If you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
In August, Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) opened up her weekly intellectual muscle building sessions to the AMwAzons - our cadre of young women feminist leaders equipped to advance justice for women rights in Africa through the African Women’s Leadership Institute. The session code-named the Knowledge Hub is part of a series long of deepening the AMwAzons knowledge and advocacy skills and will be a space of sharing ideas and acquiring skills to effectively influence key stakeholders, politicians, and policy makers around key feminist and women’s issues in Africa and the world. Integrated into this initiative is that the young women leaders will disseminate and spread the knowledge they gain.
The very first Knowledge Hub was held on August 9th with an objective to unpack the implications of the current legal and policy framework on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and brainstorm around key pointers on how to work and advocate towards attaining a gender sensitive and contextually viable approach to a full and just implementation of a comprehensive SRHR approach. The AMwAzons came in large numbers to deepen their knowledge as well as to sign post what critical issues to advance in the realization of women’s right to reproductive health. To anchor the discussion, AMwAzons read ‘A Feminist Critique of Legal Approaches to Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa: Denial and Divergence Versus Facilitation’ as featured in the Agenda journal. The group talked over the unsettling concept of criminalizing of consensual sex between two consenting adolescents and drew lessons from South Africa where the age of consent to sex is 16 years old and sex between adolescents is approved as long as one party is not more than two years older than the other.
The Center for Health Human Rights and Development’s Joy Asasira and Reproductive Health Uganda’s Doreen Kansiime were present to improve the young women’s understanding of the SRHR legal framework in Uganda. A feminist lens was employed to unpack how legislation that is supposed to protect women and girls instead ends up discriminating against them. Legislation setting 18 years as age of marriage and by extension age of consent to sex for example means sexually active underage people cannot access SRHR services because they are at risk of getting arrested.
One key takeaway and viable area for advocacy agreed upon was the need to harmonize the age of consent to sex and consent to medical treatment. Currently, it is difficult for young women and girls in Uganda and most of Africa to access SRHR services as the age of consent to sex is 18 years.