By Victoria Saffa
Ipas, a non-governmental organisation that advocates on the protection of women’s health and advancing their reproductive right, in collaboration with six women from Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR), has concluded a one day stakeholders meeting with civil society organisations and the media on the ratification of the Maputu protocol.
The Maputu Protocol seeks to provide holistic rights to women, including the right to participate in politics and decision-making, guarantees social and political equality between men and women in the control of their reproductive health, and calls for an end to female genital mutilation. The Protocol was adopted by the African Union in the Mozambique capital in 2003.
In her welcome address, Policy Associate at Ipas Sierra Leone, Valerie Tucker, called on civil society groups to take the Protocol seriously.
Giving the historical background to the Protocol on the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, member of SOAWR from Senegal, Amie Joof, stated that the protocol was established in 2004 by a group of women and men to deal with women’s issues.
Ms. Joof added that the Protocol was adopted to give rights to Women in Africa, noting that in order for the state to sign and ratify the document, civil society groups must set up a campaign for the understanding of the Protocol.
Ms. Joof also urged civil society groups to set up a campaign for the ratification of the Protocol, adding that out of fifty three countries on the continent only eighteen are yet to ratify the Protocol, including Sierra Leone.
Giving background information about SOAWR, Deputy Foreign Minister of Liberia, Una Thompson, a consummate advocate of women’s issues, urged Sierra Leone to ratify the Protocol to protect women’s rights.
She narrated that SOAWR was formed in September 2004 as a regional network of forty-four nationals, regional and international civil society organisations working towards the promotion and protection of women’s rights across twenty-four African countries.
She said SOAWR has succeeded in universalising the ratification of the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women, its popularisation, domestication and implementation in all countries.
According to the Program Manager at Advocacy Movement Network (AMNET), Aminata Koroma, the Maputu Protocol is the best Protocol for Africa women, adding that their organisation has lobbied Parliament for the ratification of the yet ungratified Protocol.
She said President Koroma had earlier noted that violence against women is violence against the state, but high illiteracy rate among women and the issue of female genital mutilation was undermining efforts to have the Protocol ratified by Sierra Leone.