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“Lionesses inspire women’s empowerment”
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“Lionesses inspire women’s empowerment”

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Alphonse AkouyuCameroon’s women’s team gave an inspiring performance at FIFA 2015, writes Alphonse Akouyu, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Cameroon, and at the same time gave a boost to empowerment initiatives for women in that country. 

The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada might be over but for many the memories are indelible.

Interest in Women’s football across the globe has increased over the years and Cameroon is no exception to this growing trend. The female national football team, better as known as the ‘Indomitable Lionesses’ of Cameroon, was amongst a trio of teams that represented the African continent during this soccer jamboree in Canada. They started their opening game against Ecuador with a classic performance, bowed to champions Japan in a 2-1 loss, and became the only African team left in the tournament after defeating Switzerland. China proved too strong for them in a 1-0 defeat but the Lionesses’ display during this World Cup highlighted the role sports – especially football – can play in increasing women’s empowerment in this country.

Football is generally regarded as a religion in Cameroon, and the story on the male side has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. However, here was a female soccer team that got the country talking – and not sleeping, because most of their matches were played around midnight Cameroon time. Even though they were knocked out by China, coach Enow Ngatchou realized his target as the team progressed beyond the group levels during this maiden appearance on the global stage. Perhaps it was on account of this wonderful performance that they were given a red carpet reception at the Nsimalen International Airport on their arrival. Cameroon’s Minister of Women Empowerment, Gender and the Family described these women as true ambassadors of the country and heroines to so many young girls in Cameroon.

Women empowerment is not a new item in Cameroon’s development agenda, but development in football seems to be an area which requires more work. Once again the womens’ performance has shown us the talent that exist in this country, and at the same time reminds us of the old saying ‘what a man can do, a woman can do better’. This might be a bitter pill to swallow for fans of the men’s game, but a critical analysis of both sides only proves the saying to be true.

It’s really not been a rosy affair for them, given that women’s football is still at an infant stage in Cameroon. But like true patriots they have focused on defending the fatherland. In fact, a report on popular sports program ‘Sport Vision’ on national TV on July 4 of this year showed us the tone of the game; some of the few home-based players were juggling on the streets of Yaoundé to keep fit. These scenes were different from the glamour and the first class treatment they got in Canada, and in some cases unrecognizable to the same fans who gave them a heroines’ welcome a week ago. Going by the report, the Lionesses have to play Ghana in two weeks time and strangely they have not been called to camp. Nevertheless, if there is one thing history has taught us is the fact that we can always rely on our girls.

Despite the hurdles they face, the impact of their achievements on their lives  and in society as a whole is summed up by Youth Affairs Director Katherine Ellis in her opening message in the recently launched Commonwealth Sport for Development and Peace Youth Advocacy Toolkit; ‘Sport is a key aspect of the Commonwealth’s shared identity and is being increasingly used in imaginative and innovative ways to contribute to education, employment, health, gender equality, social inclusion and peace building. Not only does sport provide a basis for healthy living, it also captures the interest of young people, and provides many with a point of entry into society. It is this unique ability to engage and bring young people together that makes sport an effective catalyst for development projects. We recognise that these projects are often designed, delivered and led by young people as well’.

From juggling on the streets of Yaoundé to playing on the well adorned pitches in Vancouver, the ‘Indomitable Lionesses’ are using football to inspire women empowerment initiatives in Cameroon. The future definitely looks bright for their game.

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About me:

Hello everyone this is your friend Akouyu Alphonse from Bamenda located in the North West Region of Cameroon. I graduated from the Catholic University of Cameroon Bamenda after studying Banking and Finance. I hope to become a Business/International Relations expert.

My areas of interest are serving as Journalist especially on Sports (football) and societal issues aimed at inspiring people to believe in themselves and volunteerism.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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