Call for Abstracts: The Future Belongs to Us – Revisiting African Women and Girls’ SRHR

 African Women’s Journal (AWJ): Deadline for Submission of Abstracts: 3rd December 2018
The Future Belongs to Us: Revisiting African Women and Girls’ Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights

“You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion”.

Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State


  1. Introduction

One of the biggest paradoxes of the “Africa Rising” narrative, and the vision of the “Africa We Want” by AU member states (also known as the AU Agenda 2063) is the stark reality of narrow and stultified spaces that women and girls largely occupy in these agendas, due to existing deficits in the achievement of their human rights. The human rights system in Africa and globally has advanced substantially in responding to these deficits however, as has been pointed out elsewhere, the remaining challenges are, to say the least, “daunting” (AU, 2017). None is more daunting than the continued gross violation of women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). SRHR touches on a woman and girl’s autonomy, choice, bodily integrity, capabilities, and freedoms, the absence of which results in a downward spiral in terms of economic, social and political entitlements and opportunities. How then can women and girls seize the future and play their role in the African renaissance in the face of these challenges? The narrative on the rights of women in Africa must change; a paradigmatic shift is required to ensure women are front and centre of development efforts; escalating the closure of gaps in the enjoyment of SRHR can significantly contribute to this.

  1. SRHR – The Backdrop

The SRHR arena represents a mosaic of complex and damaging social and cultural beliefs that degrade the status of women and girls, as well as negative and gendered notions of privilege and entitlements. The picture remains bleak with“1 in 3 women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lifetime[1]. In 6 countries there is no legal protection for women against domestic violence. In 2013, African women and girls accounted for 62% (179, 000) of all global deaths from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In sub-Saharan Africa women comprises the highest percentage of new HIV infections[2]. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and child, forced, early marriages are a reality for most girls and young women.

  1. Steps Forwards and Backwards: The Response to SRHR

African governments are not short of frameworks, norms and standards, as well as human rights mechanisms to guide their response to SRHR. It is almost 25 years since the groundbreaking International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was held resulting in a comprehensive Programme of Action (POA) calling for a holistic approach that recognizes that sexual and reproductive health services and programmes must be guided by the needs of, and must protect the human rights of individuals, especially women and girls. A year later in 1995 the Beijing Platform for Action reinforced this view, and almost a decade later the Maputo Protocol (2003) was adopted. Recently, AU members states in 2013 endorsed the Agenda 2063. These instruments and frameworks have been reinforced by UN and AU resolutions, and strategies, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requiring that critical timelines and benchmarks are met.
3.1 Ending FGM/C and Child, Early and Forced Marriage
The reality that must be tackled with renewed vision, depth and substance is that, at least 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM/C (UNFPA, UNICEF 2017). In context, the practice is most prevalent in countries along the Atlantic Coast of Africa to the Horn of Africa (ibid). 125 million African women and girls alive today were married before the age of 18 (AU, 2017) with resultant consequences, including sexual violence, lack of education, unsafe pregnancies, amongst others. There is evidence of decline in the practice must be leveraged, and lessons and success used to upscale efforts at eradication.
Public policy responses have focused on preventive measures aimed at behavior change, protection and care of survivors, and outlawing of these practices.  As of 2013, more than 24 countries on the continent had enacted legislation against FGM. Importantly there is recognition of the need to place strong emphasis on tackling the drivers including poverty, traditional and social beliefs, whilst adequately resourcing these responses. Programmatic interventions aim to galvanise points of influence from the bottom up and top down. In their publication “ 17 Ways to End FGM/C: Lessons from the Field”, UNFPA (2017) shows that strategies in different countries (including Guinea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso) are rooted in lived realities and harnessing influential actors and processes at national and local levels. Ensuring that these issues remain high on the continental agenda are AU Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, Special Envoy on Women Peace and Security, launch in 2014 of the Campaign to End Child Marriage, and the appointment of a Good Will Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage and a Special Rapporteur on Child Marriage.
3.2 Access to Safe Abortion
Compromised access to SRHR often result in unwanted or unsafe pregnancies, including premature deaths from preventable complications. According to WHO (cited in AU, 2017) developing regions account for approximately 99%of all maternal deaths. In 2015, roughly 66% of all maternal deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa (Ibid). Efforts are underway to reduce maternal mortality and there is evidence of decline; in Rwanda the maternal mortality ratio has dropped since 1990 from 1030 deaths per 100,000 live births to 390 deaths by 2015. A factor that contributes to decline and strengthens a woman’s choice and autonomy is access to safe abortion. Each year, 22 million unsafe abortions are estimated to take place. Nearly all unsafe abortions (98%) occur in developing countries (UNFPA, 2012). Approximately 47 000 pregnancy-related deaths are due to complications of unsafe abortion. 5 million women are estimated to suffer disability as a result of complications due to unsafe abortion (ibid).
The Continent, through Article 4 (2)(c) of the Maputo Protocol calls on State Parties to ensure medical abortion in cases of rape, incest, and where continued pregnancy would endanger the mental and physical health of the woman or foetus. The current trend is to highly restrict or criminalize abortion. The call is to decriminalize abortion, provide access to safe abortion, ensure choice of termination of pregnancy for women, and provide the necessary post abortion care. Public policy must thus address these dimensions

  1. Documenting Milestones, Going Forward – A Call for Abstracts

The 2018 Issues of the African Women’s Journal, under the theme “The Future Belongs to Us: Revisiting African Women and Girls’ Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights” we are seeking academic, biographical, case study, and activist submissions that will contribute towards advancing the discourse and practice in the response to SRHR. In particular submissions should focus on FGM/C, child, forced or early marriage, and access to safe abortion as well as financing and budget tracking of SRHR.
This Call for Abstracts is for ALL African countries – with countries of interest including Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Guinea Conakry, and Liberia.
The 25th anniversary of the ICPD PoA is coming up next year 2019. How can we, as African activists, contribute to moving forward this agenda and push for escalation of actions to meet commitments. How can we hold governments to account? Submissions are expected to focus on any of the following issues:-
Public policy and law

  • What advances have been made in bring international and regional norms& standards of SRHR to bear at national level? How has policy and law evolved? What lessons can be drawn?
  • Given the intersectional nature of SRHR in relation to other human rights – what concrete steps have been taken to ensure a cross cutting approach in policy and law in response to SRHR? For example is law entitling safe abortion linked to broader policy frameworks and legislation related to women’s sexuality and sexual rights?
  • Financing the SRHR response is key. To what extent have government fiscal policy frameworks mainstreamed gender equality and women’s empowerment, in particular adequately budgeting for an effective response to SRHR? What more needs to be done?


  • What state-led strategies to respond to SRHR have worked bottom up and top down to shift the status quo? What has not worked. What lessons can be drawn?
  • Are there good practices or case studies that demonstrate localized responses rooted in the context?
  • How have women movements in all their diversity played a role in pushing for the expansion of SRHR, what has worked and what has not? What are the lessons?

Guidelines for Abstract Submission: For those interested to submit articles, kindly send us an ABSTRACT of your article on or before 3rd December, 2018. The abstract should be written in English or French and must not be more than 200 words and should be emailed to
Authors will be notified if their abstract has been selected for full paper consideration. NB: Only writers with selected abstracts will be asked to submit a full article, which must be written in English or French and should be between 1,500 to 2,000 words (including notes and references). The article must be well researched with clear referencing using footnotes and providing a bibliography at the end. A guideline for referencing will be provided, and deadline for final submission of articles provided.  Deadline for submission of FULL ARTICLE will be 21st December 2018.
Please note the following key deadlines:
Abstract should be submitted by 3rd December 2018
Notification on selected abstracts by 7th December 2018
Full Article should be submitted by 21st December 2018
About the African Women’s Journal (AWJ)
The AWJ, published by FEMNET, generates debate, stimulates critical thinking and highlights diverse viewpoints on contemporary challenges and opportunities on gender equality and women’s rights in Africa. It is designed as a space for deep reflection and sharing, to energize and inspire activists and stakeholders in their quest to achieve full gender justice on the Continent. See previous AWJ issues on FEMNET’s website.

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