By Tikum Mbah Azonga
This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 16th of April 2003, on the occasion of Global Education Week in that year. The paper was one of the daily political commentaries I delivered on the 6.30 a.m. prime time national and world news on Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), Yaoundé, between 2002 and 2005.
Global Education Week is without any doubt, a crucial campaign tool for the girl child, among other beneficiaries, not only here in Cameroon but throughout the world. This is because when it is commemorated, the event brings into sharp focus, the question of gender parity. That is in a nutshell, the message National Education Secretary of State Number 1, Ngafeeson Emmanuel, delivered to the public on the day he launched Global Education Week this year.
As things stand, the Cameroonian girl child, even seen within the framework of her future role as a fully fledged Cameroonian woman, does suffer setbacks, compared with the boy child. For instance, according to a report published by the United Nations Country Team in Cameroon under the title: Progress: Republic of Cameroon, women represent 52 per cent of the country’s poor. Yet, according to the same report, girls do not have the same access to schooling. Figures for example show that in the year 1989-1990, the number of girls as opposed to boys in primary school education had declined from 85 % to 82.1 % in 1997-1998. Even so, the rates conceal large regional disparities, for, northern Cameroon was hardest hit, compared with the other regions.
The already bad situation is aggravated by the incidence of poverty, especially in the rural areas, where once again girls and women have been more affected. Obviously this state of affairs has repercussions on health care, for example, the 2000 edition of the Progress of Nations which is a publication of the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), states that while 3.8 % of boys below 24 in Cameroon were found to be infected by HIV AIDS, the per centage for girls was higher, at 7.8. Another revelation is that some Cameroonian girl children are still too largely victims of genital mutilation. Just like in the case of Cameroonian children` health, that of women has also deteriorated in the last decade. The maternal mortality rate 1998-1999 is high, standing at only 550 per 1000 live births, which accounts for nearly only a 50 % per cent success rate.
The picture at the world level is graphically painted in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report entitled: The Right to Choose. According to the report, some 585 000 women, that is, one every minute, die each year from pregnancy related-causes. At least 75 million pregnancies each year, out of a total of 175 million, are unwanted and therefore terminated. The result is some 45 million abortions and only over 30 million live births. Decidedly, the need for action is urgent.