Petitioning for our Rights, Fighting for our Nation

Petitioning for our Rights, Fighting for our Nation

The History of the Democratic Union of Cameroonian Women, 1949-1960

Meredith Terretta

Thousands of Cameroonian women played an essential role in the radically anti-colonial nationalist movement led by the Union of the Populations of Cameroon (UPC): they were the women of the Democratic Union of Cameroonian Women (UDEFEC). Drawing on women nationalists’ petitions to the United Nations, one of the largest collections of political documents written by African women during the decolonization era, as well as archival research and oral interviews, this work shows how UDEFEC transcended ethnic, class, education and social divides, and popularized nationalism in both urban and rural areas through the Trust Territories of the Cameroons under French and British administration. Foregrounding issues such as economic autonomy and biological and agricultural fertility, UDEFEC politics wove anti-imperial democracy and notions of universal human rights into locally rooted political cultures and histories. UDEFEC’s history sheds light on the essential components of women’s successful political mobilization in Africa, and contributes to the discussion of women’s involvement in nationalist movements in formerly colonized territories.

ISBN 9789956728053 | 168 pages | 203 x 127 mm | 2013 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback

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Reviews

“This book comes as a thirst quencher by showing that, far from occupying marginal positions, Cameroonian women played a central role in the history of Cameroonian and African politics. Meredith Terretta has shown, in her analysis of the Democratic Union of Cameroonian Women (UDEFEC) that Cameroonian women, although largely illiterate, PETITIONED FOR OUR RIGHTS AND FOUGHT FOR OUR NATION.  THEY served as intermediaries between the burgeoning collective imagination of emancipation from foreign rule and the practical realization of that emancipation. The UDEFEC women – working at home, in the markets, in the fields, in city shops, colonialists’ households, or schools – actively helped to reshape social ideology until the nationalist message became something “thinkable” even in the humblest village home. They contributed to the fight for independence through petitions written to the United Nations, through their organization of street protests, through their participation in political meetings. Cameroonian women contributed to socio-economic as well as political change in independence era Cameroon.”

Dr Lilian Lem Atanga, Senior Lecturer, Gender and Discourse Studies, Department of African Studies, University of Dschang, Cameroon

About the Author

Meredith Terretta

Meredith Terretta earned her PhD in African history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004. She teaches history at the University of Ottawa and specializes in themes of African nationalisms, decolonization, post-colonialism, and human rights.

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