Poised to ensure that women’s rights are upheld in Anglophone West-African (AWA) countries with the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), Baobab for Women’s Human Rights is set to champion this cause.
This formed the core of discussions at a virtual regional conference of state and non-state actors in Anglophone West Africa themed, ‘Changing the Course of Women’s Rights in West Africa with the Maputo Protocol’.
The conference was organised by Baobab with support from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) through Equality Now and the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR).
The virtual conference was part of a Joint Cluster Advocacy Campaign by the Anglophone West Africa member organisations of SOAWR, a coalition of over 80 civil society organisations working across 33 countries in Africa.
Executive Director of BAOBAB, Ms. Bunmi Dipo-Salami, said the Maputo Protocol is one of the most progressive legal instruments providing a comprehensive set of human rights for African women, noting that it recognises all human rights as women’s rights including the right to life, dignity, integrity, security, health and reproductive rights, access to justice, women’s political participation rights, among others.
According to her, the Protocol is against all forms of gender-based violence such as limited access to properties and child marriage.
“It also helps in access to education and health care for women in Africa. The protocol has done much since it came into force. However, there is still much to be done to ensure that women’s rights are fully protected and realised in practice,” she added.
Furthermore, she stressed that to achieve the ultimate goal of the Protocol, which is that women and girls in Africa fully enjoy their rights, it should be incorporated in domestic laws to enable its full implementation in the region.
In her keynote address, Special Adviser to the Ondo State Governor on Gender, Olamide Falana, attributed some of the challenges in acceptance and implementation of the protocol to issues around cultural divides.
Referencing Article 14 of the Protocol, which speaks to the right of women’s health, she explained that the discussion around safe abortion in Nigeria was a heated one, adding that it stems from cultural and religious perspectives whereby women do not have full autonomy over their bodies.
“It is one thing to have the protocol accepted, it is another for it to be a tool that everyone is willing to work with and use across cultural divides within a nation. As such, women still require consent from a man over issues pertaining to their bodies. Though the Protocol also speaks to the right of access to medical care, several factors affect a woman’s access to medical care. You can only demand medical care when it is available within your community. When it is not available, your right is limited,” she said.
Similarly, Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly, Olubunmi Adelugba, recalled that the Maputo Protocol was introduced to Nigeria by the African Union (AU) in an attempt to protect and promote women’s rights in West Africa.
Adelugba stressed the importance of political will in domestication and implementation of laws that improve the lives of women and girls, noting that Ekiti State has established many laws that model the protection of women as contained in the provisions of the MP.
“Ekiti State created some laws that protect women such as the Ekiti State Discrimination Against Person with Disabilities Law; Discriminations against Children and Compulsory Treatment Prohibition; Ekiti State Gender-Based Violence Law 2020; Creation of Sexual Assault and Referral Centres in Ekiti State; Name and Shame of Sexual Offenders Policy; Widowhood Law 2012; Ekiti State Equal Opportunities Law and they also have a gender-based violence committee, which is headed by the wife of the governor with support of the Commissioner, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in the state,” Adelugba said.
On her part, the Programmes Officer from Alliances for Africa (AFA) Nigeria, Lilian Ibeh, stressed the need for more strategies that would help the domestication of the protocol leveraging data, the media and partnerships to address the issues.
“Without domestication, there cannot be implementation, without implementation there cannot be evaluation. How can we access what we don’t have,” she queried.
The regional convening had in attendance 50 carefully selected participants from the five Anglophone West-African countries – The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.