Women economic empowerment is a cause that must be championed by the woman herself. Only the woman who desires to be empowered can effectively be empowered. What I mean is that the desire to be empowered must exist otherwise she will be like the proverbial prisoner who would not leave the prison cell even when the cell and the gate were wide open. The first step is to sensitize the women, especially the rural woman about her economic human rights, then coach and train those who so desire in advocacy, lobbying and negotiations.
One of the greatest handicap of women economic empowerment in Cameroon, is access to finance. The banks in our country consistently request land title as collateral for business funding and this is problematic! Married women do not have access to this form of collateral as the family land or house belongs to the husband who will not relinquish it to the wife.
The African Development Bank tried to address the issue of access to finance for women entrepreneurs through the “Growth Oriented Women Enterprises (GOWE) program” which had a capacity building component and the financing component with partial guarantee. While the capacity building component succeeded to an extent, the access to finance component failed partially because of banks’ conditionality. The program partner banks hung onto the request for land titles which the women could not afford!
In conclusion the desire to be empowered and changes in policies are required for effective economic empowerment of women in Cameroon.
The economic empowerment of the Cameroon women is critical to the development of women entrepreneurship in the country.
Watch out for my next comments on the Women entrepreneurship in Cameroon.
Me: What, if any has been the reaction or change in banking policy by IFC’s partner banks as far as facilitating access requirements to these women is concerned?
There has been no change. Banks in Cameroon have excess liquidity while the economy is in short supply of liquidity. The women have no choice than to turn to the informal sector or micro finance institutions which willingly offer access to finance at very high costs that cannot profitably finance medium to long cycle businesses.
Me: Do you have any final comments with regards to the business atmosphere in Cameroon and the women’s economic potential in particular?
The business climate in Cameroon is not friendly and this explains our poor ranking in the World Bank/IFC’s “doing business” index. This environment is detrimental to women’s economic empowerment. There have been talks about the so-called “Women bank” which may be a partial solution, if well managed, but the overall business climate must improve to enable women economic empowerment.
Me: Have you heard of the Knowledge Gateway? If no, would you like to be better informed and if possible, engage in the Knowledge Gateway?
I got to know about the Knowledge Gateway through your tweets and have visited the website. I tried to register but had some password issues. I will like to engage in the discussions and possibly network for opportunities to be more useful to my community.
Me: Thank you for taking time to answer my short questions.
(Bibiana MBUH TAKU)