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Africa

Africa has an impressive human rights regime, including the African Charter and Maputo Protocol. Despite this, women and girls across Africa continue to face numerous human rights violations.

Overview

Women and girls across the continent face a range of gender-based violations from child marriage and female genital mutilation, to sexual violence and exploitation.

Governments are failing to uphold their obligations to protect and promote the rights of women and girls, both through the lack of comprehensive legislation to protect women and girls, and inadequate enforcement of the laws that are in place.

Even more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated weaknesses in governance and security structures resulting in an increase in violations against women and girls in different countries in Africa.

Equality Now’s work in Africa at a glance:

Using the Maputo Protocol to protect and promote the rights of women and girls in Africa. In 2003, the Member States of the African Union adopted the Maputo Protocol to safeguard women’s and girls’ rights in Africa. The SOAWR Coalition, of which we are the secretariat, was responsible for the adoption of the Maputo Protocol by the African Union and continually pursues the universal ratification, domestication, and implementation of the Protocol in Africa.

Victory for girls in Sierra Leone at the ECOWAS Court of Justice. In 2018, together with WAVES and Child Welfare Society, we filed a case at the ECOWAS Court of Justice to challenge a ban prohibiting pregnant schoolgirls from attending school. In 2019, we won the case resulting in Sierra Leone lifting the ban. The Government went on to develop policies to protect school-going girls from violations and to ensure access to education for all girls.

Protecting anti-FGM laws in Kenya. In March 2021, the High Court in Kenya upheld and validated the constitutionality of the Prohibition of the Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2011. As the first interested party, Equality Now convened and coordinated all the interested parties, both state and non-state, in the case in support of the law. Upholding and implementing the anti-FGM law ensures that women and girls at risk of this human rights violation have legal protection.

Achieving Legal Equality

Though the Maputo Protocol protects the rights of women and girls across Africa, 13 countries are yet to ratify the Protocol.

Ending Sexual Exploitation

Trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation disproportionately affects women and girls across Africa.

Ending Sexual Violence

Women and girls across Africa, in both private and public sectors, continue to face sexual violence and too often struggle to access justice

Ending Harmful Practices

Women and girls across Africa are living with the lifelong impact of FGM and child marriage.

Our work

Equality Now works with partners across the region to hold governments accountable for protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls.

Equality Now is honored to be the Secretariat of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR), a network of 63 civil society organizations working to accelerate the ratification, domestication, and implementation of the Maputo Protocol while at the same time urging those who have ratified it to breathe life into the Protocol.

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Key resources

ENDING CHILD MARRIAGES IN EASTERN AND SOUTHERN AFRICA: A MULTISECTORAL APPROACH

The underpinning principle of a multisectoral approach is an intentional, coordinated collaboration between relevant partners and sectors to plan and deliver commitments to women’s rights. It is …

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Celebrating 20 Years of the Maputo Protocol – A Memoir

In commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), Equality Now took on a special initiative to gather …

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The Solidarity Statement on Ending Child Marriage in Eastern and Southern Africa

While recognising the  importance of domesticating the SADC Model Law in Southern Africa, 34 civil society organizations came together to develop a Joint Statement on Ending Child Marriage …

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Stories

Hear from some of the incredible survivors and activists committed to raising their voices to make equality reality across Africa and around the world.

African Leaders Celebrate The Maputo Protocol

In commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), Equality Now took on a special initiative to gather statements from …

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60 Year Powerhouse

Meet Dr. Thelma Awori In this captivating profile, we unravel the extraordinary journey of Dr. Thelma Awori, an 80-year-old powerhouse who has dedicated her life to championing women’s rights in Africa since the 1960s. You can read more of her story here.  Dr. …

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The Nairobi Call to Action

In pursuit of propelling gender equality and women’s empowerment to new heights, the recent MaputoAt20 Celebrations in Nairobi unveiled the resounding Nairobi Call to Action. With a focal theme of “Accelerating Promises for African Women and …

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Maputo At 20 Dialogues

This section casts a lens on the enlightening conversations and invocations that emanated from the sidelines of the Maputo Protocol at 20 Celebrations. It focuses on the subject-focused parallel events hosted by civil society organizations that attracted hundreds for …

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None of us can afford to sit back and wait for equality to arrive – we need to act now. Only by working together will we achieve the legal and systemic change needed to address violence and discrimination against women and girls.