This weekend, July 31st, was Africa Women’s Day, as mandated by the African Union 48 years ago. There were celebrations around the world, showcasing the triumphs and trials of African women today. From London to Cameroon, the event was used as an opportunity to highlight the African Union’s “Africa Women’s Decade”, entitled “Gender Equality and Empowerment of the Women: An Ascending Consultative Approach from the Bottom up to the Hierarchy”, to be launched in October 2010.
In London, women shared their stories about the importance of empowering African women to fight for themselves. Maire-Claire Faray-Kele, from the Women’s International League for Peace, said “there is high mortality for pregnant women and also for women giving birth…and also there are harmful tradition[s] and practices such as female genital mutilation. There are widows who are suffering sometimes because they treat them as witches,” reported Voice of America.
She also expressed the importance of African states “walk[ing] the walk” and adopting the “Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women”, also known as the Maputo Protocol. The Maputo Protocol of 2005 includes guarantees of a woman’s right to life, food security, bodily protection and reproduction. As of July 2010, 46 out of 53 member states signed the Protocol, but only a little more than half have formally ratified it, reports the African Union. According to AllAfrica, experts predict that the initiative’s impact will be lessened if the African Union’s member States do not get on board and implement the protocol. Much of the opposition to the protocol centers on issues of reproductive rights and abortion.