As part of the continued celebrations to mark the 15th Anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, STEWARDWOMEN on behalf of the Coalition for the Ratification of the Maputo Protocol in South Sudan (CCORPS) organized a reflection and awareness creation session for stakeholders. STEWARDWOMEN is the lead agency of a national coalition (CCORPS) of over 50 Civil Society Organisations that are advocating for the ratification of the Maputo Protocol in South Sudan with the support of AmplifyChange - a multi-donor challenge fund that supports civil society to advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights. The coalition was formed against the back drop of the long awaited approval of the protocol by the South Sudan Transitional National Legislative Assembly on 16th October 2017, albeit with reservations to Articles 6 and 14 with the President of the Republic of South Sudan, yet to assent to the document.
The meeting which was held from 16th – 17th August 2018 in Juba, South Sudan was attended by members of the coalition, government officials, Equality Now based in Kenya and Akina Mama wa Afrika based in Uganda, sister organizations under the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) which STEWARDWOMEN is also a member of. Over the last 15 years, SOAWR has spearheaded the campaign for the ratification, popularization, domestication and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. The meeting generated concrete proposals for accelerating the ratification, popularization and effective implementation of the Protocol with one of the key asks being that the South Sudan President ratifies the Protocol and deposits the instruments with the African Union. The meeting also aimed at strengthening the activities of the coalition and identification of key priority areas to enhance effective implementation.
While approving the protocol, South Sudan’s parliamentary committee for Gender, Child and Social Welfare and Religious Affairs, acknowledged that the Protocol was important in the fight against gender inequality in the war-torn country. Despite approving the protocol, the committee had some reservations such as on Article 6 which discourages polygamous marriages and Article 14 which guarantees the sexual and reproductive health rights of women. The convening was therefore a timely intervention that saw regional CSOs (Equality Now and Akina Mama wa Afrika) share Kenya and Uganda’s journey to ratification, popularization, and effective implementation of the Maputo Protocol in a bid to inform a collective advocacy strategy to accelerate the full realization of the Maputo Protocol in South Sudan. An additional outcome was increased knowledge by coalition members of the Maputo Protocol and how they relate to other key instruments on women’s rights such as The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and UN Resolution 1325 which South Sudan has already ratified.
Are you familiar with the Ugandan 14-seater commuter taxi otherwise known as the kamunye? If yes, then you can almost relate to 16 women in Uganda dying everyday due to maternal health related complications. That is an entire kamunye of women with two extra passengers losing their lives with little or no accountability whatsoever from the health authorities, and those are just the reported cases. What is even scarier is that could be you, your mother, your sister and if you are male, your wife as several women across the country continue to die from preventable complications such as severe bleeding, high blood pressure, sepsis, obstructed labor, unsafe abortion, among others. Many others have survived pregnancy and childbirth, but with complications such as fistula rearing their heads and robbing the nation of its womankind.
Following the continued deaths of mothers at numerous health facilities across the country and the unexpected passing of Ms. Nuliat Nambazira in April, a women’s rights advocate with the East African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI), a lady who heartily stood for women’s justice, civil society organizations resolved that enough was enough and rose up to advocate for critical intervention by the Ugandan government as far as reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health is concerned. Women’s rights organizations and individuals came out to demand for an urgent end to the needless preventable deaths of mothers and newborns during pregnancy, childbirth and the immediate period after birth.
Akina Mama wa Afrika provided leadership in the campaign to end maternal mortality in Uganda by guiding in the process of designing a 12 months advocacy strategy to hold the government, healthcare providers and practitioners accountable over their negligence of women’s health and not providing mothers with the necessary services to not only help them survive but also thrive during pregnancy and child birth. Among some of the activities were a press conference hosted at the National NGO Forum offices which was reinforced with a protest march to International Hospital Kampala, one of the hospitals cited in mishandling women’s maternal health. The press conference garnered over 40 passionate activists and a number of media outlets who provided coverage for the event sparking off public debate. In order to fashion further discussion on the issue of women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, AMwA also hosted a tweet chat using the hashtag #ItCouldBeYou in which a resourceful panel comprising of the Center for Health Human Rights and Development’s (CEHURD) Primah Kwagala, EASSI’s Manisurah Aheebwa and Dr. Ekwaro Obuku of the Uganda Medical Association was convened. Through the tweet chat, AMwA in collaboration with the Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG) was able raise the public’s consciousness that anyone to could be a victim of maternal death with the hashtag generating more than 6 million impressions on Twitter.
Three months down the road, despite progress made by the government in ensuring that women deliver at health facilities under skilled care, there is urgent need to improve quality of care provided at the health facilities to enable women survive pregnancy and childbirth. As civil society, we re-echo our demand that the Ugandan government through the Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies improves supervision of private and public health facilities to ensure better adherence to quality of care standards. We cannot take justice for mothers and newborns for granted any longer. Without addressing the concerns of the nation’s women, pregnant women and newborns will continue to suffer preventable and treatable complications and death.
Like all life’s experiences, there were lessons for us too. Because of the shrinking civic and political space, coupled with unfavorable policies on sexual and reproductive health in Uganda, mobilizing women to join in protest was difficult as there was fear of retribution. Resource mobilization was also challenging as the activity was ad hoc. What then for feminist organizing? AMwA revisited the advocacy strategy with the collective in an effort to polish it and decide on the way forward for the other actions within the strategy. Going forward, there is need for capacity building in movement building in activism to advance fearless advocacy for women’s and girls’ rights.
The year 2018 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the use of the groundbreaking human rights instrument, the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Women’s Rights Protocol), which is a supplementary protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The 15th Anniversary will seek to consolidate and celebrate the commendable work that SOAWR members with specific highlights of the achievements of SOAWR members over the years in particular the Maputo Protocol ratification and implementation campaign. We bring updates from different interventions that have been carried out around the Maputo Protocol.
Equality Now in partnership with Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) convened a reflection of Civil Society Organizations on Shadow Reporting on the African Charter and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
The Executive Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika, Eunice Musiime, was among the participants who attended the two day meeting held from September 3-6, 2017, in Nairobi, Kenya. The aim of the meeting was to harness SOAWR coalition members’ engagement for the realization of the Rights of women and girls as guaranteed by the Maputo Protocol.
The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) was adopted in 2003 and entered into force in 2005. The Maputo Protocol has been lauded as one of the very progressive and comprehensive human rights instruments globally that comprehensively provides for the rights of women and girls in Africa.
Whereas it is notable that States have been reporting on the African Charter, albeit falling behind schedule, there has not been much uptake by States in reporting on the Protocol. Only 7 states are up to date with their reporting, 18 States are late by one or two reports, 22 are late by three or more reports, while 7 have never submitted any report.
The key outcomes of the meeting were: an enhanced understanding of the Maputo Protocol and the shadow reporting requirements and guidelines; renewed commitment from women’s rights organizations to submit stronger and consistent shadow reports on women’s rights under the Charter and Maputo Protocol and strategies to accelerate implementation of concluding observations at the national level.