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                                                                   JUST A WOMAN!!!!!!

I come from a community in Cameroon wherein for a woman to inherit land is a taboo. Women can only access land (secondary rights) and ownership is only for men (primary rights). Land is a wealth and often comes with a degree of power to those who own it.

I can recall standing next to my father’s sick bed in and I was asked to go outside. I wondered what was going on so I stood not too far from the door. I heard them ask him “should you die, what do we do with your farmlands?”. I heard distribute all the land only to my brothers and when asked “what of the girls?”. He said “they are just women”. what pain!! I wondered if I was only good at taking care of him at the hospital, cooking, doing laundry and carrying out other chores and when it came to land inheritance I am “just a woman”.

Even at home I didn’t have a say when my brothers are discussing issues concerning the house rents or sales because I am reminded that I am “just a woman”. I am expected to farm on the land, map out boundaries to prevent intruders from encroaching. Before I know it, the land has been sold and my opinion not sought because I am “just a woman”. When I looked for solutions from elders in the community they all said you are “just a woman” and issues concerning land shouldn’t be a topic of discussion between you and your brothers.

How can these persons not see that children are equal be it male or female? How can they not all see that when they limit us women from inheriting land they expose us to domestic violence now and in the future as we will have little or no back gaining power at our homes? How can they not see that by giving men all the wealth they are giving them the power to kill us?  It is so sad to make us depend on future husbands, what if we do not all get married? How can they not see that we have our own needs too and they should give us a share of the land so we do not become a burden to the men? Is it not evident that that our increased living standards, being able to access medical help, pay our children’s fees is because we sell what we get from the land? Why then should we not own a parcel of land? Have they not still realized that when we are left to depend on men we are exposed to STDs, STIs and HIV? Haven’t they still realized that the men become too violent when they know we have nowhere else to turn too? Did we choose to be born women?

It is at this that I took it upon myself that I must study and be the voice of the voiceless girl child. I refused to be “just a woman” as my community sees it. Today, with the education I have acquire in human rights and humanitarian law I now work with a feminist NGO wherein I speak equality for both boys and girls on inheritance rights. I have been working with perpetrators of gender based violence and discriminatory practices. Today, I am not “just a woman” as I discuss land issues with men as it was not the case before and I am in a legal process of owning my own land which was unheard for a woman in my community before. Some traditional rulers have revised customs and traditions which are repugnant to women inheriting land and heavy sanctions levied on those still involved. Laws on equal distribution on land to all children have been included in our tradition. I equally have sensitized youths around as the boys of today will become men tomorrow and must begin accepting inheritance rights for women today. Girls should not accept no inheritance as a status quo. They should self-emancipate themselves as I cannot be speaking of a change whereas those involved do not see it as a problem. I call on men to advocate for women’s inheritance rights as real men fear no equality. The results are not yet satisfactory but much improvement has been achieved as a few women now own land and also belong to the traditional council to plead women’s course. I am looking forward to a community of equal land inheritance for all.

Economic Power
Girl Power
Human Rights
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