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In preparation for Cameroon’s October presidential elections, the lone woman candidate is campaigning throughout the country and encouraging women to vote. While her campaign has faced numerous obstacles – she was kidnapped in May – she is determined to give voice to women and minorities throughout Cameroon. With an ambitious economic and social agenda, many here believe she is just what the country needs.

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BAMENDA, CAMEROON – At every stop Edith Kabbang Walla, 45, popularly known here as Kah Walla, is generating excitement among women nationwide. Walla is the only female candidate running for president in Cameroon’s October elections.

“The interest of women in politics has been aroused, but now we want their active participation,” Walla says during a recent visit to Bamenda, a city in northwestern Cameroon.

Walla entered the national political scene in 2007 and was named by the World Bank in 2008 as one of seven women entrepreneurs in Africa. She declared her candidacy in October 2010, and the Cameroon People’s Party endorsed her in April 2011.

Tracing women’s political participation in Cameroon, Walla says that women were the first group to carry out a public demonstration against colonizers in the fight for Cameroon’s independence. But she says that after gaining independence from France in 1960 and Great Britain in 1961, women’s participation faded into playing traditional roles within political party circles instead of taking on strategic positions, such as president.

“In 1992, a woman ran for presidency, but later joined presidential majority,” she says. “We saw another in 2004, but her candidacy was never accepted. So my candidacy is first to draw national and international attention as [a] woman candidate.”

She believes that her candidacy and her work in the field to get Cameroonians to register to vote have already had an impact on the community and on the way women view politics. If elected president, Walla says she plans to continue to integrage more Cameroonian voices into the decision-making process. Her three priorities are women, the disabled, and the linguistic and ethnic minority.

“These people have been left out of the decision-making processes in the country,” she says.

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