Engaging Men and Boys for Peacebuilding in Cameroon

Guy Feugap, Sylvie Ndongmo, Michel Ndongo Kitio, Laura Berka Nfomi For WILPF Cameroon

This study by WILPF Cameroon explores masculinities, and how to more effectively engage men and boys in peacebuilding.

This report focuses on the primary research WILPF Cameroon conducted during the period July to December 2021. In line with the project’s goals, our research was concerned with two key questions: 1) What are the causes and manifestations of militarised masculinities in Cameroon? and 2) What strategies are being used to counter militarised masculinities and instead mobilise men for feminist peace?

WILPF Cameroon conducted original research in three regions, the East, West and North-West, conducting qualitative research with a total of 201 individuals, including 103 women and 98 men, drawn from the following sectors:

  • Civil society organisations
  • Community leaders, including traditional leaders and religious leaders
  • Administrative authorities
  • State armed groups (SAPs);
  • Non-state armed groups (NSAGs).

Key findings from the research

Through our study, we came to find that the concept and implications of militarised masculinities are poorly known to the population, no matter the social status and the level of education, though their manifestations are easily identified and considered for cultural and traditional reasons as the normal running of the communities. Here are the common trends observed from the research, first the causes and manifestations of militarised masculinities, and then strategies for change.

Militarised masculinity is historically and institutionally structured. This means that the state has institutions that allow for the use of violence, which is guaranteed by the law, even though it is often misinterpreted by those who apply it. But the spirit of militarised violence is instilled in it. This has reached the point where armed violence is commonly accepted as a means of conflict prevention and crisis response.

Existing gender roles lead to violence and conflict. The majority of interviewees said that existing expectations about how men and women are supposed to behave are the main causes of violent masculinities. Gender norms consider women and girls not as equal to men and boys, as these women and girls are expected to play their role as prescribed by cultural and religious norms, which according to them are all around submission, while boys and men’s role is about domination.

Structural violence is seen to be linked to the militarisation of men and to conflict. In multiple settings, respondents explained that conflict in Cameroon and men’s willingness to use violence reflect the poverty, land dispossession and marginalisation experienced by too many Cameroonians. They told us that these experiences interact with social pressures on men to provide and protect and men’s inability to meet these social expectations then heighten men’s sense of aggrievement. In other words, poverty and lack of opportunity, coupled with existing gender norms, create fertile grounds for recruitment into the armed forces and NSAGs.

Men use pernicious solidarity to maintain the cycle of violence against women. Men’s violence is pervasive, and is also used by men in authority, who thus have little incentive to prevent or sanction it and/or actively oppose efforts to do so, and in this way collude with and act in solidarity with those men with less power who also use violence.

Conflict and violence generate hard-to-break cycles of intergenerational violence. Inequitable and violence-endorsing ideas about manhood are slow to change. In part this is because conflict and violence disrupt opportunities to help children heal from the violence, including through the provision of psychosocial support or education more generally.

Gender norms are bad for women and for men – and this presents opportunities for change. In the long run, boys and men end up suffering and dying silently, without complaining. Patriarchy not only sets a hierarchy between men and women, but also ranks men on what we could describe as a masculinity ladder. This means that the social expectations associated with patriarchy do not only affect the female population but, also, limit men by assigning them a certain status, sometimes leading to their victimisation.

Local administrative authorities are restricted by their dependency on the federal government. Many local government officials would like to act to limit the harm caused by negative and violence-endorsing ideas about manhood. These authorities know what can be done in their localities to reduce violence, but they do not have the power to act, as they are obliged to implement the policy laid down at national level by the central government, even if the policy is clearly wrong. An effectively implemented decentralisation would serve to address this type of problem and greatly reduce militarised masculinities in the regions if regional authorities had the necessary power to act.

Traditional leaders have an important role in peacebuilding. Community leaders emerged from the research as key levers of engaging men and women in peacebuilding work to advance the WPS agenda. CSO advocacy efforts should target traditional and religious leaders who, through their actions, influence families and communities.

Access the full report here.



Power on Patrol: Cameroon


Men, Masculinities & Armed Conflict: Findings from a four-country study by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom


A more generous embrace


Militarized masculinities in Cameroon


Evolving Alliances: Men and Women – Access to Land, Gender Relations and Conflict in Anglophone Cameroon

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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