CAMEROON - ONLY FEMALE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SEEKS
WOMEN'S VOTES, POLITICAL PARTICIPATION, RIGHTS
BAMENDA, Cameroon (WOMENSENEWS)--Edith Kabbang Walla, 45, popularly known here as Kah Walla, is Cameroon's only female candidate for the upcoming October presidential elections.
She says she's trying to rouse the women's vote.
"Women are excited about having a woman candidate, but the challenge is
to get them active," Walla said during a recent visit to the northwestern
Walla, who is running her campaign under the slogan "The time is now," said her main campaign activists were young people. She said getting women involved was more challenging.
Women hold only slightly more than 10 percent of the seats in
Walla knows all too well the intimidation tactics used to discourage women's political involvement in the authoritarian government.
"I was kidnapped on the 20th of May, 2011," said Walla, recounting some of the obstacles to her candidacy. "I had water cannons turned on me and I have had some forms of intimidation, too."
Diana Ambofei, vice regional chairwoman of the Social Democratic Front,
"I was summoned to a hut by the traditional heads in my constituency and palm wine was sprinkled at the entrance of the hut," she said. "They said if I wanted to live, I should cross the entrance of the hut and stop my campaign, but if I do not want to see the dawn of the next day, I should cross the entrance of the hut and go on with the campaign. I left the hut and declined my candidacy."
Seeking Husbands' Consent
Ambe Julia, divisional delegate of Elections Cameroon, an independent supervisory group, said that when her organization encouraged women to register to vote, the women said they needed to seek consent from their husbands. Since most women are farmers, she added, it's hard to find them at home during door-to-door efforts.
Julia said women made up the majority of party members in
President Paul Biya has been in office for nearly three decades and altered
One change in this election is that citizens living outside the country will be allowed to vote, The Associated Press reported July 11.
Walla, named by the World Bank in 2008 as one of seven leading female
She said women were the first group to hold a public demonstration against colonizers
in the fight for
Although a couple of other women have run for president -- one in 1992 and another in 2004 -- Walla said they didn't get as far as she has.
"My candidacy is the first to draw national and international attention," she said.
She said her priorities, if elected, would be advancing the rights of women, the disabled and the linguistic and ethnic minority.
"These people have been left out of the decision-making processes in the country," she said.
Walla, a board member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum, an international community
of entrepreneurs, said she also planned on reviving
She said she also planned to rebuild social services.
Martin Fon Yembe, a political analyst and staff writer for the Political Punch, a Cameroonian political newsletter, said Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the election "on the heels of very wild civil war," proving that a woman could prevail in the rough sport of politics.
But he said intimidation and foul play might obstruct Walla's chances of winning.
"Given a level playing field, Kah Walla will singlehandedly defeat the
other candidates in the election," he said. "But, alas, there is
blackmail, slander, corruption and all those vices, which are already playing
against her and any other female candidates in
Michelle Hain volunteers as the organizational development adviser for the
Community Initiative for Sustainable Development, COMINSUD, an organization
dedicated to sustainable development in the Northwest region of
Fon Nsoh, COMINSUD coordinator, said that the organization had been looking to engage women in politics through the Democracy and Empowerment of Women, DEW, project.
"In the Northwest region of
Nsoh said that
"Some women do not trust the political environment," he said. "That's why we have voter apathy. Stereotypes need to be uplifted. Also, we still have many records of outright intimidation against women daring [to get] into politics by men. Election campaigns could be expensive for most women, who most times don't have pockets as deep as those of men," he said.
Nsoh said his group hoped to encourage about 1,000 female and young candidates to run in the municipal and legislative elections in 2012.
Walla said she already considers her bid a success because it has helped
change attitudes about women in politics in
"I am honored to know that an 8-year-old pupil wrote my name as her model in a class exercise when their teacher asked them to cite the name of someone who inspires them," she said. "I also have women who walk up to me and thank me for taking a bold step and making a statement that women can aspire and dream big dreams."