11th Anniversary: AU Women's Rights Protocol

Friday 11th July 2014 marks the 11th Anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (“The Maputo Protocol”) by AU states. It has been described by women’s rights law experts as one of the most progressive women’s human rights instruments in the world, with articles addressing inter alia development, peace, violence against women, sexual and reproductive health rights amongst others.

Owing to the efforts of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR) and its partners, the Protocol has garnered 48 signatures and 36 ratifications. Different states on the continent are in various stages of domesticating and implementing it.

The Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition (SOAWR) pays tribute to the commitment, determination and bravery of all the actors who have tasked it upon themselves in an ultimate display of passion to ensure that the rights guaranteed in the Maputo Protocol are recognized, respected and protected.

11e anniversaire: Protocole relatif aux droits des femmes de l'UA

Vendredi 11 Juillet 2014 marque le 11e anniversaire de l'adoption du Protocole à la Charte africaine des droits de l’Homme et des peuples relatif aux droits des femmes en Afrique (« Le Protocole de Maputo») par les Etats de l'UA. Décrit par les spécialistes des droits de la femme comme l'un des instruments les plus progressistes des droits humains des femmes dans le monde, il contient des articles portant sur le développement, la paix, la violence contre les femmes, les droits sexuels et de santé reproductive entre autres.

Grâce aux efforts du Mouvement de solidarité pour les doits des femmes africaines (SOAWR) et ses partenaires, le protocole a recueilli 48 signatures et 36 ratifications. Différents états du continent sont à divers stades de sa domestication et de sa mise en œuvre.

Le Mouvement de solidarité pour les droits des femmes africaines (SOAWR) rend hommage à l'engagement, la détermination et la bravoure de tous les acteurs qui, dans un affichage ultime de leur passion, se sont chargés de veiller à ce que les droits garantis par le Protocole de Maputo soient reconnus, respectés et protégés.
Social Media Engagement:
Join us, together with Make Every Woman CountEquality Now, & FEMNET in commemorating the 11th Anniversary of the Maputo Protocol and highlighting actions that AU member states should be taking to ensure that girls and women on the continent fully access their rights. 
If you want to express yourself in more than 140 characters, we welcome reflections and posts on Facebook, poems, songs, blog posts, articles, photos and more. As you share your thoughts, tag it with #MaputoProtocol11.
Here's a social media strategy with key messages and a mapping to help target your messages. 
We look forward to engaging with you online! Please also find some images that you can use.  

Engagement des medias sociaux:
Rejoignez Make Every Woman CountEgalité Maintenant et FEMNET pour la commémoration du 11e anniversaire du Protocole de Maputo et soulignant les mesures que les Etats membres de l'UA devraient prendre pour s'assurer que les filles et les femmes sur le continent puissent accéder pleinement à leurs droits.
Si vous voulez vous exprimer avec plus de 140 caractères, Nous vous invitons à partager vos réflexions et messages sur Facebook, vos poèmes, chansons, blogs, articles, photos et plus encore. N’oubliez pas de marquer vos  pensées avec la tague #MaputoProtocol11.
Vous trouverez ici une stratégie de médias sociaux avec des messages clés et une cartographie pour vous aider à cibler les messages.
Nous avons hâte de collaborer avec vous en ligne. Veuillez aussi  trouver quelques images que vous pourrez utiliser.
11 Years of the Maputo Protocol:  Women’s Progress and Challenges
By Faiza J. Mohamed
Eleven years ago, African states made formidable progress by jointly adopting the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the  Maputo Protocol - regarded as one of the most progressive women’s and human rights instruments in the world.  Its signing, ratification and implementation would have a momentous effect on the rights of women on a continent that has historically seen women bear the multiple brunt of poverty, exclusion and experience wars and civil unrests.  In the journey towards its adoption, the courageous women and men of this continent did not see this as a reason to shy away but rather felt that this was precisely why such a legal instrument was needed – as a way to hold governments to account on the rights of women and girls.
They saw it as a bridge to protecting women during armed conflict, ensuring a right to the education of women and girls all over the continent, as a step towards the right to participate in making decisions that regard them politically and socially, social and welfare rights for all including widows, the aged, the physically handicapped and distressed, just to name a few.  To achieve this progress meant that different African states had to work towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, do away with harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage that were limiting the potential of women and girls in the name of tradition and give women full access to information and justice in matters regarding reproductive rights but also in marriage, separation, divorce and annulment of marriage among others – not as a secondary but as an equal stakeholder.  These have been sensitive issues traditionally as well as religiously, and getting there was going to be an uphill task. 
Adopting a legal instrument is one thing, but ratifying or rather endorsing it officially is an additional process that required the same tireless women and men of the continent who believe in its potential to pick up their advocacy tools and convince different states to join in the campaign. After years of imperialism, concepts such as “rights” are at times misunderstood and either viewed with suspicion as “Western Concepts” - particularly by sensational African politicians. In order to break ground, campaigners needed to recruit women’s organizations that understood the context – organizations that work with women facing the challenges aforementioned on access to justice, who see the challenges faced by those who go through harmful traditional practices and who interact with those denied the right to make decisions that pertain to their own bodies and lives. There are now 44 organizations across 24 African countries that have joined the campaign to make sure that their governments ratify the Maputo Protocol and then implement and domesticate (make part of their own laws) the Articles within the instrument. This homegrown approach has borne fruits over the past 11 years. 
Read full article here.

Tracing the Birth of and Advocacy for the Ratification and Implementation of the AU Protocol on Women’s Rights

By Mary Wandia
11 years ago, on the 11th of July 2014, The African Union (AU) Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa was adopted. It is also known as the ‘Maputo Protocol’ alluding to the city where it was adopted, or the African Women’s Protocol (hereafter referred to as the Protocol). The Protocol addresses comprehensively, for the first time, women’s human rights in Africa and state obligations to uphold, protect and promote them. The Protocol enumerates a broad range of women’s rights, including the elimination of discrimination against women, the right to dignity, the right to life, the integrity and security of the person, the protection of women in armed conflicts, the right to education and training, economic and social welfare rights and health and reproductive rights. The main focus of the paper below is to provide a historical overview of the adoption, ratification and implementation of the Protocol and the role that the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR) has played. The paper concludes with a highlight of achievements that can be attributed to SOAWR’s interventions.
Read full article here.
Women’s Rights Litigation as an Avenue to Realization of the Protection Offered by the Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
By Jane Serwanga
The challenge of access to justice features prominently where rights of women are concerned. Though national and international legislative framework may offer protection to women’s rights, there may be failure in the legislation to recognize structural inequalities that place women at less than equal footing with men. African norms are characterized by deeply patriarchal values that manifest in most relationships, the effect of which may not adequately addressed legislation. However, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (hereafter ‘Maputo Protocol’) comes in to alleviate these barriers. Litigation in national courts is one of the ways that the provisions of the Protocol can be realized for it calls on state parties to take specific measures to address existing inequalities. For litigation to result in actual gains for women, it must be undertaken with a creative approach so that the spirit of the Protocol is upheld and the rights are eventually realized. However, in states where the Protocol is yet to be ratified, litigation can be designed to rely on other instruments that uphold its spirit.
Read full article here.

Why do you believe the AU Women's Rights Protocol is significant 11 years after its adoption?

What challenges exist at present in terms of realizing the rights enshrined in the protocol? 

How can some of the challenges identified in realizing the AU Women's Rights Protocol be mitigated?

More resources and reflective pieces can be accessed here: 
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Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) is a coalition of 44 civil society organizations across the continent working to ensure that the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa remains on the agenda of policy makers and to urge all African leaders to safeguard the rights of women through ratification and implementation of the Protocol.