6th July 2016
To African Union Heads of State and Governments
RE: African Union Member State Commitments:-The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
On the occasion of the 27th African Union (AU) Summit, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR), Equality Now and the undersigned Organizations and Individuals below call on the AU member states to renew commitments to the ratification, domestication and full implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (‘The Maputo Protocol”).
2016 is the African Year of Human Rights with a special focus on the Rights of Women. It is also the 13th anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol which is one of the most progressive women’s human rights instruments in the world, with articles addressing the contextual realities of African women and girls including development, peace, violence against women and reproductive health amongst others. So far 49 states have signed and 37 have ratified it. 17 states are yet to do so.
The AU 2016 theme is an opportune moment when the world has just adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015 where world leaders including African Governments renewed their commitments towards realizing gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls everywhere.
It is therefore, only befitting that a continent, renowned for its leadership in advancing women’s rights, takes lead in renewing its commitment to women’s human rights, by taking bold steps and concrete actions for the betterment of its population.
Apart from having progressive policy frameworks at continental level, specific African countries have taken lead in advancing the rights of women. For example, Rwanda has overcome its troubled past and is a global leader on gender equality where public service and legislative appointments are concerned. The country has a women parliamentary majority of 64%. Namibia, South Africa and Kenya have the most progressive Constitutions that guarantee human rights generally and women’s rights in particular. Cape Verde, South Africa and Tunisia have enacted progressive laws on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). The results of these progressive polices and different countries taking lead on women’s rights are yielding results. Across Africa, mortality rates for children under the age of five have decreased by 37% since 1990, and maternal mortality has fallen by 42 percent. Almost all African countries have laws prohibiting violence against women.
While the continent has made notable gains on women’s human rights, their realization at scale, for majority of women and girls has been slow. Gender inequality remains the most flagrant threat to the realization of human rights in all African countries and beyond. This inequality results in women being the majority of the poor; the dispossessed; the unemployed and those whose bodies are daily violated with little or no redress. Majority of women lack control over land and assets, disproportionately shoulder the burden of unpaid care and labour, are more likely than men to have low wages and poor working conditions, experience unacceptably high levels of maternal mortality and face the prevalence of HIV and AIDS, FGM and early and forced marriage.
Globally, only half of women population of working age women participate in the labor force, compared to three quarters of men. In developing regions, up to 95 per cent of women’s employment is informal, in jobs that are unprotected by labor laws and lack social protection.
Your state is on the verge of making significant historic strides with your positive affirmation towards fulfilling the promise made to African women and girls to enhance and safeguard their rights.
In this regard, we call upon AU member states to:
- Work towards universal ratification of the Protocol. In particular, the 17 states yet to ratify are urged to do so, without reservations.
- Adopt a multi-sectoral approach that includes state and non-state actors to aid the domestication and holistic implementation of the Protocol including the provision of adequate financial resources.
- Lift reservations with respect to the Protocol’s provisions where the instrument was ratified with the same.
- Ensure that all States parties to the Protocol comply with their obligations under Article 26 (1) of the Protocol to submit periodic reports on the status of its implementation to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, and in line with the requisite guidelines.
- Commit to strengthening the country-specific monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess progress and impact of the implementation of the Maputo Protocol.
- Commit to allocate and deliver the required resources to facilitate the implementation of the Maputo Protocol and key processes for advancing the rights of women and girls.
- Adopt laws and policies focused on the advancement of women and girls aligned to the Protocol, Africa Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) especially Goal 5 on gender equality and empowerment of women as well as other gender targets and goals within the SDGs.
- Provide the requisite leadership and put in place institutional and political mechanisms as well as a roadmap for the implementation of key recommendations aimed at tackling illicit financial flows (IFFs)as defined in the High Level Panel Report by Thabo Mbeki. IFFs are drivers of inequalities and deprives Governments of resources required to finance policies and programmes aimed at fulfilling the human rights of women and girls and realization of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
We count on you to rise to the occasion in ensuring that the rights espoused in the Maputo Protocol are tangibly realized.
Dinah Musindarwezo, Executive Director, FEMNET
Faiza Mohamed, Director-Equality Now Africa Regional Office/ SOAWR Secretariat