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Lobbying for women's rights in Africa.

Members of women's rights organisations from across the continent came together in January 2008 to assess progress and challenges with regard to the ratification and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

The organisations are members of the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition, which convened this Review and Agenda Setting Meeting at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa on the theme: Building an Accountable African Union Government: Perspectives from the Women's Movement.

The meeting reflected on the national and continental campaign experiences to date with a view to laying down continental strategies for the full ratification and the effective implementation of the protocol on women's rights, which has yet to be ratified thirty countries.

The Coalition reaffirmed its commitment to work with the African Union, the member states and development partners in the pursuit of attaining women's rights in Africa. It called on the State Parties to:

* Ratify the Protocol without reservations and speedily domesticate and implement the provisions of the Protocol to ensure women enjoy all the rights therein

* Maintain gender mainstreaming within the African Union in the true spirit of having gender equality and ensure 50/50 representation at all levels of the African Union Commission as provided within the Constitutive Act

* Ratify the Protocol Establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights and, in the true spirit of human rights promotion and protection in Africa, follow the example of Burkina Faso and sign the declaration as provided in article 34(6) of the Protocol, thereby removing the restriction on direct access to the court by individuals and civil society organisations

* Take a common stand on trade negotiations with the European Union and refrain from bilateral/unilateral Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) which will compromise Africa's development and in particular negatively impact on the lives of women and children


* Open the African Union Summit spaces for the civil society organisations, by means of accreditation, thereby enabling them to effectively play their role as partners in development and human rights promotion. This would hence translted into the AU being truly an African People' Union that promotes participation of African Peoples and accoubtability.

The Coalition identified the following priority areas of action:

* To deliver support to countries that have taken the initiative to advance the ratification agenda and are in the domestication phase in the development of their domestic laws

* To takes steps through the African Court to set out laws that comply with the provisions of the protocol especially where religious, private law or custom conflict with the protocol

* To sustain substantial mobilisation of resources internally and externally in support of the women's rights agenda

* To continue engaging member states to offer support at the national and regional level to the ratification and implementation stages to make the process complete

* To continue outreach to women's organisations across the continent to join the campaign especially in regions with no member in the Coalition

* To continue to engage in advocacy and lobbying at the continental and national level to give life to the provisions of the protocol and bring meaning to full realisation of the rights of women that is credible and inclusive

* To increase capacity of and partnership with national and regional institutions in furthering women's issues

* To take cognisance of the multiple aspects of women's lives, including how women's diverse realities are included and excluded from public policy development and decision-making which are key issues to take on board in African women gaining their rights

* To address crosscutting issues such as Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights; HIV and Aids; Women's Political Participation; Peace and Conflict Resolution; Violence Against Women and Poverty at country and cross country level of the campaign.

* To juxtapose the protocol vis-a-vis the customary laws to help harmonise and determine which set of laws is applicable in a given case, which judicial system is most appropriate for trying the case and the extent to which other jurisdictions are expected to honour or enforce the outcome of the trial.

Sister Namibia is a member of the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition, and we were able to share our Sister Namibia magazines and the work we have started on Women's Sexual Rights in Namibia with the members from other countries. We congratulate Namibia's former Ombudswoman, Bience Gawanas, who was recently re-elected as Commissioner for Social Affairs in the African Union!

Adapted from the Communique of the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Meeting, Addis Ababa, 2008

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Title Annotation:WOMEN'S RIGHTS
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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