Women’s rights in Africa – new evidence to inform faith based advocacy

KIT Gender together with Faith to Action Network and others has published a groundbreaking pan-African review of the current status of implementation of continental commitments on women’s rights.

This report will help faith actors’ advocacy and awareness creation. 2018 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, adopted in 2003. This anniversary offers an excellent opportunity to take stock of gaps and contestations around the realisation of women and girls’ rights, and to identify where progress needs to be accelerated. This report informs and strengthens effective advocacy efforts and strategies of civil society including faith actors towards implementation of the Maputo Protocol and Plan of Action and the realisation of women and girls’ rights in sexual and reproductive health.

Africa’s women’s rights continue to evolve and become stronger and stronger. The African Union has a strong and comprehensive normative and institutional framework on gender equality and women and girls’ rights. Five of the eight Regional Economic Communities have a normative and institutional framework on gender equality and women and girls’ rights in place: ECOWAS, EAC, IGAD, SADC and COMESA. These are binding commitments in the case of ECOWAS (Supplementary Act of 2015), SADC (Protocol on Gender and Development, updated in 2016) and COMESA (Revised Gender Policy of 2016). For EAC, the Gender Equality Bill is to be passed, and this will be binding once this happens. The IGAD Gender Policy Framework is not binding. Most normative frameworks are recent or have recently been updated and amended, to align with the Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2063 and other key continental and international agendas and frameworks.

What's new in this report?

Earlier reports have tracked the current status of ratification and domestication of the Maputo Protocol and the Maputo Plan of Action. Few of these explore the pathways by means of which rights are operationalised in practice, through laws, policies, administration, budgets and programmes.

The report complements existing reports and reviews by:

  • Focusing specifically on sexual and reproductive health issues, and doing this in a comprehensive and holistic way
  • Bringing in and strengthening a gender and rights perspective, by integrally linking sexual and reproductive health to women and girls’ human rights and addressing them from a perspective of eliminating discrimination of women and girls
  • Looking at the role of and trends in Regional Economic Communities in Africa in advancing and realising women and girls’ rights in sexual and reproductive health, and
  • Looking at strategies of change, and the role of a range of change agents, including continental, regional, national and subnational state and non-state actors across Africa in the domestication and implementation of continental and regional commitments; in particular highlighting the role of civil society as mediator between duty-bearers and rights-holders.

Map 3: Child Marriage

How to achieve change?

33 case studies presented in this report cover a wide range of initiatives, change agents and strategies pursued to promote, expand and realise women and girls’ rights in sexual and reproductive health. Faith actors can draw some important lessons from this diverse set of case studies, amongst others: That important initiatives to raising awareness and promoting institutional and social norms change towards women and girls’ rights are facilitated and initiated by faith-based organisations and progressive faith leaders. That legal, policy or institutional change is critical but not enough to realise and expand women and girls’ rights in sexual and reproductive health; these need to be complemented with challenging of gender inequalities and patriarchal hierarchies, norms and practices. That multi-disciplinary coalitions and networks provide powerful opportunities for transformative and sustainable change, and play a central role in legal and policy reform as well as social norm change. Such impact happens when women’s rights and SRHR activists and organisations, with youth leaders, faith-based organisations and leaders, broader civil society as well as governmental actors join forces and work around shared agendas.

The report is organized in 8 chapters

To further facilitate readers’ use of the report, it has been built up in a modular way. This allows readers to follow their own pathway through the report, depending on their core interests. The introductory chapter is immediately followed by a chapter presenting the key findings and recommendations. The subsequent six chapters provide an in-depth analysis of the different dimensions of the report. Chapter 3 gives an overview of women and girls’ rights in sexual and reproductive health in the African Union normative and institutional framework; it presents and contextualises the Maputo Protocol and the Maputo Plan of Action. Chapter 4 puts the spotlight on the normative and institutional commitments and frameworks of the regional economic communities with respect to women and girls’ rights in SRHR. Each of the four following chapters focuses on one of the rights areas in particular: Chapter 5 addresses gender-based violence against women, Chapter 6 harmful practices, Chapter 7 reproductive rights and sexual and reproductive health, and Chapter 8 HIV and AIDS. These latter four chapters all follow the same structure: they start with a section analysing the key issues, then continue with a second section giving a detailed explanation of the provisions and obligations of the Maputo Protocol and other relevant continental commitments and instruments, as appropriate. The third section then looks at the national legal and policy frameworks of all countries on the continent to assess the extent to which the continental commitments are domesticated and implemented. The fourth section of each rights area chapter presents a set of case studies, on diverse actors, using often diverse strategies, to realise women and girls’ rights in the particular rights area.


Faith to Action Network case studies

For our readers, who would like to see how Faith to Action Network members are involved in this report, we have extracted three case studies:

Case 14: Faith-based approach to tackling FGM in Kenya

Case 19: A caravan to educate Muslim communities

Case 20: CAPA's commitment on family planning

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