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[afro-nets] Building Power for Women's Rights

Building Power for Women's Rights
---------------------------------

Pambazuka News 224: The changing development discourse in Africa
From: pambazuka-news@pambazuka.org

BUILDING POWER FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Closing Statement From A Conference On The Protocol On The
Rights Of Women Over 40 representatives from the African Union
Commission, African governments and the African women's movement
gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from September 27-29, 2005 to
discuss strategies for the entry into force of the Protocol to
the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights
of Women, its domestication and implementation. The representa-
tives affirmed that the Protocol is indeed the basis for mean-
ingful people driven pan-Africanism and national level constitu-
tional and legal reform in favour of realising African women's
rights.

* Closing Statement from the Conference on Ratification and Do-
mestication of The African Union Protocol to the African Charter
on Human and Peoples Rights on Rights of Women in Africa Co-
convened by the African Union Commission and the Solidarity for
African Women's Rights Coalition (SOAWR)

Final version 30th September 2005

The speed with which member states have ratified the Protocol is
without precedent in the history of similar instruments. To
date, 13 African states have ratified the Protocol. Only two
more ratifications are required for the Protocol to enter into
force. We are confident that the required number will ratify the
Protocol by the end of the year. We shall maintain our focused
pressure to ensure that the Protocol is ratified by all 53-
member states of the African Union at the earliest opportunity.
Below is a summary of the strategies and recommendations in five
thematic areas

A. Ratification

Even though the entry into force of the Protocol is imminent,
the campaign must continue in order to ensure universal ratifi-
cation.

Following are the strategies identified:-
. Mobilization for country wide advocacy
. Translation of the Protocol into local languages
. Reform national legislation consistent with the Protocol
. Sensitization of all the arms of government
. Forging alliances between the various stakeholders
. Inclusion of the Protocol in the law reform processes
. Use of community based awareness creation initiatives
. Engagement of the AU and its specialised organs to support the
  campaign

B. The Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, July
2004

We note that supplementary accountability mechanisms are found
within the Solemn Declaration on Gender in Africa. The Solemn
Declaration relates to the Protocol in a manner comparable to
the relationship of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPA) to the
Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination against
Women (CEDAW).

We laud the AU Commission for developing a draft monitoring and
evaluation framework as well as a draft reporting framework
(with targets and indicators), spelling out the role of the Af-
rican women's movement, to be approved by a meeting of Ministers
of Gender and Women's Affairs to take place in Dakar, Senegal
from October 12-16, 2005. The proposal is that African states
will prepare two kinds of reports: a full narrative report every
three years; and a comparative report annually in the form of a
matrix responding to the targets and indicators selected. The
African women's movement will know the reporting dates for their
respective states and also be able to access and respond to
their state's reports from the AU website as well as to forward
general and specific recommendations. The African Women's move-
ment will also be able to participate through the annual African
women's fora around the AU summits, which are being institution-
alised.

We propose the following strategies to enhance accountability
under the Solemn Declaration:
. Liaising across the relevant AU commission and relevant organs
of the AU
. Engaging with the meeting of Ministers of Gender/Women's Af-
fairs re: the Solemn Declaration to take place in Dakar, Senegal
from October 12-16, 2005
. Reviewing and using the monitoring and evaluation mechanisms
developed by the AU's Directorate on Women, Gender and Develop-
ment
. Developing the capacity within national gender machineries to
monitor implementation (including resourcing for implementation)
. Inform the terms of reference for mandate and appointments to
the AU Women's committee
. Establishing working links between the AUWC and the gender
sectoral cluster of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council
(ECOSOCC)
. Convening the annual African women's Consultation at an appro-
priate point prior to each Summit

C. Domestication of the Protocol

We reiterate the fact that much remains to be done to ensure
universal ratification of the Protocol, as well as its domesti-
cation in African states that have already ratified it and, ul-
timately, its relevance and use to assure African women's rights
at the national level. We have examined the different legal sys-
tems that exist in Africa and note that African states must take
the initiative for domesticating the Protocol although nothing
impedes the African women's movement from doing so either.

Regardless of whether or not domestication has occurred, African
states which have ratified the Protocol will be obliged to sub-
mit regular reports to the African Commission on Human and Peo-
ples' Rights every two years on implementation, which then can
prepare observations, including recommendations, which African
states will report on in another two years.

We have therefore identified the following strategies to advance
domestication and accountability:
. Working with national parliaments as well as those of the Re-
gional Economic Communities (RECs) on domestication and harmoni-
sation, especially under African common law systems
. Strategic utilisation of international events to reach the de-
cision making organs of states and governments
. Forming regional networks for exchange of ideas and best prac-
tices in the campaign
. Encouraging member states to include the Protocol in their law
reform processes and particularly in Constitutional review proc-
esses
. Encourage the Addis based Ambassadors to advise national capi-
tals on the necessity for urgent ratification and initiate dis-
cussion on the steps required for domestication of the protocol.

D. Popularisation of the Protocol

It is critical to ensure that African women everywhere are aware
of the Protocol and its provisions so as to avail themselves of
the opportunities provided by it. We suggest a number of strate-
gies for the African Union and African states to assist in this
process of conscientisation including:
. Convene high-level events around the Protocol to be covered by
the African and international media
. Encourage high-level government officials to speak in favour
of the Protocol
For the African women's movement, we need to:
. Convene regional and national meetings of the African women's
movement around the Protocol
. Create alliances between women parliamentarians and parliamen-
tary groupings-regionally, sub-regionally and nationally
. Develop clear targets and indicators for the Protocol and
conducting/disseminating research showing the gap between these
targets and indicators and the reality on the ground
. Conduct and disseminate research around coverage of the Proto-
col and its provisions in the African media and engaging with
the African media on the basis of that research
. Engage with African women's media organisations, particularly
sub-regional ones, including through sharing information on the
Protocol and training on how to cover it and its provisions
. Campaign in the African media through both the strategic
placement of self-generated content as well as pro-active use of
other opportunities (for example, invitations to speak during
interviews) and lobbying for those opportunities with the Afri-
can media
. Ensure coverage by the African media of key meetings (for ex-
ample, AU summits) through cyber dialogues, press releases,
press conferences during these meetings and involvement of ap-
propriate staff from the African media in all meetings (relevant
media persons, analysts, commentators, feature writers)
. Ensure engagement with diverse media, particularly community
media (for example, community radio) so as to reach the broadest
base possible of African women
. Feed into other campaigns (for example, the annual 16 Days of
Activism against Gender based Violence, 25th November to Decem-
ber 10th) and engagement with key campaign organisations around
the issues covered by the Protocol

E. Mobilizing Resources for the Protocol's Implementation

It will be particularly important to ensure that adequate re-
sources are available for the Protocol's implementation at the
national level. We thus propose the following strategies around
resource mobilization for the Protocol's implementation:
. Identify non-monetary actions that can be taken by Governments
to implement the Protocol including the removal of all discrimi-
natory laws
. All states to support the establishment of a Special Rappor-
teur on Laws that discriminate against women by the UN Commis-
sion of Status of Women (UN Resolution 49/3) by March 2006
. Identify easy 'quick wins' for initial budgetary allocations
for African states
. Identify core costing obligations arising from the Protocol's
provisions through partnerships with Gender Budget Initiatives
at the national level
. Develop facts and arguments for the budgetary demands
. Building alliances among relevant civil society constituencies
as well as with appropriate entry points in national executives
and parliaments
. Promote public debate on budgetary demands (for example, taxa-
tion and expenditure reviews)

F. Litigation and Negotiation around the Protocol

The Protocol is a legal instrument for the protection of African
women's rights. But it is a legal skeleton, requiring court ac-
tion to give it blood and flesh. For it to become relevant and
useful at the national level, participants discussed legal
strategies to fast-track its implementation including strategic
litigation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Strategic litigation includes constitutional test cases to de-
termine and address legal barriers to the Protocol's realisation
so as to fast-track the law reform process required under domes-
tication and harmonisation. Participants here noted new ways of
asserting/pleading constitutional human rights provisions under
international human rights law, namely though: the theory of le-
gitimate expectation; the Bangalore principle; and the interpre-
tive principle.

We identified the following strategies:
. Supporting African women's organisations offering strategic
litigation
. Carrying out strategic litigation around the Protocol and
sharing jurisprudence continentally
. Supporting any court case impacting on women's rights includ-
ing amicus curiae brief preparation
. Using ADR to advance the Protocol where appropriate
. Carrying out judicial training on the Protocol
. Engaging with law schools and bar associations on the Protocol
. Advocating around the appointments to the African Court
. States to sign declaration enabling individuals and civil so-
ciety to file cases at the African Court
. Partnering with the Coalition on the African Court on the
establishment and the appointment of judges to it that are com-
petent in African women's rights
. Increase the number of nominations to the African Court by No-
vember 30, 2005 - of the 14 nominations received only four are
from women so far.

Maintaining Momentum on the Protocol

Many challenges clearly persist with respect to realising the
Protocol. While the Protocol is not a 'gift' but concerns Afri-
can women's rights, its realisation will require commitment and
creativity. It will require 'building power' nationally and re-
gionally which entails expanding constituencies, being well-
structured and informing ourselves about the opportunities for
its advancement that already exist. It will also require consis-
tent, strategic and sustained pressure on African states for its
entry into force, its universal ratification, its domestication
and implementation. We hereby promise our continued engagement
in these processes and urge the engagement of all else con-
cerned. 

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