Cameroon is a commercial center and has diversified cultural heritage. Hence, it is also known as miniature Africa as the daily lives of the citizens reflects the activities of the entire Africa. The women play a critical role in the society of Africa. Traditionally, women are associated with the characteristics of nurturer, love and purity. As such, they have played a crucial role as the conflict resolver in the African society. Earlier, it was a common practice that the woman of one clan was married to the man of another clan. In this case, it would have been difficult for men to attack the clan wherein their nephews were residing (Vincent, 2001). The woman in this case also plays a crucial role in conflict resolution between different clans. They used to work as a mediator between their husbands and brothers. The principles of conflict resolver or mediator were embedded in the traditional upbringing of the Cameroonian people. The girls were often asked to resolve the fight of their junior brothers.
Along with it, according to the tradition they often used to replace their working mothers at the home. When the mothers went outside for their work, the oldest girl of the house used to take her place. She also used to run the household and perform various chores. Similarly, the younger girl of the house also used to manage the conflicts and fights between their younger brothers. Performing such duties, right from the childhood practiced the young women in conflict resolution. In the traditional Cameroonian society, polygamy was a common practice. In such families, the first wife of the husband of the house used to resolve conflicts between different members. There were a number of reasons why she was chosen as a conflict resolver. Firstly, she was the most senior member of the family and has the highest degree of freedom. In addition to it, she has also remained d closest with the mother-in-law of the family and knows the tradition and the culture of the family (Kirby & Shepherd, 2016). Due to this reason, the husband also respected the first wife as much as his mother. The first wife used to resolve the conflicts between different wives and the husband. She also played a key role in resolving the conflicts between different members of the family or younger brother in law or their wives. The present case study has examined the role of the women in the traditional society for resolving conflict and igniting peace.
According to the article, women all across the globe have played a vital role in management of the home and education of the children. They are also a driving force of the family’s relationship with the other members of the extended family or the neighbors. As a result, the families are highly considerate regarding the selection of the wife of the sons. The girls are also taught how to behave and adjust themselves in the society and a new home. The mothers perform a moral and a practical training regarding their behavior. The mothers remain extra careful for their girls. They were taught behavioral aspects, household chores and several moral values which makes them amiable and just. The girls are regarded as the pride of the family and they will reflect the name of their parents in a new home. It is important for the girl to abide by all the cultural and moral aspects as they have to find a husband when they grow up. The girls who are unruly and lazy will find it difficult to find a good husband (Annan, 2014).
Although in traditional society, women do not participate in the activities and decisions outside their home, albeit, there were some cases, where women have become a prominent public figure. The first wife or the senior lady of the house usually took participation in the household chores. In addition to it, there were also some public figures that have attained the position with their charisma.
In other cases, wherein the role of women was invisible outside the family, they took indirect participation in the public decisions and resolution of the conflicts. There also evidence wherein the women have played a crucial role in the conflict resolution. “Nteturuye” or “Nzirikane” are the traditional women who had political or administrative responsibilities. The women were promoted to this position at the time of war when most of men were out fighting. In the traditional society, the women’s role was considered to tie the knots between two families, ethnic groups or clans. The girls were taught the practice of being open-mined and tolerant. They were trained to be amiable, soft-spoken and manage the fights between different people. The girls were not considered to belong to a specific family but they show alliance or unity between two different societies or clans.
It was considered that women have the natural traits or qualities to carry out these tasks. It is considered that women have virtues related to compassion, patience, modesty and self-control. It was considered that the women have these qualities inherent by birth; however, the traditional society also reinforced them by practice. The tradition of women role as a conflict resolver is common practice in Cameroon. It can be critiqued that women play a critical role as peace developer all across the globe. The article comprises of studies related to Central Africa, Namibia and Tanzania (Daley, 2014). All these cultures show that women have a crucial role in the traditional societies. It shows that despite the differences in geographical locations and culture, the women contribution to peace making is same. Moreover, it can be stated that women are also considered as the key transmitter of cultural values from one generation to another. They are also frontier in artistic expressions such as songs and folk dance. The women are taught these artistic forms to soften their nature and language (Miller, Pournik & Swaine, 2014). With their upbringing, the women practice to facilitate communication and negotiation between conflicting parties.
As discussed above, women are also used as the bridge between hostile or fighting communities. The inter-community marriages are common in Cameroon; wherein the daughters of one community are married off to the daughter of another community to seek reconciliation between different members. In the later stages of their lives, the women quickly embrace the role of peace maker as they are stereotyped as peacemakers. They are considered as more pacific than men and considered as more rational and balanced in times of difficulties. They are commonly symbolized for their goodness and tenderness. It is embedded in the mindset of the women that they are the part of the family to nurture and protect them from any calamities. This mindset drives them to work as a conflict resolver and protect the family from any external calamity. Moreover, this outlook has been crucial in maintaining a calm demeanor during the turbulent times including that of war and famine. Their role as a child bearer also assisted them in establishing this stereotype (Daley, 2006). In addition to it, the pursuit of the image of good wives, care givers and peace promoter in the family has also assisted the women to adopt the role of peace maker at a larger scale or for the community as a whole.
Women also comprise of wealth of experiences and insight related to the family, culture and war. They can also play a critical role as a peace maker in the contemporary times. However, so far, their role as a peace maker or decision-maker has been marginalized. The women are consigned to background and they have marginal role or intervention in formal negotiations. This tendency should be changed and women should be given a large role in preventing disputes and violent conflicts (Chinkin & Charlesworth, 2006). They can play a significant role in reducing the further escalation to the conflicts, simmering conflicts and increasing the availability to alternative and peaceful methods to resolving the conflicts.
Conclusively, it can be stated that women have demonstrated the ability of being an effective conflict resolver. Their upbringing and stereotyping assist them in playing a key role as a conflict resolver. The women were often married off to hostile clan to show a symbol of peace. Young woman also played the role of peace maker in the absence of their mother. It assisted hem in establishing their role as a peace maker.
Annan, N. (2014). Violent conflicts and civil strife in West Africa: causes, challenges and prospects. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, 3(1).
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Daley, P. (2006). Challenges to Peace: conflict resolution in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Third World Quarterly, 27(2), 303-319.
Daley, P. (2014). Unearthing the local: hegemony and peace discourses in Central Africa (pp. 66-86). New York: IB Tauris.
Kirby, P., & Shepherd, L. J. (2016). Reintroducing women, peace and security. International Affairs, 92(2), 249-254.
Miller, B., Pournik, M., & Swaine, A. (2014). Women in peace and security through United Nations Security resolution 1325: Literature review, content analysis of national action plans, and implementation. Institute for Global and International studies.
Vincent, L. (2001). Engendering peace in Africa: A critical inquiry into some current thinking on the role of African women in peace-building. African journal on conflict resolution, 2(1).