The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) is a regional network made up of 43 national, regional and international civil society organisations working towards the promotion and protection of Women’s Human Rights in Africa. Since its inauguration in 2004, SOAWR’s main area of focus has been to compel African states to urgently sign, ratify, domesticate and fully implement the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol. FEMNET is a founding member of the SOAWR coalition.

SOAWR founding members contributed to ensuring that the draft of the Protocol contained strong provisions on women’s rights and the subsequent advocacy activities of the coalition contributed to the Protocol’s status as one of the fastest AU instruments to enter into force. Since then, SOAWR members have played a critical role in translating and disseminating the Protocol in local African languages, developing and disseminating the Guidelines for Reporting on the Protocol, supporting the drafting of the General Comments on Article 14, capacity building for lawyers and government officials, supporting impoverished and marginalized women and girls in their efforts to claim their rights, and, more broadly, monitoring the status of ratification and implementation of the Protocol and advocating for and supporting accelerated efforts to make its provisions a reality for African women.

Ten years after the Protocol’s adoption (July 11, 2003), only 36 out of 54 African Union member states have ratified it.

As of July 2013, 36 countries have ratified the Protocol. The following countries are yet to ratify: Algeria, Botswana, Burundi, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger, Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Tunisia.

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For more information, please go to the SOAWR Website.

Credits: FEMNET Photo Library

Join & Follow Panel Discussion: Implement NOW #WomensRights Commitments #26thAUSummit

African leaders have endorsed human rights in national, regional, continental and international instruments. However, the effective implementation of key AU human rights instruments, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, by the majority of member states is still lagging behind the agreed targets. Upholding of human and women’s rights remains a responsibility of all stakeholders but most especially a primary responsibility of Governments who are the duty bearers. Thus the 2016 AU theme African Year of Human Rights, with specific focus on Women’s Rights” provides an opportunity for the African leaders with strong participation of civil society, especially African women and other actors to assess the implementation of these key instruments and redefine the future of the continent and its population – men and women, boys and girls.

Survivors Speak OUT!

Survivors Speak OUT!
By Nebila Abdulmelik

“I was beyond repair. But there is no beyond for God.” Those were the powerful and profound words of one of many survivors who courageously recounted harrowing tales today at a Public Forum on the AU Protocol organized by COVAW-Kenya on behalf of the SOAWR Coalition. The forum was held in Arusha in solidarity with the Africa UNiTE Campaign and in the margins of the Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb.

Over 200 women were in attendance, and the energy in the room was palpatable. Emotions were high as incidences of gender based violence were shared. Many of the incidences resulted in loss of property, loss of rights to inheritance, sexual and gender based acts of violence during post election violence in Kenya, unsafe abortion, and lack of economic clout among many other aspects. Most, if not all of these issues raised are addressed in the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which is why it becomes even more important for African citizens to be aware of it, and to push for its signature, ratification and implementation within their various contexts. Ofcourse laws don’t usually have an immediate effect in terms of practices, as those are too often entrenched in generations and mindsets, however having a legal framework in place is a step in the right direction.

It is worth emphasizing and over-emphasizing that GBV or VAW isn’t simply physical. It is and can be manifested in various other aspects, including emotionally, economically, and politically. Perhaps we focus on the physical because that is the most evident.

Hearing such appalling experiences of VAW brings a human face to campaigns such as UNiTE. It highlights the urgency of zero tolerance, the urgency of NOW. The urgency not only of Speaking OUT and Breaking The Silence, but of taking action. Of each and every one of us taking responsibility; responsibility for the way we raise our sons, the values we instill in our brothers, the way we treat our sisters and our daughters.

Let us UNiTE to bring an end to such a heinous crime until we can say that no man or woman suffers from it. If not us, who? If not now, when?

Nebila Abdulmelik is the Associate Advocacy Officer at FEMNET. She can be reached at prog-associate@femnet.or.ke. Connect with her on twitter @aliben86 or aliben86.wordpress.com