As SOAWR, the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition celebrates 10 years of its existence and its efforts to continuously breathe life into the Maputo Protocol, one of the most progressive instruments on women’s rights globally, we caught up with one of the founders; Faiza Mohamed, Nairobi Director of Equality Now, where the Secretariat of the SOAWR Coalition lies.
1. Why SOAWR? Why was it necessary at that point and has it lived up to its objectives?
The collective organizing and lobbying of African women to ensure adoption of a stronger Protocol inspired us that we should continue to make it a reality for women and that it will not be reduced to being powerless and on paper only. So, SOAWR was born in Sept 2004 to advocate for ratification and speedy entry into force of the Protocol so it becomes binding on state parties, to popularized throughout the continent and to push for its implementation. This means we wanted state parties to take actions to ensure the rights provided therein are enjoyed by women.It is work in progress but I believe we have covered great ground. Protocol is widely known in the majority of countries in African Union, 36 countries are state parties and we know more are going to join this list soon, in several countries lawyers are now using the Protocol in court to get justice for women whose rights were violated, Several countries have also adopted multisectoral approach to ensure all sectors of government are working together in fulfilling their obligations under the Protocol, and so on…
2. 10 years down the line, what have been some of the milestones? Your personal favorite moments?
When on 25th October 2005 Togo (the 15th member state to do so) deposited its instrument of ratification and paved the way for its entry into force on 25th November 2005.
When we issued score cards and the Delegation of Senegal made a statement at the summit claiming they should be given a green card as they ratified the Protocol. The African Union was not aware since Senegal had not deposited. Amazingly as the delegation promised the President brought their instrument of ratification to that summit (Jan 2005). This further influenced more countries to deposit their instruments of ratification which is why by October 2005 we had the required 15 ratifications for the Protocol to enter into force.
3. Moving forward, what do you envision, for the coalition and the realization of the Protocol?
The coalition has really done a lot and we should all be proud of our achievements to-date. However, we can’t rest until we reach a point where women are enjoying their rights to the fullest. The continent is big but with our collective energy we can move mountains. The coalition’s vision is still relevant and we have a lot of lessons to build on and a great deal of opportunities to take advantage of. This is the year of African women’s empowerment. That itself is a wonderful opportunity!