International Women’s Day (IWD) 2016
Moving Women’s Rights from paper to reality
Nairobi, Kenya, 8 March 2016 – Despite Africa being recognised as having the most progressive women’s human rights and gender equality policy framework, African women are yet to fully realise their rights and involvement in decision-making is still not at an equal basis with men.
At the continental level, the African Union (AU) declared 2016 as the Year of Human Rights with special focus on the Rights of women’. The development agenda for Africa, AU Agenda 2063 recognises ‘women as a critical ingredient to Continental Development.’’ Africa is currently in its AU declared African Women’s Decade (2010-2020). These processes have been preceded by the AU Gender Policy that incorporates the 50-50 Gender parity rule; the principle of gender equality enshrined in the AU Constitutive Act in Article 4(1) and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, 2004.
In 2003, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), was adopted and as at January 2016, 38 (70%) out of 54 AU member States have ratified it. Most if not all constitutions in Africa have a provision on gender equality and recognition of women’s Rights.
It is clear that African governments recognise the need for gender equality. Laws, policies, institutions exist at all levels to move from rhetoric to implementation. The reality however is that despite the enabling framework, gender discrimination and violence against women in African societies is systematic and tolerated.
Women’s representation in parliament is often a sign of a country’s representation in governance. The Maputo Protocol in Article 9 further requires States to take steps to involve women in politics and decision-making. All African Countries with the exception of Rwanda have not attained 50% gender parity in their parliaments. However in addition to Rwanda, 5 others, (Seychelles, Senegal, South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique) have made progress or maintained large numbers of women representatives in parliament.
Until African governments focus on the developmental impact of gender inequality, then we will continue to have very well-written and detailed instruments, policies and declarations that fail to translate into any meaningful change to improve the lives of all women in Africa. Women are an integral part of Africa’s development agenda and when women and men are enabled to participate equally in society a shift in development gains is experienced.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the State of the Union Coalition (SOTU) is drawing attention to the implementation of the Maputo Protocol for realizing African women’s rights. SOTU has observed that while, “vital, ratification is not the ultimate driver of change at the national level. Implementation and domestication is the core of translating instruments into tangible results.” (SOTU Continental Compliance Report 2014, p.10 available at www.sotu-africa.org).
It is time for African Governments to shift from policy making to policy implementation of legal frameworks that are already in place. “What we want is actual change that is visible and people can point to and say my life if better because my government did this,” says, Osai Ojigho, SOTU Coordinator. “African governments’ commitment to addressing inequality for women is now beyond putting pen to paper. They must enhance existing implementation strategies or develop new models to make them a lived reality for women”. She concludes.
SOTU therefore calls on African Governments to:
- Support the full and universal ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) by urging the 16 AU Member States yet to ratify to do so. And for those that have ratified the Maputo Protocol to implement their commitments through meaningful and practical ways.
- Allocate adequate financial resources in their annual budgetary processes to ensure that public services aimed at improving women’s empowerment and gender equality are efficient and functioning. In particular, to facilitate the implementation of National Action plans on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment.
- Implement the AU 50/50 Gender Parity principle and representation in all structures, operational policies and practices thus enhancing equal participation in leadership and governance.
Victor Nyambok, SOTU Communications Officer: +254-722211819; firstname.lastname@example.org
The State of the Union Coalition (SOTU) is a coalition of civil society organizations working together to hold African Governments accountable for the ratification, domestication, and implementation of African Union (AU) instruments (i.e. treaties, protocols policy frameworks and standards). SOTU believes that the successful implementation of these instruments will have a remarkable and positive impact on the lives of millions of African citizens.
For more information:
Twitter: @SOTUAfrica @MyAfricanUnion
Address: The Atrium, Chaka Road, P O Box 40680, GPO (00100), Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254-20 282 0000