Family Structure and Gender Inequalities
Despite government policies and programs favoring gender equality (IMF, 2010), Cameroon remains a male-dominated society where men are privileged in everyday life by custom and, occasionally, by formal law. In addition to economics (see above), women are disadvantaged in family planning decisions, the right to enter areas where they are excluded by taboo, and men’s right to take multiple wives. Female enrollment in schools has caught up with male enrollment, but owing to past practices, women are, on average, less educated and more likely to be illiterate. In rural areas, collecting water and fuel frequently occupy much of women’s time, and they are widely viewed as solely responsible for meal preparation and housework. Women also suffer disproportionately from violence. Recent decades have seen resistance from women, but male privilege remains entrenched (Guyer, 1980, 1984; Holtendahl, 1995; Ngwa, 1995a; Goheen, 1996; Ntongho, 1997; Endeley, 1998; Takougang and Krieger, 1998;
Fonjong, 2001, 2006b; Galega and Tumnde, 2004; Mbaku, 2005; Endeley and Sikod, 2007).
Unequal gender relationships can be problematic both for the environment and for environmental NGOs. Women’s everyday experience with providing fuel, food, and water for their families often equips them with extensive knowledge of environmental problems; however, this knowledge remains underutilized because they are underrepresented in decision-making positions in the economy, politics, relevant government agencies, and environmental NGOs (Ngwa, 1995a; Fonjong, 2006b).