By Justina Auta
Baobab for Women’s Human Rights (BAOBAB), an NGO, has called for the promotion of the human rights of women in Anglophone West-African (AWA) countries.
BAOBAB’s Executive Director, Ms Bunmi Dipo-Salami, made the call during a virtual regional convening of state and non-state actors in AWA with the theme, “Changing the course of women’s rights in West Africa with the Maputo Protocol”.
Dipo-Salami noted that the Maputo Protocol (MP) recognised 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.
“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 said.
She added that to achieve the ultimate goal of the protocol “which is that women and girls in Africa can fully enjoy their rights”, it should be incorporated in domestic laws to enable its full implementation in the region.
Similarly, Ms Olamide Falana, Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor on Gender, attributed some of the challenges in acceptance and implementation of the protocol to issues around cultural divides.
Falana, while referring to Article 14 of the protocol on the rights of women’s health, said that the discussion around safe abortion in Nigeria stemmed from cultural and religious perspectives where women did not have full autonomy over their bodies.
She said: “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.
Also, Mrs Olubunmi Adelugba, Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly, recalled that the MP was introduced to Nigeria by the African Union (AU) as 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 improved the lives of women and girls.
She noted that Ekiti had established some forms of laws for the protection of women as contained in the provisions of the MP.
“These laws are always active but the only problem they face is lack of reporting by the victims of injustices who are mainly women and girls.
“And this happens due to religious and cultural beliefs stigma. It is only when a case is reported that such laws will be in effect,” she said.
Ms Hanna Forster, Executive Director, African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) from Gambia, said lack of technical knowledge and expertise on reporting was a challenge that “persists across the five AWA countries.”
Forster, therefore, urged CSOs to sharpen their skills and become conversant with the guidelines developed by the African Commission for shadow reporting.
She also stressed the need to simplify and translate the protocol, as well as litigate and bring cases to the African Court of Justice and Human Rights or the ECOWAS Court of Justice if member states fell short of their commitments.
Also, Ms Lilian Ibeh, Programme Officer, Alliances for Africa (AFA) Nigeria, harped on the need for more strategies that would help the domestication of the protocol leveraging data, the media, and partnerships to address the issues.
NAN reports that the meeting 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 project is being implemented by the Initiative for Gender Equality and Development in Africa (IGED-Africa), Ghana; Young Liberian Women Organisation for Improvement (WOFIM), Liberia.
Others are Alliances for Africa (AfA), BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights and Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), in Nigeria.
The virtual conference was part of a Joint Cluster Advocacy Campaign by the AWA member organisations of SOAWR, a coalition of over 80 civil society organisations working across 33 countries in Africa.
The regional convening had in attendance 50 participants from the five AWA countries – The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Kevin Okunzuwa/Vivian Ihechu