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Maputo Protocol: Celebrating 20 years of one of world’s most progressive Women Rights treaties by Bunmi Dipo – Salami

Bunmi Dipo-Salami

By Bunmi Dipo-Salami

On 11 July 2003 in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), defining the rights of women and girls across Africa. Just two years later, the Protocol entered into force as a result of the efforts of the members of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition which ensured the ratification of the instrument by the 15 countries required. Considered one of the world’s most comprehensive and progressive women’s human rights instruments, the universal ratification of the Maputo Protocol will guarantee full protection for all women and girls in Africa and consequently improve the prosperity of Member States.

It has been 20 years since this historic feat was achieved. 20 years of grind by feminists, women’s human rights advocates and positive men across the continent to breathe life into the Protocol, 20 years of uncertainty, 20 years of slow progress, and 20 years of sustained advocacy to actualise the raison d’être of the treaty. During the period under review, there were evolving contexts that necessitated the curation of varied strategies to ensure the ratification train does not stop moving. Currently, 44 out of the 55 countries of the AU have ratified the Protocol.  Although there have been some gains resulting in some change in the lives of some women and girls, the lack of domestication of the treaty has led to low or even no implementation in most of the countries, thereby leaving women and girls unprotected, and putting those countries at risk of low development and poverty.

With over 80 CSOs in 33 African countries, including Nigeria, the SOAWR Coalition which was established in 2004 has the vision that African women fully enjoy their rights as provided for under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. The mission of the Coalition is to hold African Union Member States accountable and enhance partnership to fulfil their obligations under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa; and encourage other stakeholders to actively apply the Protocol for the promotion and protection of the rights of women. SOAWR has contributed significantly to the progress attained so far and has continued to champion sustained advocacy for universal ratification, domestication and implementation of the Maputo Protocol, and accountability of Member States on their commitments. 

In collaboration with the AU and the Government of Kenya, SOAWR is organising a two-day High-Level meeting in Nairobi, Kenya on 10th & 11th July 2023 with the theme: “Accelerating Promises for African Women and Girls” in commemoration of the two decades of this significant milestone. The objectives of the meeting are to:

  • Celebrate the gains made since the adoption of the Maputo Protocol and specifically to take stock of how the lived realities of women and girls in Africa have been impacted by its ratification, domestication, and implementation.
  • Advocate for the universal ratification, domestication, implementation, and accountability of the Maputo Protocol.
  • Collaboratively assess the situation of women’s rights in Africa, the gaps, threats, challenges, and opportunities, and identify long-term strategies for addressing them.
  • Enhance inter-generational exchanges and future-proof the SOAWR Coalition to position it to effectively advocate for the enjoyment, by all women and girls in Africa, of all the rights espoused by the Maputo Protocol. 

Baobab for Women’s Human Rights (BAOBAB) is an active member of the SOAWR Coalition, linking hands with other members at the national and regional levels to popularise the Protocol and push for the domestication of this incredible women’s rights framework in Nigeria and other countries in the region, through research and documentation, sensitisation, advocacy campaigns, capacity enhancement, strategic partnerships and alliances. The organisation is currently the Cluster Lead for Anglophone West Africa on the Steering Committee of SOAWR.

We will join other participants at the high-level celebratory convening, including representatives of AU Member States and the African Union Commission; SOAWR Coalition members and other CSOs, as well as development partners and other stakeholders to heighten advocacy around the Maputo Protocol. In the build-up to the anniversary, the organisation had carried out series of activities to advocate for the domestication of the Maputo Protocol, including a training workshop for journalists, a virtual regional convening and Twitter Spaces to sensitise stakeholders, especially women, on the provisions of the Protocol. We will continue to engage all necessary stakeholders through open discussions and collaborations throughout the year to ensure that the advocacy for the domestication of the Maputo Protocol remains at the front burner. 

On this occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Protocol, BAOBAB calls on the leadership of the National Assembly through its President, H. E Senator Godswill Akpabio to consider the domestication of Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in the interest of Nigeria. As we all know, a nation prospers only when the lives of women are meaningful across board.

Bunmi Dipo-Salami is Executive Director of BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights & Chair, 20th Anniversary Planning Committee of SOAWR