The 3rd Gbabandi Women's Forum was held on March 8 and 9, 2021 in Bertoua on the occasion of International Women's Day. More than twenty indigenous women (Baka, Bagyeli, Bakola and Bedzang) from the East and South regions of Cameroon met for two days. The objective of the workshop, as defined by the women, was for them to be equipped on the legislation framing the rights of indigenous peoples, but with a focus on the rights of women. Indeed, the participants were able to acquire knowledge on the international, regional, and national tools that frame their rights in relation to natural resource management. They also welcomed the national coordinator of REFACOF (Réseau des Femmes Africaines pour la Gestion Communautaire des Forêts), to create links and share knowledge.
The women were trained on women's leadership in relation to International Women's Day. Indeed, they exchanged on the basic elements of leadership including a reminder of the basic notions of gender, some aspects and considerations of gender, the possibilities of transforming inequalities and the level of participation of women in decision making at the local level.
This occasion also served as a platform for indigenous women to exchange on the different non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as djansang, mbalaka, four-sided, honey and some pharmacopoeia barks. In addition, they exchanged on their equivalence in terms of naming in their different zones of origin. The women thus took advantage of this panel to share on the virtues of the products and on their marketing. They were able to identify NTFPs recommended for their use or marketing under certain conditions. Indeed, they exchanged on the category of NTFPs and particularly on the secondary NTFPs that concern them more, notably djansang, bitter cola, bamboo fruits, mbalaka and nding. They also exchanged on the modalities of exploitation of these products, on the composition of the file for obtaining authorizations, the quantities to be taken, etc.
On this occasion, they specified that taking away their forests was "killing them slowly" because for them, the forest is a real source of supply for both consumer products and pharmacopoeia.
Indeed, indigenous peoples live off forest products, notably fishing, hunting, and gathering. More and more, indigenous peoples are losing their forests because of the granting of agricultural, forestry or mining concessions by the State, which limits their activities, contributes to their well-being and increases poverty among this group.
Double discrimination of indigenous women
The women of the platform have identified many problems of discrimination and stigmatization that they go through. Indeed, the indigenous woman suffers a double discrimination, in addition to the stereotypes due to her belonging to this group, she also faces certain customary or cultural limits related to gender, which limits her social development. Most of the time, they are not financially autonomous and have no capacity to function because most of these women have not received any formal education or supervision. They face exploitation by the "bantous" women in whose fields they work for a whole day at 500 CFA francs per day. On the other hand, the transfer of land by the state is a real nightmare for these women.
The discussions revealed that to achieve strong economic leadership, indigenous women must mobilize and become aware of the potential of their forest, which will allow them to develop or improve income-generating activities from forest products, and to create alliances and partnerships throughout the value chain and for the marketing of harvested products. This financial empowerment will allow indigenous women to be financially independent and will also allow them to gradually move out of poverty.
Financed by the European Union