By Jariatu Bangura
Members of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus on Wednesday assured delegates from different countries and Ipas Sierra Leone that they will sensitise their colleagues on the ratification of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, with particular regard to the rights of women in Africa, known as the Maputu Protocol.
President of the Caucus, Hon. Patricia Brown, said women are being marginalised in Africa, including Sierra Leone, hence the need to expedite the ratification of the Maputu Protocol to enable African women have a legal mandate of emancipation.
She said the Protocol is overdue for ratification by the country’s Parliament as other African countries have ratified the treaty, while she expressed optimism that support from Ipas Sierra Leone and the visit by Solidarity for Africa Women’s Right (SOAWR), NEPAD, Spanish Fund for Africa Women’s Empowerment and Equality Now, would galvanise the sensitisation and ratification process.
A representative of SOAWR, Jane Serwanga from Kenya, said the group has engaged in targeted advocacy in seeking ratification of the Protocol by Sierra Leone and that in June 2012, SOAWR undertook an advocacy mission which mobilised women towards a ratification campaign.
She said that during the first mission, a consultative meeting was held with representatives of civil society organisations and government officials, leading to the drawing up of a ratification strategy to guide action.
She maintained that the ratification campaign continued through efforts by local partners, but suffered a slight setback due to the dissolution of Parliament in the period leading up to national elections in November 2012.
Minority Leader, Hon. Bernadette Lahai said the country has taken a bold step to enact key and firm laws pertaining to women’s empowerment and gender equality and that the political will was there, hoping that such would be translated into concrete actions.
She said the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus should take the lead in advocating the ratification of the Maputu Protocol, and that if the government of Sierra Leone has agreed to approve the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which implementation process has begun, there should be no delay in ratifying such the Maputu Protocol, as the CEDAW was signed without reservations.
“Therefore the Maputu Protocol should be ratified and when its implementation process comes, all the critical issues will also be considered,” she said.
Dr. Lahai maintained that women lawmakers will lobby their male colleagues to support the ratification of the Protocol during the next parliamentary session.