest, and other crimes.
During pre-colonial era, the practices were limited within ethnic communities, and the remedies were clearly spelt which were typically begging for forgiveness from the women, paying fines, being ritually cleansed when they behave in a manner that disregarded decorum (including stripping, defecating and urinating on the wrong doers property, dressing in male attire among others); to express the seriousness of the wrong. These as earlier said, were crucial to upholding the morality of the communities.
Participation in politics during colonial rule.
During colonial rule these local gatherings were transformed into a more political practice targeted against political institutions. They included multiple communities, although they remained closely related to specific ethnic groups and were aligned to political parties. During this time, key issues for mobilisation included threats to female farm land, rumours of sale of land to different ethnic groups, crop destruction by grazing animals, disputes over the required use of new agricultural techniques.
The methods of shaming and ostracizing individuals were targeted to be organised against colonial authorities and specific political parties using protests, disruption in public spaces, road blocks and other nonviolent means. After independence the women continued to organise political protest mostly against agricultural policies.
With political liberation in the 1990’s, the Takembeng women became a crucial part of opposition to the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM)party. The women marched with the Social Democratic Front (SDF) and would use their nudity to prevent troops and security forces from harassing protesters. Their practices often involved groups over hundreds of women participants separated from other protesters by large spaces. They used their numbers and status accorded to older women to protect other protesters.
In some instances the women used nudity, urinating and defecating in public as key aspects of their protests. Also they showed their vaginas or threatened to do so, being their tactics to stop forces from meddling with their protests. Such protests made men to take to their heels as they could not abuse the part that brought them forth.
In contemporary Cameroon
It also supports the argument that symbols are an unspoken but forceful way of liberating a people from captivity. If the women’s revolt eventually gave way it is not that it failed to achieve something. Rather, through their revolt the women proved that they were more organized than it had been thought and that their leadership was grounded in grassroots support and coordination.
The feminine or women’s movement benefited from the UN’s emphasis on gender question during the Cairo summit, also during the Copenhagen Conference and in the Beijing conference where the issues came up prominently. The Cameroonian public has taken advantage of this advocacy to set up groups responsive to specific rights. The ‘Ligue pour L’Education de la Femme et L’Enfant’ (LEME) is one of such organisations pursuing specific teaching pertaining to woman empowerment
During the Beijing conference in 1995, many groups and NGO’s were involved for the adoption of the Cameroonian platform and policies. Women are involved in the creation of micro fiancé groups and community groups for the implementation of the Beijing platform, also laws are being changed in favour of women as pressure mounted from within and abroad. The government of Cameroon through the ministry of women’s affairs prepared a policy for the empowerment of women which was adopted in 1997.
Today many more women movements exist with tenets of feminism both in French and English Cameroon championing women’s rights.

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