Ntankah Village Women Common Initiative Group:

Ntankah Village Women
Common Initiative Group:
A Model for Rural Women’s Empowerment
By: Sasha Hart
 Research Question: What strategies does Ntankah employ to
empower Cameroonian rural women? How does the group
promote and create the conditions necessary for rural women’s
 Presented at the Making Equal Rights Real Conference, May 1,
2010 , McGill University
Cameroonian Rural Women:
A Disadvantaged Population
Higher rural poverty rates
Women earn 50% less than males
Trapped in the informal sector of economy
Oppressive socio-cultural traditions
 Lack of political representation (only 9%)
 Lack of access to resources and information; Illiteracy
 HIV/AIDS prevalence rates twice as high among women
Empowerment Conceptualized:
A Literature Review
Empowerment Defined:
A process (rather than a single intervention)
A goal involving an increase in agency, power, ability
A Multi-dimensional Process:
Internal (ie: personal transformation/ self-esteem) & External (ie:
structural barriers) change
Strategic gender needs (ie: structural root causes of women’s
subordinated status) & “Practical gender needs” (ie: basic and
immediate human needs) [Moser 1989]
Stages of Empowerment
Position of oppression  Conscientization  Political action  Change
[Carr 2003]
Women’s Groups in Cameroon:
New Empowerment Approaches Needed
 Work of Cameroonian women’s groups often not comprehensive
enough to meet both the practical and strategic gender needs
outlined by Moser [Fonjong 2001]
 While the level of poverty among women has been reduced as a
result of NGO work, there has been no real change to their
subordinate status, and therefore, “more measures are needed
to tackle the root causes of gender inequalities and remove
barriers hampering women’s involvement” [Fonjong 2001]
Case Study: Is Ntankah a model?
 Selection of case study:
International recognition;
participatory strategies; evidence
of success (meeting both practical
and strategic gender needs)
 Data collection :
 48 Interviews (semi-structured
individual & focus groups) with
group members, group
leaders, project supervisors,
local leaders
 Program Observations
Ntankah’s Strategic Empowerment Approach
Focus: “To improve the long-term socio-economic conditions of members in
particular and women in general…”
(Targeting both practical and strategic gender needs)
Practical Gender Needs
Strategic Gender Needs
 Educational workshops
 Group farming
 Retail products (soap-making etc)
 Njangis & savings
Funded Projects
i) Environmental Protection (cane
rat; piggery)
ii) Cassava and maize mills (‘Village
 Education/ rights sensitization
 Local-to-local dialogues
 Emotional support; peer learning
Advocacy initiatives (ie: WLLA,
home-based care)
 Test case litigation
 Community service: orphans/
AIDS/ widows
 Male partnerships
Ntankah’s Strategic Empowerment Approach
 Activities target practical & strategic gender needs and out of
these flow internal & external transformation
Internal Transformation
External Transformation
 Self-esteem fostered through:
participatory strategies; environment
where everybody feels valued; safe
space to share
Rights-Awareness (active claiming
Improvement in emotional well-being
Application of skills learned: Farming
improved; More self-sufficient
Networking with other women’s
groups (CAGWEESA) enables peer
learning and increased mobility
 Self-esteem/Confidence gained to:
confront husbands, challenge gender
roles in household, take matters to
Change in husband’s attitudes
Females elected to traditional
councils for 1st time
Re-teaching of skills to community
 Lack of finances (to apply skills learned/sustain certain
 Lack of adequate farming technology (tools, fertilizers)
 Low prices received for produce
 Poverty (prevents some women from participating)
 Long distances (to farm, market, cassava mills); Bad
 Conservative forces
 More Follow-up on training needed
 Punctuality
 Some members not as committed/active
 Director plays too much of central role
 Governing structure
 Illiteracy not being tackled
 Corruption accusations; gossiping
Lessons Learned
Empowerment Process
 Dynamic & nuanced; non-linear: Women’s empowerment is an
on-going process that must be achieved via multiple routes, on
multiple different levels, and by engaging multiple different
 Importance of education (knowledge
transference/conscientization); self-esteem; collective action
 Diversified range of activities needed to tackle practical/strategic
gender needs and to effectuate internal/external change
 Possible outcomes: self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and gender
Lessons Learned
 Pivotal to the empowerment process—as an end in itself, and also
a means to spur external change
 Self-esteem building should be a specific target in empowerment
initiatives—Knowledge transference/conscientization/ awareness=
futile without self-esteem
 Self-esteem building is a slow process
Other lessons
 Education/sensitization can increase civic participation (women
began actively claiming rights once they were sensitized about
 Peer support function of community-based women’s groups