Commissioner Soyata MAIGA
Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa
55th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
28 April - 12 May 2014
In accordance with the provisions of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), this report gives an account of the promotion activities undertaken since the 54th Ordinary Session of the Commission held in October 2013 in Banjul, The Gambia.
The report includes activities carried out in my capacity as:
1. Commissioner; and
2. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa.
I - Activities conducted in my capacity as Commissioner
1. Addis Ababa: 27 - 29 January 2014
I attended the 24th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union.
2. Addis Ababa: 30 - 31 January 2014
I attended the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.
3. During the mission in Addis Ababa, I met with a delegation from the EU and discussed the collaboration between the EU and the Commission regarding the capacity-building of members of the Secretariat and EU support to special mechanisms of the Commission.
4. 7 - 14 March 2014
I participated in the 15th Extraordinary Session of the Commission held in Banjul, The Gambia, during which several Communications were considered on seizure, admissibility and merits. During the Session, the Commission also adopted resolutions on the human rights situation in some countries, concluding observations and other reports and documents of special mechanisms.
II- Activities conducted in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa
A - Collaboration with States Parties
5. 13 -18 January 2014
I participated in a joint promotion mission of the mechanism of the Special Rapporteur and the Chairperson of the Commission which took place in Libreville, Gabon. We met with the country’s highest authorities, women’s NGOs and human rights organisations.
The report of the mission, including recommendations to the various stakeholders towards the effective promotion and protection of women’s rights, will be presented to the Commission during its private session.
B – Seminars and meetings with civil society organisations and other institutions and partners working in the area of women’s rights promotion
6. 13 - 15 November 2013
I participated in Luanda, Angola, in a workshop/training seminar organised by an Angolan NGO, AJPD and Open Society. The training seminar brought together Angolan NGOs and government representatives. The issues discussed included the African human and peoples’ rights system, and the Commission’s relationship with NGOs and NHRIs.
7. Participants were briefed on the Commission’s Communication procedure, and the mandate and activities of the Commission’s special mechanisms on the rights of women and the rights of human rights defenders.
8. Participants shared the experiences of the national human rights commissions of South Africa and Mozambique. Participants also discussed issues relating to the need for Angola to establish a national human rights commission.
9. Several recommendations were adopted, in particular regarding respect for human rights by States Parties, and the need for greater synergy between the Commission and other human rights promotion and protection stakeholders in Africa.
10. 21 - 24 November 2013
I participated, at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, in a prize award ceremony at the invitation of the Chirac Foundation Prize for Conflict Prevention. A prize was awarded to Dr Musenge of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Special Prize of the Jury for Conflict Prevention was awarded to Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), a women’s NGO, for its efforts to combat violence against women and activities to address security challenges faced by women in African countries in conflict, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
11. 6 - 7 December 2013
I participated, at the Orsay Museum in Paris, in the meeting of African First Ladies on gender-based violence in Africa. The meeting brought together the media and African women’s NGOs working in the area of gender-based violence. Testimonies on the situation of sexual violence in the Central African Republic and Libya were given by victims, and several first ladies made statements on commitments made in their respective countries to promote women’s rights and combat gender-based violence.
At the end of the meeting, the Paris Declaration was adopted to serve as a roadmap for future joint activities towards eradicating gender-based violence, particularly in countries in conflict.
12. 10 December 2013
I participated, at Quai d’Orsay in Paris, in a seminar on violence against women organized by Ms Patrizianna Sparacino, French Ambassador for Human Rights. The meeting was attended by representatives of Amnesty International, UN Women, and national NGOs to combat violence against women. The discussions focused on the challenges faced by women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including access to justice and reparation. Participants also shared the experience of Ms Julienne Lusenge, a women’s rights activist and Director of the NGO Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises which conducts its activities in Goma and Bukavu.
13. I made a presentation on my mandate as Special Rapporteur and lessons learned, and on the Commission’s protection mandate.
Participants underscored the need for collaboration between government representatives and NGOs towards greater efficiency and the effective implementation of regional and international instruments at the country level.
14. 23 - 24 January 2014
I attended the 23rd GIMAC pre-summit consultative meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. About one hundred representatives of civil society and women’s and youth’s organizations discussed the theme of “Women in Agriculture and Food Security” and other crucial issues such as the post-2015 agenda, reproductive right and health, emerging conflicts in Africa, climate change and climate justice.
15. The main theme of “Women in Agriculture and Food Security” is closely linked to the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls. Indeed, women contribute more to food security in Africa, particularly in rural areas. However, while women play a major productive role in sustaining food security in communities and countries, they are still expected to remain physically strong in their reproductive role. Unfortunately, women often experience multiple, early, poorly-monitored and poorly-planned pregnancies without any form of social or health protection, and are at the same time involved in farm work, house chores and other family activities.
Recommendations were made towards ensuring women’s physical safety and women’s effective involvement in agricultural policies and access to land, farm products and credit.
16. 28 January 2014
I participated, in Addis Ababa, at the launch of the Women’s Platform for Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework 2014-2026, under the theme “Women have the Solutions”.
17. The platform led by Ms Mary Robinson, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region and former President of Ireland, is tasked with ensuring that women of the DRC and the region are committed to implementing the 2013 framework agreement aimed at achieving lasting peace in the Great Lakes region.
18. In order to contribute towards achieving lasting peace, the platform needs to strengthen the activities of NGOs working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
The objectives of the platform are as follows:
1- Provide support to NGOs by granting subsidies;
2- Bring together groups of beneficiaries for collective action and experience sharing;
3- Communicate successes made by women’s groups and advocate for donors to increase resources for women’s organizations and community-based solutions.
19. Several personalities attended the ceremony and spoke on challenges relating to peace and women’s capacity-building. They included: the ECA Executive Secretary, the Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Ms Zainab Bangura – Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, representatives of technical and financial partners, and gender ministers from Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
20. The discussions focused on the need to effectively implement, using sufficient resources, UN Resolution 1325 in countries in conflict by involving more women and ensuring women’s greater participation in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction.
21. 23 - 26 March 2014
I was invited to serve as a panel member at the global leaders’ conference on sexual and reproductive health protection under the theme “Uniting for Safe Legal Abortion”, organized in Washington DC by technical and financial partners in the area of abortion, including IPAS, WHO and Centre for Reproductive Rights.
22. The aim of the conference was to enable legal and health experts, government activists and representatives, and international policy makers to review the high, intolerable and avoidable global maternal mortality linked to unsafe abortions. The objective was also to lay emphasis on legal issues by mainstreaming human rights into country policies, plans and programmes towards reversing current trends.
23. I was invited to highlight the role and contribution of the Commission, in particular the mechanism of the Special Rapporteur, to awareness by States Parties of their responsibility to prevent maternal mortality and unsafe abortion trauma suffered by women and girls in Africa.
24. The discussions focused on lessons learned from the work of the mechanism, issues relating to the Commission’s mandate and the need for NGOs to work more to popularize the Maputo Protocol, as well as the urgent need for the Commission to advocate more for African countries to amend restrictive laws that are inconsistent with the provisions of Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol on sexual and reproductive health.
25. Participants commended the Commission and its special mechanism for their frank and constructive dialogue with States Parties on sensitive issues regarding some groups of the population and lauded the new initiative of adopting General Comments on various issues towards making States to further comply with their obligations under ratified instruments.
26. 1 - 2 April 2014
I was invited by WHO to participate in a seminar organized in Geneva on the theme “promoting health and human rights standards towards safe abortion”. The key objective of the seminar was to enhance participants’ knowledge of the WHO 2012 “Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems”.
27. The aim of my participation was to discuss the work of regional and international treaty monitoring bodies in order to assist them in using WHO guidance materials and to enable WHO to incorporate regional and international standards when reviewing such materials.
C- Notes verbales / Reminders to States Parties
28. Notes verbales were sent to the Governments of Rwanda, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea requesting for promotion missions. I am still awaiting confirmation from the above Governments.
29. Just like in the past, reminders were sent to countries that have not yet ratified the Maputo Protocol, eleven years after the instrument was adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in July 2003.
30. It should be recalled that to date 38 countries have ratified the Maputo Protocol and that no country has yet submitted a periodic report which takes into account the Commission’s guidelines on the implementation of the instrument.
31. A statement was issued on 8 March 2014 on the occasion of the International Women’s Day on the theme chosen by the UN General Assembly. The statement was widely disseminated among civil society organisations and States Parties.
Drafting of documents
32. My mechanism worked on the second Draft General Comments on Article 14(2) of the Maputo Protocol on sexual and reproductive health which will be considered by the Commission during its private session.
Conclusion and Recommendations
33. Since the last Ordinary Session, there have been several significant developments at the national, regional and international levels involving government stakeholders, technical and financial partners and women’s NGOs and organisations regarding emerging trends and challenges faced by girls and women in Africa. As such, women meeting within the framework of GIMAC made relevant recommendations on measures to be taken by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.
The African Union:
- Urge Member States that have not yet done so to ratify or expedite the ratification of the Maputo Protocol;
- Encourage Member States that have ratified the Protocol to implement it and to submit without delay their periodic reports to the Commission taking into account the Commission’s guidelines to that effect.
- Urge countries that have not yet done so to report annually on progress made in terms of mainstreaming gender into national policies and programmes in accordance with Item 12 of the AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.
- Encourage States to include women in peace negotiation and dialogue commissions and awareness-raising campaigns aimed at achieving peace and security in countries in conflict.
- Expedite the implementation of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa and, for States that have not yet done so, expedite the ratification and implementation of the Maputo Protocol.
- Introduce laws and plans of action to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 with the aim to put an end to violence against women and girls, and allocate sufficient financial resources for the implementation of conflict prevention programmes and activities.
- Strengthen peace initiatives on the continent and ensure women’s full and equal participation in conflict resolution, in particular regarding the crisis in South Sudan and Central African Republic.
- Take concrete steps to promote women’s access to land and prioritise innovation, science and technology in order to boost agricultural production and improve women’s economic situation.
- Adopt a human rights approach and mainstream gender equality and women’s empowerment into the objectives of the African Common Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda by referring to the Maputo Protocol and other relevant legal instruments.
- Ensure the effective protection of women and girls against discrimination and gender-based violence by setting up effective humanitarian intervention mechanisms that guarantee appropriate social assistance and available and operational legal remedies.