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Petitioning for our Rights, Fighting for our Nation

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

Meredith Terretta

Publication Year: 2013

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 nationalistsí 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. UDEFECís history sheds light on the essential components of womenís successful political mobilization in Africa, and contributes to the discussion of womenís involvement in nationalist movements in formerly colonized territories.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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p. 2-2

Copyright Page

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p. 3-3


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pp. iii-iv

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pp. v-vi

The absence of women in the history of Cameroon has been a cause for concern for Cameroonian women and feminists. There have been speculations about their involvement in anticolonial struggles in the 1950s especially in scheming with or hiding men or in transporting arms, but existing historical...


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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1. Introduction Cameroonian Women and the Writing of a Popular Nationalism

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pp. 1-30

After the United Nations (UN) Charter of 1946 established the British Cameroons and French Cameroon as trusteeship territories under the international supervision of the UN, Cameroonians began to address the UN Trusteeship Council by way of petitions. These petitions originated from...

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2. Ruben Um Nyobé and the Multi-Layered Origins of the UPC And UDEFEC

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pp. 31-46

In post-war Cameroon, a mosaic of organizations spread throughout the territory, prompted by the swirling influences of economics, traditional governance, changes in France’s government, trade unionism, and the presence of French communists. 1 Out of this mosaic, the UPC took shape in April 1948, containing strains of many of the organizations...

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3. UDEFEC’s Political Awakening

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pp. 47-64

The women of UDEFEC organized in 1952, but would not officially approve the party statutes until the first UDEFEC Congress in August 1954.39 Beginning in 1952, UDEFEC focused on rights of women and children as well as issues of social and economic concern such as steep fees for selling...

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4. The Official Ban of the Nationalist Movement, And Reorganization in the Maquis

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pp. 65-86

The French administration’s official ban of the UPC on 13 July 1955 came at the height of the party’s popularity. As a result, the proscription pushed the party into uncharted waters of heightened anti-colonial militancy as nationalists denounced it as a violation of the UN Charter and the French...

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Chapter 5 - From the City to the Village: The Rejection of the Colonial Curse

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pp. 87-124

UDEFEC did not merely spread the political message of the UPC and protest the repression faced by the nationalist movements at the hands of the French and British administrations. UDEFEC’s petitions clearly expressed socioeconomic concerns and interests of the women they...

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6. Conclusion. Towards a Nation of Outsiders

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pp. 125-144

The military repression of the nationalists proved particularly violent, particularly after the UPC attempted to organize a territory-wide boycott of the December 1956 elections and created the Comité national d’organisation (CNO) to enforce the boycott in the Sanaga-Maritime.2 Outlawed, the party had no


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pp. 145-157

Back Cover

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p. 170-170

E-ISBN-13: 9789956728558
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956728053

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2013