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The Maputo Protocol : a Journey to Equality

Throughout Africa, women and girls face multiple and intersecting inequalities and forms of discrimination. They lag furthest behind on every gender and development indicator for which data is available. The challenges of women and girls in Africa are inter-connected and a complex mix of normative, structural, socio-cultural and operational issues, (as identified since the Beijing Conference through numerous global and regional conventions), and some of which are deepening including the re-negotiation of basic rights to education, health, decision-making. In addition, we continue to see flagrant cases of violence and abuse, including child marriage, female genital mutilation, exploitation of domestic workers, human trafficking among others.

But women are not just victims, they are also labor force, thinkers, doers, change makers and producers of values. There is indeed no doubt as to the leadership, resilience, courage and innovation of women and girls, what is missing, is the requisite infrastructure to support these strengths, the systematic enforcement of progressive legislation to enable them fully enjoy their rights, and the removal of the barriers that inhibit them from reaching their full potentials. African member countries have demonstrated their commitment and are taking important steps to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment by acceding to key international and regional instruments and integrating gender into national policies, planning, programmes and legislative frameworks. In doing so, they thereby recognize the centrality of gender equality to the achievement of socio-economic and political development. Through these actions, they affirm that gender equality and women’s empowerment are not only development goals in their own right, but also means to achieve development results.

Although at a slow pace, there is momentum towards a transformative policy environment that embodies the key principles of international and regional instruments on gender equality and thus informs Africa’s political and development priorities. More specifically, the central role of women and the need to ensure their full and equal participation in all areas is reflected in a number of instruments, both international and regional.

The national reports of the African Gender and Development Index have confirmed that the promotion of gender equality and empowerment remains a major struggle wrapped in a myriad of complex challenges; this should not prevent continued advocacy and struggle for the relevant implementation of those instruments.

It is encouraging to know that the Constitutive Act of the rehabilitated African Union that replaced the Organization of African Unity and the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights have made it easier for women’s rights defenders to press more openly for the more vigorous implementation of the instruments.

It must be noted that civil society organisations are increasingly active in the promotion of women’s rights, and that States are incorporating this issue into national development policies and strategies.

The new challenges that are emerging at present are : 1) the taking of appropriate measures to ensure women’s representation in decision-making bodies at all levels ; 2) the greater involvement of women in political and activist organizations, the strengthening of women’s capacities in politics (communication in politics, governance, leadership); 3) the mobilization of financial resources allocated to the promotion of gender. Once this trilateral axis has been fully covered, it will be more evident that the promotion and inclusion of women will become a reality in Africa. Women’s rights organisations and coalitions such as Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour la Gouvernance et le Développement should be supported to monitor the implementation of the Protocol. In this regard, they should be financially supported to participate in meetings for the Commission and to prepare shadow reports when country reports are being determined.

The journey of the Maputo protocol is a long and painful strive which should be empowered and not neglected. Women should be kept as core area of concern in policy making around the continent for the five coming decades.

The vision of the Maputo Protocol must continue to be upheld, promoted and forwarded the future generations so that we will realize a fair society in Africa, and beyond, in which women and men, boys and girls, have equal rights under the laws and full enjoyment of their human rights in all aspects and at all stages of their lives.


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