Women Leaders Push for Gender Equality in Africa

L-R: Speaker Donatille Mukabalisa, Dr Dlamini-Zuma and Gender minister Diane Gashumba at the meeting. (Timothy Kisambira)

Governments and citizens across Africa should move faster to implement policies and laws that promote equality between men and women and empower the latter with view to meet the same goal.

The call was made, over the weekend, in Kigali by women leaders and other experts from Africa and other parts of the world at the ongoing two-day 3rd African Union High-Level Panel on Gender and Women’s Empowerment.

Running under the theme, “The contributions of Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights in Achieving Gender Equality in Africa: Stocktaking, Opportunities and Accountability,” the meeting has facilitated discussions on how policies and laws on gender equality in Africa can be turned into daily practices.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, challenged fellow women leaders on the continent to be more assertive and passionate about their advocacy for better protection of women’s rights.

She urged them to ensure that practical results are achieved every day in terms of implementing policies and laws in favour of gender equality.

“It is our collective duty not to let our struggles become a routine,” Dlamini-Zuma said, reminding women that demanding their rights shouldn’t be seen as too much to ask or a favour to be given on charitable grounds.

“We are equal (with men) in our own right. We are not taking anything from anyone,” she said.

The Maputo Protocol

The Maputo Protocol, whose official appellation is the “Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa”, is a set of rules to be followed by States that are party to it in efforts to protect women against violence and exploitation.

It contains instructions about a number of areas for the protection of women, such as the elimination of discrimination against them, upholding their right to dignity, life, and security, as well as their right to harmless treatment, marriage, and access to justice, among other rights.

The protocol also emphasises women’s right to participate in the political and decision-making processes in their countries, their right to peace and protection during armed conflicts as well as their right to education and training, economic and social welfare, housing and food, and health and reproductive health, among other forms of protection.

At the panel on gender and women’s empowerment, participants will share country experiences on how the Maputo Protocol was adopted and implemented, how national parliaments and the civil society have helped in the process, how best to include women in local governance and how to nurture strategic partnerships across the continent to promote gender equality.

Rwanda, which is hosting the meeting at its Parliament Buildings in Kimihurura as a preliminary event prior to the forthcoming 27th African Union Summit in Kigali due next week, has been hailed for being a champion in promoting women’s rights.

The country’s Lower House is dominated by women who occupy 64 per cent of the seats while the Judiciary is also women inclusive, at 40 per cent, while 43 per cent of district councillors are women.

“Rwanda remains a shining example of gender equality and women empowerment. It should be emulated by other member states of the African Union,” said Dr Khabele Matlosa, the AU director of political affairs.

More than 400 participants are taking part in the high-level panel in Kigali, which has helped push the AU’s agenda this year of advancing human rights with a special focus on the rights of women.

Source: The New Times

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