The Queens for Peace is a movement!
A movement built by Queens and female traditional leaders in Cameroon that together work to challenge and change attitudes towards violence against women (VAW), harmful practices, discrimination and marginalisation. The Queens for Peace (QPI) is a dynamic network of queens and female traditional leaders who together educate and empower each other to advocate in their respective communities on women’s rights, the abandonment of harmful practice sand the promotion of positive and empowering values and practices.
The QPI contributes to adress two key problems, that if not solved will continue to maintain the use of harmful practices, increase the gender gap, and promote discrimination of women in Cameroon.
- The widespread use and entrenched customs and traditions.
- The fact that the Cameroonian legislation does not fully prohibit harmful practices.
Thus, the QPI seeks to work against harmful practice and values, to advocate for the implementation of the draft Family Code that would prohibit harmful practices in Cameroon, and to spread the knowledge of women’s human rights within traditional institutions.
How do we take action?
The QPI educates the wives of traditional rulers to advocate in their communities particularly on women’s rights, the abandonment of harmful practices and values and the promotion of positive and empowering values and practices.
The initiative emphasises constructive engagement between national actors and financial stakeholders who should ensure that the action is aware of shifts in the priorities among government bodies. For this purpose the target groups and local actors that are engages in the project are: members of the QPI network, male traditional leaders and community title holders, legislators, senators, and municipal councillors. These target groups represents different types of local leadership and traditional institutions that can change the way in which women’s rights are respected. It is important to acknowledge that these actors have different positions within the social power structures.
Traditional leaders are the ones who have the primary position to influence customary laws and to alter accepted attitudes in relation to harmful practice and values against women and girls within their respective communities. These rulers maintain culture and tradition, preside of local conflicts and remains in power through the support of their community. They have a unique need to preserve tradition while also creating a cohesive community of families who support and respect each other.
Legislators, senators and municipal councillors are engages with through the new demands from the local communities and leaders of traditional institutions. WAA Cameroon functions as an advocator for the implementation of the new draft Family Law in conjunction with the aforementioned local actors. Empowered by their network the QPI can engage in local and national actitives and advocacy to develop their communities and in turn the country into one in which women’s rights are respected, where girls and women live without fear of violence because of their gender, and where harmful practices and values are eradicated in favor of positive practices and values.
By expanding the number of advocates for women’s rights the network and the movement for change grows. The first years of the project has provided WAA Cameroon with a good base on which to build and the lessons learned are several. In brief, they include that the existing traditions built within the patriarchal system are strong and that women generally have a lack of confidence to challenge these structures. This in conjunction with a general low level of education has proven to be a hindrance for women to seek their rights. This means that the QPI must be supported to further challenge the mechanisms of a the patriarchal system. Furthermore, culture and tradition must be a the center of the women’s rights work that is done in the name of the QPI, this as it is with a strong cultural and traditional base that we can build respect for women’s rights.
Does it Work?
The simple answer is YES! The Queens for Peace initiative stems from queens and female traditional leaders themselves and is therefore more likely to have substantial and longterm impact at the local, national and regional levels.
The initial stages of the initiative has showed that when leaders of traditional institutions are sensitized and empowered, they become leading agents and champions against harmful practices and values as well as more likely to take a stance against discrimination of women and girls. The QPI is a veritable icebreaker in efforts to redress the existing gender gap in traditional institutions. By using the QPI network and the connections it has in all regions of Cameroon there is a platform for addressing the needs of women at the local level. Their needs can be highlighted even when they are unable to speak for themselves in relation to legal, political and economic authorities and decision-makers. They now have access to an empowered national network of powerful leaders.
The QPI engages through regional and national meetings. The regional and local caucuses seeks to engage with as many women as possible in order to forward their needs, points of views, and ideas. The national forum is a platform for queens and female traditional leaders from across the country to interact and develop plans for action for their joint local work. The QPI has a joint National Action Plan, which is being reviewed at the 2018 National Forum.
The continuously growing network of queens and female traditional leaders, as well as the target groups, increases the demands for more support and guidance on issues relating to the QPI agenda and Plan for Action, such as trainings, workshops and collaborations. If you or someone you know are interested in supporting this work, please contact Women in Alternative Action.