Women’s empowerment and community development in Cameroon. A case study of NGOs and women’s organisations in the Northwest Province

Alasah, Akogutuh A. (2008) Women’s empowerment and community development in Cameroon. A case study of NGOs and women’s organisations in the Northwest Province. University of Southampton, School of Social Sciences, Doctoral Thesis , 262pp.


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This thesis investigates a contemporary issue in developing countries within the context
of the Cameroon North-West Region. It seeks to understand how government policy and
development organisations in Cameroon are empowering women and promoting their role
in the community development (CD) process. It investigates and analyses the causes of
gaps between policy implementation at the grassroots level which prevents women
benefiting fully from the programmes initiated by government at the central level. The
research is an empirical study which employs a qualitative approach with a case study
design, informed by feminist paradigms and guided by the Interpretivists epistemological
stand point. The case is the North-West Region of Cameroon, with particular focus on
women’s development Non-Governmental Organisations and Women’s Groups. Semistructured
interviews, questionnaires, focus groups and documentary analysis were the
main methods of data generation.

In seeking to understand why women’s role in the process of CD is still limited to basic
activities at the household and local community levels it has become necessary to
examine gender roles within the Cameroon socio-cultural milieu to observe how these are
affecting the overall development process. The Government’s initiative to empower
women all over Cameroon and promote their influence in the community is in recognition
of the pivotal role they play in uplifting living standards and alleviating poverty
particularly in the rural communities, which also falls within the government’s overall
development plan for the nation. The research has found that recent efforts to promote
this through policy and targeted programmes for women at the grassroots have been
thwarted by a severe deficiency in financial and human resources, poor communication
networks, high rates of illiteracy among women, corruption, politics of ethno-regional
segregation and the lack of a mechanism for enforcing legislation. The thesis has thus,
unpacked the rhetoric of government initiated programmes and the gaps between policy
and implementation at the grassroots level. A new understanding or perception to the
concept of empowerment which focuses on economic and welfare needs, different from the
conventional meaning has been brought out through this research. This suggests that
definitions of concepts such as empowerment must be brought within a specific sociocultural
and political context. The thesis has made recommendations for what is required
to be done if women are to be in the driving seat for rural development in Cameroon and
the North-West Region in particular.

The thesis concludes that Community Development and Women’s Empowerment are two
complementary processes in Cameroon. While Community Development has a long
history in the country and has been hailed as the total approach to development
especially in the North-West Region, women’s empowerment on the other hand is
generally considered a secular concept from the West which still has no place yet in any
of Cameroon’s sub-cultural groups not least in the North-West Region. Local perceptions
are that women should be empowered if only this means increasing their economic
opportunities to earn and bring more money into the family and community and not

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Social Sciences > Social Work Studies
ePrint ID: 69585
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
14 November 2008Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2009
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 18:49
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/69585

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