PAMBAZUKA NEWS 190: Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa: A pre-condition for health and food security
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CONTENTS: 1. Highlights from this issue, 2. Features, 3. Books & arts
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Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa: A pre-condition for health and food security
It is women who make up 50 percent or more of the population of most African countries and it is women who face growing responsibility - nearly 50 percent in some countries - for heading their households in the face of discriminatory laws, societal prejudice and sometimes violent oppression.
Yet towards the end of this month an elite circle of men will meet in Abuja, Nigeria with the power to make a significant difference in changing the lives of women on the African continent. The African Union meeting of African leaders in Abuja will consider food security and health. In their discussions, African leaders should be aware of statistics which show that in both these areas, much work needs to be done. For example, in the field of health 600 000 women –many in the developing world – are believed to die from pregnancy-related causes every year. In agriculture, women are believed to produce 80 percent of food on the planet, yet they receive less than 10 percent of agricultural assistance.
The list of statistics is endless – and nearly none of the statistics reflect well on the policies of countries. African leaders should keep in mind that failure to consider the rights of women will lead to failed policies, while the continual oppression of a significant portion of their populations will not contribute to overall development.
When it comes to the rights of women, African leaders have at their disposal an effective mechanism to enforce the rights of women. The African Protocol on the Rights of Women is a comprehensive legal framework to guarantee the rights of women on the African continent. But 15 individual countries need to ratify the Protocol before it can come into force and domestication of its provisions in national laws can begin. So far only seven countries have completed the ratification process – despite the fact that the Protocol was adopted in July 2003.
This edition of Pambazuka News is focused on the rights of women. Most of the articles are about the experience of African women in the areas of food security and sexual and reproductive health rights. They highlight the situation of women and the guarantees that the Protocol will offer to women. There is also information about the campaign by a coalition of civil society organisations - operating under the banner Solidarity for African Women’s Rights - to speed up the ratification and implementation of the Protocol.
The rights contained in the Protocol should not be considered as optional by African leaders. These rights are not trinkets to be handed down from on high. They are not even rights that should have to be fought for. Without them the very right to life is compromised.
Nor is the ratification and domestication of the Protocol an exclusively woman’s affair. It is not a charitable act. The freedom of men is conditional on the freedom of women and therefore both sexes have a vested interest in ensuring that the rights of women are protected and enforced.
FEATURED IN THIS ISSUE:
A. Promising health and food security
Political will, political will and political will: This is the essential ingredient to make sure that women are able to access their rights to health and food security, states SAUDATU MAHDI from Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) in Nigeria.
B. Making reproductive health rights a reality
The politics of control must not be allowed to gain prominence over the right of women to choose, argues ANNE GATHUMBI from the Coalition on Violence Against Women.
C. Unlocking women’s right to land
Barriers facing women in their access to land are complex, but the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa does offer hope, says this article from women’s rights organisation EQUALITY NOW.
D. Towards human rights of all women in Namibia
When the women’s rights organization Sister Namibia held workshops using the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women, participants were amazed at the rights to which they were entitled. LIZ FRANK says the work will continue so that women can stand up for their rights.
E. Pambazuka News Background: The right to food, the right to life
Laws governing land, unfair economic policies and an HIV/AIDS epidemic all conspire against food security for women. But securing food security for women is key to unlocking a host of other rights.
F. Pambazuka News Background: The right to health, the right to life
It’s taken decades to build up the international framework that guarantees women’s sexual and reproductive health rights. Now is the time for governments to make those rights realities or face the consequences.
G. Masculinity, Peace Processes, Impunity and Justice
War, with disastrous consequences for women, is the only solution that a masculine-ruled world has to resolve conflicts. Peace processes, writes ANA ELENA OBANDO, are opportunites to imagine a new world.
H. Djibouti is well down the road to ratification of the Maputo Protocol relating to women’s rights in Africa, says ZEINAB ALI KAMIL
Djibouti s’engage vers la voie très prochaine d’une ratification du Protocole de Maputo relatif aux droits des femmes en Afrique
I. What’s happening around the continent?
An update on the campaign for the ratification of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
J. Signed and sealed, but hard work ahead
A Profile of the seven signatories to the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
K. Ten facts and figures on women’s rights
Books And Arts. A review of ‘Tears of Hope: A Collection of Short Stories by Ugandan Rural Women’
A: Promising Health and Food Security
As African women celebrate the rising numbers of ratifications towards the attainment of the statutory number of fifteen ratifications to bring into force the Protocol to the African Charter on Women’s Rights in Africa (Nigeria is the latest member state to ratify the Protocol), it is relevant for us to embark on a simplification of the obligations on Member States and the potential benefits of its provisions for women. Linkages must also be drawn between the principles of the provisions of the Protocol and those in other national and international instruments of law or policy that many of the African Union (AU) member states are signatories to.
Once the Protocol comes into force its implementation by member states (subject to internal processes of domestication), places an obligation on governments to establish institutions and mechanisms that assure women of protection from practices and attitudes that allow for the perpetration of violence and discrimination, including differential opportunities in education, political participation and access to justice.
The provisions of Article 14 (Health and Reproductive Rights), and Article 15 (Right to Food Security) of the Protocol provide some bench marks that we may aspire to attain once the Protocol is domesticated in Nigeria. The health and reproductive rights of women and their right to food security is a contingent factor to their fundamental right to life. The two together cover the extent and quality of the lives of women in Nigeria. Statistics from the 2003 Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) indicate a direct relationship between women’s education status, economic disposition, and access to nutritional diet or micronutrient supplements to their fertility rates, their access to clean drinking water, antenatal and postnatal care - thereby underscoring the high rates of maternal mortality registered by Nigeria in the last ten years.
The right of women to control their fertility in respect of defining the number and spacing between their children is obscured by the dictates of patriarchy where the decision lies with the man. In many instances the issue of male-child preference pushes many women into multiple deliveries, mostly in close succession or in competition with other wives, in search of the preferred child. Even where women are able to negotiate some respite, they may loose out in the proposal for family planning or the method of contraception they choose to use. Women’s right to health is further undermined by poor nutritional indices in the value content necessary for normal body function and good health.
Social and gender taboos typify foods that men and women can or cannot eat at all times or during specific conditions such as pregnancy and breastfeeding. The penalties for ‘violation’ are disproportionately high while the women’s incapacity to meet with the cost of the items of appeasement keeps them ‘unattracted’ to high value content food items. Food supplements are available largely in urban centres with hardly any reaching rural women who may go through a pregnancy without the basic iron supplement meant to prevent anaemia, which is a confirmed factor of disorders in the foetal development and is usually a reason for premature delivery or low birth weight. Anaemia is also an underlying cause of maternal and perinatal mortality.
At another level scanty or total ignorance of prevalent diseases, methods of contraction and what to do or where to go for help remain a bottleneck in women’s access to protection and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV/AIDS. Many women, apart from being ignorant about their health status, have limited ways of determining the health status of their partners and the results are devastating for families and communities in most of the member states of the AU. Aggressive initiatives have not yielded the desired results due to the absence of a strong political will or due to societal and individual denial of the existence or scale of some of the diseases. This is compounded by the weak bargaining position of women in power relations and the pervasive cultural endorsement of male liberty to have free and multiple sexual relationships (in and out of marriage) thereby escalating the ‘redistribution’ impact of STDs and leading to the high prevalence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging communities and nations all over Africa.
Land ownership for the average subsistence female farmer is an important right that would give her food security, and enhance her capacity for food production and an economic base. The tens of miles women trek to get water (never mind the quality they find) and domestic fuel is a factor that tasks their physical and mental capacity and pre-occupies them to the extent that they are absent from decision making and in most instances reduced to being ‘beasts of burden’.
In Nigeria, Chapter II Sections 13 to 24 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provide for the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. The provisions, which for now are not justiciable draw a lot from the United Nations Charter of Social and Economic Rights, and provide a framework that impacts significantly on the quality of the fundamental human rights of citizens as guaranteed by Chapter IV of the same Constitution. Specifically, section 13 states clearly and unequivocally that:
‘It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of the Constitution.’
The implication of this provision is the imposition of an obligation on the Nigerian State to take positive action for creating socio-economic conditions that uplift the dignity of citizens, makes it real and accessible to all especially the weak and vulnerable. Therefore the provisions of the Protocol in Articles 14 and 15 go a long way in concretizing the obligations of the Nigerian government and upon domestication make the rights in the key areas of health, reproductive rights and food security for women justiciable. Petitions, especially for redress against violations or non implementation, can be initiated at national level and where desirable can go up to the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Furthermore, our collective campaign and advocacy should tie government delivery on the provisions of the Protocol to the basic deliverables of good governance. This is to provide a framework that defines for women, the quantity, quality and the means of accessing the indicators in the implementation of the Protocol.
The number and quality of basic healthcare structures, especially at rural levels, will be an indicator while the services rendered must cover the spectrum of detection and medication for simple ailments, health intervention initiatives such as iron fortification programmes, prenatal and postnatal services, training and retraining of rural/traditional birth attendants (TBAs), family planning services, information on sexuality as well as voluntary testing and counselling for STDs and HIV/AIDS.
Other indicators include provision of quality drinking water using simple and affordable technology and government’s commitment to the development of alternative energy for domestic purposes. At the legislative level, laws aimed at prohibiting social and cultural constructs that deprive women of control over land must be enacted while extensive reorientation and advocacy is embarked upon to support implementation of the laws and a shift in the right direction. The most important indicator is a demonstrated political will to eradicate the barriers and impediments affecting the quality contribution of women to the development of their communities and nations.
* Saudatu Mahdi is from the organisation Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) in Nigeria
* Please send comments to email@example.com
B: Making reproductive health rights a reality
Violence against women has devastating health consequences on the victims and undermines women’s control over their own reproductive health. In dealing with survivors of violence against women at the Coalition on violence’s Against Women (COVAW) counseling and legal aid clinic, what has emerged is that most women undergoing violence perpetrated by intimate partners also present with reproductive health risks and problems.
These can broadly be categorized into fatal outcomes and non fatal outcomes suffered as a result of violence. The fatal outcomes could be death as a result of homicide, suicide by the victim, maternal mortality and HIV/ AIDS. The non fatal outcomes include poor physical health as a result of the injuries, poor mental health like depression, consequences related to reproductive health like unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/ AIDS.
The psychological consequences are even more long term and devastating. The 2001 world health report identified gender based violence as one of the factors contributing to the disproportionate rates of depression amongst women. It further points out that recurrent abuse can erode women’s resilience and places them at risk of other psychological problems such as post traumatic stress disorder, suicide, and alcohol and substance abuse.
The right to access basic health care services and information is a basic human right enshrined in several international conventions and instruments like the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Conference for Population and Development (ICPD).
Despite this research from several countries has shown that women in violent relationships often do not have adequate access to reproductive health services yet they are among the most vulnerable and seek health services more frequently than non abused women.
Within the health sector systems violence against women remains highly invisible and there are glaring gaps within the health sector as well at the community level for dealing with violence against women. Most health providers have consistently failed to recognize and consider violence against women an important part of their work. Some health workers, being products of a culture that condones violence against women, view it as a normal way of life and do not feel obligated to pay attention to women who present with signs and symptoms of abuse. They do not feel that caring for women suffering violence is part of their professional profile. Their attitudes about violence are also largely shaped by prevailing cultural norms. Owing to this disinterest, women living in violent situations also rarely reveal their situations to health care providers.
One doctor interviewed in an intimate partner violence survey conducted by Family Health International captured the situation thus:
“Health workers – doctors, nurses clinicians are men first before they are health workers. As a result they cannot escape from the mashismo socialization that all men receive from their environment”.
Many providers also express attitudes that blame the victim rather than the aggressors. Such attitudes pose a serious challenge to transforming the culture of silence and complicity on issues of violence against women. The situation is further compounded by the lack of legislative and policy frameworks that require health programs to integrate policies and national plans to address gender based violence. The establishment of health sector policies on addressing violence is a key step towards institutionalizing violence against women programs and raising awareness amongst health providers on their role in addressing violence. Policy frameworks within the health system are important as they create a mechanism of holding the health sector responsible in addressing violence against women.
Governments are responsible for upholding women’s reproductive health and rights yet they consistently fail to live up to that duty. This has meant the use of international normative frameworks as a strategy to build pressure on governments to abide by universally acceptable standards of promoting women’s rights to reproductive health.
The protocol to the African Charter on women’s rights is one such instrument. Lauded as one of the most progressive instruments of promoting the rights of women on the African continent, it provides a comprehensive and useful framework for safeguarding women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights while upholding the bodily integrity of women. Article 14 of the protocol obligates state parties to undertake several kinds of duties relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights of women. Among the obligations it places on states are:
- The duty to protect the reproductive rights of women which requires states to take all necessary measures to ensure that no acts of omission and commission results in any violation of women’s reproductive rights.
- The duty to fulfil the reproductive rights of women which calls upon states to take all appropriate measures including legislative, administrative, budgetary allocations and other measures that will ensure the realization of women’s reproductive rights.
The duty to respect which entails that the government upholds a woman’s right to choice, information, and control over her sexual autonomy and bodily integrity. It further prohibits states from interfering with the protection and promotion of reproductive health and rights.
It is interesting to note that Article 14 has proved the most contentious in a number of countries yet it is one of the most liberating in terms of providing choice for women in matters of bodily integrity and autonomy. Women on the continent must not let the politics of control gain prominence over their rights to choice.
Once countries sign and ratify the protocol they become duty bound to uphold these rights. With glaring gaps that exist on legislative and policy frameworks in matters of reproductive health, it is necessary to continue building pressure for African governments that have not ratified the protocol to do so. Its passage will stimulate the enactment of national policies on violence which are strategic tools for stimulating greater sensitivity that violence against women is a public health issue. It will also create the political space for dialogue between civil society and the state while at the same time committing governments to a discourse that encourages sanctions against violence.
In a continent characterized by oppressive gender relations the passage of the protocol will anchor issues of women’s health within a human rights framework, thus creating duty bearers who can be held accountable for the realization of rights. Women’s rights activists must therefore not relent in their struggle to have governments move beyond lip service to securing serious commitments on issues of women’s reproductive health and rights.
* Anne Gathumbi is a women's rights activist and the outgoing coordinator of the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) in Kenya.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
C: Unlocking women’s right to land
Equality Now Africa Regional Office
Women’s right to equal ownership of and access to property is of vital importance in securing women’s equality. But as Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere once said: “Women of Africa toil all their lives on land that they do not own, to produce what they do not control and at the end of the marriage through divorce or death, they can be sent away empty handed.”
The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Protocol) offers potential solutions to these long-standing problems. To date, nine more countries must ratify the Protocol in order to bring it into force. Enforcement of the Protocol is vitally important to reforming and better protecting women’s property rights.
If women had equal access to and control over land, it would not just benefit them individually, but their countries as a whole. As the Honorable Winnie Byanyima, Member of Parliament from Uganda has said: "When women own and control land, there will be more food in each household and more crops for export since most farm work is done by them.” This statement is reinforced by studies undertaken by the Ugandan authorities themselves, which have shown that denying women equal access to land robs the whole country of progress in development. The same is true of other countries.
The Protocol on the Rights of Women Applied
The Protocol sets out a broad range of rights for African women, including protections for economic independence, the right to own and manage land, and the right to be equal partners in making decisions about property, regardless of marital status. These provisions would need to be domesticated into the national laws of each country that ratifies the Protocol to ensure that they are translated into reality. Some of the relevant provisions of the Protocol include:
- Article 2 states that governments “shall combat all forms of discrimination against women through appropriate legislative, institutional and other measures”. Article 2 (1)(d) elaborates on this by creating a duty on states to “take corrective and positive action in those areas where discrimination against women in law and in fact continues to exist”.
- Article 6(j) states, “during her marriage, a woman shall have the right to acquire her own property and to administer and manage it freely.”
- Article 7 states that governments should enact legislation to ensure that women and men enjoy the same rights in case of separation, divorce or annulment of marriage and, more particularly “in case of separation, divorce or annulment of marriage, women and men shall have the right to an equitable sharing of the joint property deriving from the marriage”. When domesticating these provisions, governments should reflect the true intent of the Protocol, which might mean also measuring a women’s contribution to the household in more than mere monetary terms in accordance also with Article 13(h) of the Protocol as highlighted below.
- Women’s property rights are also protected through the Protocol’s protections of economic development. Article 13(e) obliges the state to “create conditions to promote and support the occupations and economic activities of women, in particular, within the informal sector.” Article 13 (h) strengthens this protection by creating an obligation to “take the necessary measures to recognise the economic value of the work of women in the home.”
- Article 16 (Right to Adequate Housing) provides that “[t]o ensure this right, States Parties shall grant to women, whatever their marital status, access to adequate housing.”
- Article 18 creates a duty on states to “ensure greater participation of women in the planning, management and preservation of the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources at all levels.”
- Article 19(c), in making guarantees for a sustainable environment, also provides for the promotion of “women's access to and control over productive resources such as land and guarantee their right to property.”
- Article 20 requires governments to “take appropriate legal measures to ensure that widows enjoy all human rights.” Supporting this, Article 21 guarantees widows “the right to an equitable share in the inheritance of the property of her husband”, and “the right to continue to live in the matrimonial house”, even in instances of remarriage if it belongs to her or she has inherited it. Article 21 also accords to women and men “the right to inherit, in equitable shares, their parents' properties”.
Just looking at these few provisions we can see how the Protocol could be a powerful instrument for change. It attempts to tackle many of the crucial issues facing women in Africa, including the critical area of land ownership for all women as well as widows who have been additionally neglected.
The Protocol makes it very clear that custom cannot be used as an excuse to deprive women of their rights and that women have “the right to live in a positive cultural context and to participate at all levels in the determination of cultural policies” (Article 17). This shows very clearly that governments cannot hide behind traditional practices, in whatever sphere, to continue to deny women equal rights with men. The Protocol points the way to individual governments who do not have laws that adequately protect women’s rights and shows them the principles they should be reproducing at the national level. Governments will have an obligation to look at all sources of law in their countries to make sure the rights provided for by the Protocol are respected and protected.
Discrimination of women in property and marriage law will not be easily remedied. The problem is complex: unfair treatment is rooted in national laws and social attitudes, in customary law and in the law imposed by colonial forces. But there is much hope to be seen in the fact that the 53 countries of the African Union did adopt the Protocol and that several countries have already ratified it or are on the way to ratification. We must encourage them to take progressive steps to ensure that the Protocol is not only ratified but implemented for the benefit not just of African women, but for the continent as a whole.
* Equality Now works to end violence and discrimination against women
* Please send comments to email@example.com
D: Towards human rights for all women in Namibia
Namibia recently became the fourth country on the continent to ratify the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. What meanings does this document, as well as the other international instruments signed by our government have for girls and women in the diverse communities of Namibia?
During 2004, Sister Namibia held three-day workshops on women's human rights in Lüderitz, Karasburg, Nyangana, Katima Mulilo, Okakarara and Tsumkwe, using the AU Protocol as a main tool. In all these locations, workshop participants were amazed to learn about the broad range of human rights they are entitled to as full citizens of this county and this continent, and reported grave violations of these rights in many areas of their lives.
Let's take a closer look at the situation of women in Tsumkwe in eastern Namibia, home of many San people, who are the impoverished and marginalised indigenous people of our country. Forty women attended the workshop, young and old. Nineteen of them had infants or small children with them, and five more were pregnant. All the women said that it was the first time they ever attended such a workshop, and expressed the belief that rights were something only accorded to people living in towns.
Following a role play by the facilitators on the different forms of domestic violence, the participants said that such incidences were an everyday occurrence in their lives, but that they had not realised that this was a violation of their rights. However, to apply for a protection order under the Domestic Violence Act of 2003, they would have to find transport to travel 275 kilometres to the nearest magistrate's court at Grootfontein. And as magistrates have not yet received training on the Act, it could happen that women applying for a protection order are simply sent home again.
The information on the new Maintenance Act was also new to the women in Tsumkwe, and they stated that because there are no social workers in Tsumkwe there was no-one to assist them with accessing their social rights. Lack of access to education was also discussed as a major violation of the rights of San girls, many of whom marry and start having children soon after beginning their menstruation. “We don't know about reproductive and sexual rights,” said one of the participants. “We as women don't talk about this to our husbands because it is very sensitive. Normally we give birth to babies every year. In our culture our little girls are getting into early marriages. Soon after a girl child is born, an old man visits the mother and says that this little girl will be his future wife. He will start supporting her until she reaches her first menstruation and then marry her.” Information and training on the Married Person's Equality Act of 1996 has thus not yet reached the girls and women of Tsumkwe.
Poverty was the other main reason given for the lack of access to education. Children living on farms and in villages in the surrounding areas need transport to and from the secondary school in Tsumkwe, and parents are not aware that school fees and uniforms can be waived. Schools and school hostels are also places of discrimination and abuse and are thus experienced as not safe places for the girls. Participants requested in particular more information on their reproductive health and rights. “We really do not know how to protect ourselves from sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/Aids, and also unwanted pregnancies.”
Sister Namibia will intensify our work in this area in 2005, and plan how to reach out to more San women and girls, as well as women in other communities across the country. Our aim is to develop a sense of entitlement among women of all their rights currently existing only on paper, and develop lobbying and advocacy skills among girls and women so that they can begin to stand up for their rights.
* Liz Frank is the director of Sister Namibia
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
E: The right to food, the right to life
Close your eyes. Imagine a farmer working in a field, back bending, arms swinging up above the head and then down towards the earth as a hoe slices into the ground. In your mind, what is the gender of the farmer? If the image is of a man, you’d probably be wrong. Male stereotypes dominate the world of farming, but it is women who account for 70-80 percent of household food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite women being the base of food security in African countries, their role has in the past been ignored by policy makers. The result is that gender inequalities have gone unchecked, conspiring against food security for women and preventing them from playing a fulfilled role in the food security situations of their communities.
The consequences of food insecurity are dire. Lack of food means poorer nutrition for mothers and their children and thus a deteriorating health situation. It leads to the breakdown of communities and family structures, as families are forced to migrate in search of livelihoods. Food insecurity may force women into prostitution and lead to a rise in child trafficking.
Many factors conspire against food security for women. Discrimination against women in laws governing access to land is one of these factors. According to a 1995 International Food Policy Research Institute paper, although land laws vary widely, some religious laws forbid female land ownership. When civil law does give women the right to inherit land, local custom may rule otherwise. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where women have prime responsibility for food production, they are generally limited to user rights to land, and then only with the consent of a male relative. The consequence is that women have limited economic choice and are exposed to homelessness, poverty and violence. (Sources and further reading: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2004/38247/print_friendly_version.html; http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/fps/fps21.htm)
Damaging economic policies cause or exacerbate gender inequality and food insecurity. While trade agreements are presented as gender-neutral, trade and economic policies are formulated within a social context that enables or disables women to gain access to and control over productive resources, according to a 2002 Aprodev conference. “Failure of decision makers to recognize the central role of women in food production and the nutritional well being of their families and communities and the impact of trade liberalization has led to the gradual erosion of the prime source of food security and sustainable development,” said the conference report. Marginalisation of small-scale farmers accentuates gender inequalities by pushing poor and women farmers into the background and reducing their market space. “People everywhere lose control over their means of survival, and become dependent on world market forces of trade and finance. They are excluded from progress, by being first integrated into the world market and then alienated from their means of survival,” states the Aprodev report.
(Source and further reading: http://www.aprodev.net/files/gender/2002GOODConf.pdf)
A devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic has accentuated a food security crisis, with food production reduced by up to 60 per cent in some cases because women's time and energy turns to caring for HIV/AIDS-infected family members. HIV/AIDS, food security and poverty are linked. The combination makes people poorer because they can’t work due to sickness and thus lose income. Expenses for medical bills and related costs skyrocket. Malnutrition resulting from poverty enhances the onset of progression to full blown AIDS. In the worst situations there is population displacement and increased sexual violence.
(Sources and further reading: http://www.odi.org.uk/Food-Security-Forum/docs/Shumba%20Ja03.pdf; http://www.sarpn.org.za/documents/d0000118/page5.php)
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 formally recognised the right to food as a basic right. More recently, the international community has identified the reduction of poverty and hunger as crucial for development goals. At the 1996 World Food Summit, reducing hunger and food insecurity was declared an essential part of the international development agenda. Leaders from 185 countries and the European Community reaffirmed, in the Rome Declaration on World Food Security, "the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger." They further pledged to cut the number of the world's hungry people in half by 2015.
In 1999 the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, in the text of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights stated that the right to food is realized "when every man, woman, and child, alone or in community with others, [has] physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement." (Source and further reading: http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/ib/ib29.pdf)
In Africa, Article 15 of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa specifically recognises the right of women to food security. The article places an obligation on states to ensure that all women have the right to nutritious and adequate food by providing women with access to clean drinking water, sources of domestic fuel, land and the means of producing nutritious food. States are further obliged to establish adequate systems of supply and storage to ensure food security.
How do the ideals and declarations translate into food on the table? Like the image of the farmer doing backbreaking work with a hoe, it requires hard work of a different kind. Political commitment, consultations with communities, shared decision making, transparency and education are some of the criteria needed to make food security a reality and decrease the estimated 800 million people globally who are undernourished and food insecure. But all of this will in itself be useless unless there is recognition of the damaging role that factors like unfair trade terms and high debt burdens play in militating against food security.
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F: The right to health, the right to life
It was with good reason that Mozambican Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi highlighted the poor state of women’s health care in Africa at a conference on women’s reproductive and sexual health rights in 2003.
Referring to what he called an “unfortunate truth”, Mocumbi said: “Across our continent the health status of women remains precarious and in many instances is worsening, not only because of HIV but also because of the many unacceptable inequalities that exist in women’s health, the limited choices that are made available to women and finally, the lack of accountability for their health.” (First conference dedicated to African Women’s Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights, Johannesburg, South Africa February 4 – 7, 2003, www.amanitare.org/)
In making his statement, Mocumbi would have considered the statistic that 55% of adults with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa are women. Women with HIV/AIDS are less economically secure and are often deprived of their rights to housing, property, inheritance and access to adequate health services. Mocumbi would have been aware that 90 million African women and girls are victims of female circumcision and other forms of female genital mutilation. He would have known that many countries in Africa have restrictive abortion policies, with 11 000 unsafe abortions taking place every day. Apart from these facts, he would have known that women’s rights suffer in the many situations of conflict on the continent. Lastly, he would have known that decades of market reforms and structural adjustment policies in Africa have often marginalised women and had a detrimental impact on their access to health care.
So where does the idea of these rights come from? And how is the idea of women’s sexual and reproductive health rights supposed to improve the situation of women? According to a history of sexual and reproductive health rights on www.choike.org, a website that functions as a portal for civil society worldwide, the term "reproductive rights" first arose during an International Meeting on Women and Health in Amsterdam (1984) which was seen as the starting point of efforts by women to expand the scope of the concept of human rights.
At the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993, participant States agreed to regard any violation of the specific rights of women as a human rights violation. In the Programme of Action of The Cairo Conference in 1994, the acknowledgement of rights enjoyed or denied inside the home won increasing ground in the conception of human rights. It was also established that post-abortion counselling, education and family planning services should be established. The Programme of Action further called on governments to regard unsafe abortions as a major public health concern, improve family planning services to avoid abortions, provide health care and guidance for women who have unwanted pregnancies, and urge the implementation of policies and changes in the approach to abortion.
The Beijing platform for action in 1995 was the most comprehensive document produced by a United Nations conference on the issue of women's rights, as it incorporated the achievements of previous conferences and treaties, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women), and the Vienna Declaration. It reaffirmed the definitions adopted at Cairo. The Third Special Session of the UN General Assembly, known as "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace in the 21st Century", took stock of the advances made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action's recommendations (WPA or Beijing + 5).
On a regional level, the Protocol on Women's Rights in Africa adopted by the African Union in Maputo in 2003 affirms state responsibility to protect sexual and reproductive health and reproductive choice, and to combat violence against women and discriminatory cultural norms. The Protocol requires states to prohibit and condemn female genital mutilation, while women and men must have equal rights in relation to marriage. The reproductive rights of women must be protected and abortion provided in certain circumstances. Under the Protocol, women must be guaranteed the right to protection against sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.
This international and regional human rights framework is not sufficient in itself to protect the sexual and reproductive health rights of women. In order to be effective many things need to happen. Laws have to be passed by individual countries so that commitments to international treaties can be enforced. These laws in turn have to be the subject of public awareness and education campaigns so that they are popularized. This education does not only apply to making women aware of their rights, but also involves educating men to treat women as equals. Resources will therefore have to be prioritized for women’s sexual and reproductive health and health services will need to be equipped to be able to deal with the increased needs of their populations and to incorporate a reproductive rights perspective into their daily functioning. Perhaps most importantly, the protections offered to protect rights must be enforced. (Source and further reading: http://www.unfpa.org/intercenter/reprights/needs.htm)
Sadly, the kind of political commitment needed for this kind of action is completely lacking in many countries. Women continue to be treated as unequals in society. In recent years the attitude of the Bush Administration has threatened to erode the gains that the reproductive rights movement has made over the last two decades. A conservative, fundamentalist Christian element in the US has dictated that the US will withhold funds from organizations around the world who are involved in providing abortion services, dealing a blow to the funding of reproductive health services in developing countries.
Governments who haven’t taken the sexual and reproductive health rights of women seriously should wake up. Taking these rights seriously will lead to healthier populations and contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS. It will reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable development. It makes sense. And besides, in future years, women may well have a case for reparations against their governments and the male population at large for the continued violation of their basic human rights. Perhaps its a case that should be made.
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References and further reading:
G: Masculinity, Peace Processes, Impunity and Justice
Ana Elena Obando
In spite of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in domestic and international conflicts women of all ages continue to be disproportionately brutalized, by the military but also by paramilitary forces and rebel groups. This systematic pattern of rape, torture, slavery and other sexual and gender crimes against women during wars and in so-called times of peace is directly related to the construction of masculinity. While some women participate in war or are active members of the military and even exercise violence against women, war is a patriarchal construction that reinforces the capitalist neoliberal system.
Women, girls and boys comprise the majority of civilian deaths and of displaced, abused and impoverished people during war (Byrne 55). For them, wars entail violations of liberty, dignity and autonomy, in addition to separation, displacement, the loss of family members and of their means of survival. Too often women are widowed or become single mothers with fewer means of economic support.
Women's movements have been fighting against patriarchal power and values common in thoughts and actions in both the public and private spheres. The use of these powers and the values implicit in them has resulted in the globalization of militarization, the undermining of democracies and the use of war as the dominant method of resolving conflicts between nations, within countries, between groups and within relationships.
Public wars as well as those I call "private" (two or more people), are based on this same logic; the values, ideas and attitudes behind private violence mirror those in armed conflict. That is, in the same way men exercise violence against women in the home to maintain their gender privileges, states exercise military violence to ensure their hegemonic place in the world, and corporations exercise economic violence to maintain and accumulate their economic and political powers.
Specifically, the creation of a masculine identity is based on competitiveness, power, control and repression of emotion. Masculinity constructed as control fosters, naturalizes and tolerates diverse forms of violence. After all, war is linked to a collective image of hegemonic masculinity, a masculinity that depends on the exercise of power and control.
Patriarchal ideology supports gender, class, race, ethnicity, age, hierarchies. These unequal structures and the resultant violence in all of its forms are applauded and legitimized by patriarchal institutions and expressions.
Furthermore, the masculine values of bravery, courage and patriotism are exalted and are symbolically rewarded to demonstrate that good citizens give their lives to resolve conflicts through violence. In fact, this violence is so valued, that most governments assign a larger part of their budgets to "defense and security" than to health, education, housing, human development or peace.
Violence against women is directly related to power differences that exist between men and women and are directly related to the violence that men exercise against other. In fact, violence between men is a mechanism used from childhood to establish a hierarchical order. Normalizing violence then renders men's power over women or over other men invisible, or more precisely, this normalization hides power. These same normalized inequities are evident in analyses of women in the legal and police systems, in their communities, at work, in armed conflicts, and in women's private and most intimate sphere.
Violence is now legally condemned, and this achievement has given many invisible abuses legitimacy and standing as human rights violations. However, a culture of peace and human rights requires the creation of social and legal mechanisms that condemn and do not tolerate violence, demands creative forms of resistance and of resolving domestic and international conflicts, and ultimately requires that we ask ourselves if our daily acts, thoughts and emotions support the culture of fear and masculine powers or the culture of peace and human rights.
A Culture of Peace for Development
The three pillars of the International Women's Year (1975) and the Decade for Women (1976-1985) were peace, equality and development. In keeping with the same, the UN General Assembly approved Resolution 32/142 in 1977, which urged states to proclaim one day a year as the United Nations day for women's rights and international peace.
Likewise, the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) opened the door for future debates and resolutions on women's participation in the resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, reconciliation, reconstruction and maintaining peace at all levels. The Beijing Platform for Action focused specifically on the issue of women and armed conflicts (paragraphs 131 to 149).
Peace and development as ideals go hand in hand. This has been understood at least in the rhetoric of the United Nations and of some governments. A culture of peace innately implies a road towards sustainable human development and vice versa. And when I speak of development I do not mean countries in the North imposing on the South, or development as greater production of material goods. Instead the development that I speak of is synonymous with a dynamic process that has as its basic tenet the development of all levels of human beings and their potential. This development understands that there can be no peace with poverty, and that there can be no economic, political, social and cultural development at the cost of the marginalization and exclusion of women.
The development model imposed by the North has increased unequal power relationships between genders, races, ethnicities, classes, etc., and has particularly impoverished women because it answers to the interests of small international economic elite.
How then can we create a culture of peace under a development model which exacerbates inequalities, and especially how can we do it in societies that are in a permanent state of armed conflict?
A culture of peace for sustainable human development requires the creation of egalitarian societies with inclusive and pluralistic democratic institutions and processes, respectful of the indivisibility, universality and integrity of human rights and of the diversity of human beings. It implies the construction of a real citizenry securing the exercise of all rights, a non-capitalistic model of development which puts human beings and other living creatures at the center, and a feminist welfare state open to the full participation of civil society and accountable to it.
Defining sustainable human development, and thereby supporting a culture of peace, continues to be debatable given that equitable development in and of itself is a challenge for the majority of countries in the world. The rhetoric of placing women and men in the center of development is merely rhetorical if governments are subject to policies and guidelines imposed on them by international financial institutions.
Meanwhile, women constitute more than 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty in the South and the North, and children constitute 80% of refugees (19 million) and two thirds of the world's 900 million illiterates (Montero, 6).
Women in Peace Processes
Peace is not inherent to the end of armed conflict. It is a process that requires time, space, truth, transparency, reparation and reconstruction. It is a process that must address the structural inequalities of power that caused the conflict.
Each conflict has different effects on women and men, gender relations, the balance of powers and gender ideologies. This effect depends on the nature of the relationships existing prior to conflict, and largely on the cultural, political and economic conditions in the country, and on the origins and nature of the conflict (Bridge 22).
Whether the interests, voices and needs of all women and marginalized men (due to their race, ethnicity, age, class, disability, political or religious belief, sexual orientation, or other condition) are reflected or not in states' policies and actions in post-conflict negotiations depends on the above-mentioned conditions, relationships, balances and ideologies.
All too often women are later added to official peace processes, given that the lack of women's political participation is not conceived as a violation of human rights in and of itself. Instead women are added to peace processes peripherally or to meet 'gender perspectives'.
The increased centralization of power during war also influences women's exclusion from decision-making processes. However, "whether during a conflict or the absence of one, political institutions often exclude women. They are under-represented in national and international organizations during times of conflict as well as after conflict" (UNDP 10). This in spite of governments' international commitments to increase women's representation at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms.
In spite of women's exclusion from these processes or of their inclusion via traditional feminine roles, the international women's movement has been able to utilize a human rights framework to conceptualize the right to peace as a right based on equality and on development.
In Liberia, after 14 peace accords, the Liberian Women's Initiative was successful in mobilizing national support for disarmament before the elections. In North Ireland and South Africa, women's coalitions introduced values of inclusiveness and public participation in the political dialogue. In Burundi, a coalition of Hutu and Tutsi women struggled together to ensure their place at the negotiation table (Anderlini 13).
Women's organizing has been crucial to these processes. Women's efforts have increased the visibility of specific violations suffered by women in times of conflict and the general exclusion of women from negotiation tables. They have also demanded participation; increased the organizational level of women; created international networks of women working for peace; redefined many of the roles women and men had before the conflict; and supported the experience of sustainable local and communal economies during conflicts.
Incorporating feminist perspectives in all peace-making and conflict transformation processes is urgent. It includes recognizing the specific role that women can and must play in conflict resolution as agents of change, before, during and after conflict, and incorporating a feminist perspective in the process for a comprehensive negotiation on peace, equality and development and the reconceptualizing of a new paradigm.
In both United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security approved by the Security Council in its 4,213rd meeting on October 31, 2000, and the Namibia Plan of Action adopted in the Windhoek Declaration, the United Nations has urged all parties involved in conflict and peace processes to incorporate a gender perspective in legal, constitutional and judicial processes.
The basic problem with the resolution is that it does not clarify what a gender perspective is and uses the term gender as a synonym for women and girls. A gender perspective is a comprehensive view of the world and should not only be incorporated in legal processes but rather in all aspects of rebuilding a society.
Additionally, the resolution ignores many of the situations that require an understanding of the existing power inequality between women and men, not only during armed conflict but also after it. Systematizing a gendered application in peace processes (including contributions from women who have experienced armed conflict) allows the monitoring of success. Without concrete indicators, the effectiveness of the resolution will be difficult to measure in terms of women's lives and rights. And without this gendered understanding, it is impossible to create a culture of peace, development and human rights that advances, protects and respects the rights of all human beings.
Moreover, the resolution asked the United Nations Secretary General to conduct a study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, women's roles in peace-making, and gender in peace processes and conflict resolution. The study Women, Peace and Security, presented by the United Nations Secretary General in accordance with Resolution 1325, states the specific measures required of the international community to put it into practice. For example, the international community must ensure that principles of gender equality and non-discrimination are taken into account when creating political constitutions in the period after conflicts, and that legal reforms are based on an analysis of civil and penal law from a gendered perspective, including classifying violence against women and girls, and sexual violence as a crime.
In an extensive and interesting evaluation by independent specialists (Rehn and Johnson 6-8) on the impact of armed conflict on women and the role of women in peace-making, the authors pointed out that in order to implement this Resolution, the following, although not an exhaustive list, is necessary:
Strengthen protections for women and measures on violence against women and gender discrimination in conflict and post-conflict situations;
Increase coordination within the entire United Nations system to ensure the implementation of commitments to women;
Monitor, collect information and communicate systematically on gender issues during the crisis and provide assistance during the conflict and after;
Institute consistent high-level commitment to gender equality and equitable representation of women in all peace-making activities.
Each of these recommendations includes a series of concrete measures that are worth considering in order to make the Resolution more effective.
Finally, the Windhoek Declaration establishes that accountability in the full incorporation of a gender perspective must be pursued at the highest level. The Special Representative of the Secretary General has the responsibility to guarantee that such a perspective is incorporated in all aspects and components of a mission.
Global Impunity, Justice and Accountability
The global policy of militarization, repression, impunity and other forms of human rights violations, like limiting civil liberties and reducing guarantees against violations of basic rights, function as mechanisms of social disintegration and political intimidation, concentrating more social, political and economic power in the corporate elite of the North and converting states into large police stations that obey the laws of the market.
Impunity has become the global rule, more than the failure to punish perpetrators. States, and their militarized and politicized institutions contribute to impunity by not categorizing crimes such as sexual and gender crimes into their legislation; by impeding the autonomy of the judicial branch and not providing it with human and economic resources; by allowing governmental, legislative, judicial and police corruption; by legitimizing sexist, classist and racist media that cover up, distort and reproduce official versions of the facts; and by accepting the normalization of violence against women before, during and after wars in the name of state security, religion, and the fight against terrorism.
Resolution 1325 specifically emphasizes states' responsibility to end impunity and punish perpetrators. Justice is possible, but branches of government themselves conspire to make it impossible. Impunity is as damaging for the whole society as the crime itself, and for that reason it must be sanctioned politically, legally and ethically.
In countries in the midst of armed conflict or in post-conflict situations, there exists a permanent level of violence against all citizens and particularly against women. Rebuilding societies and creating peace and national reconciliation continue to be very challenging, especially when there are no independent executive or legal systems, those that do exist are very weak or when implementing laws has been or continues to be ineffective for women.
The right to justice is a universal human right, which depends on the rule of law, social order and peace.
Yet, how can we ensure justice is achieved and not merely aspired to when so many countries have institutions which generally supported the regimes responsible for perpetrating violations- military forces, police, peace-keeping forces and members of the judiciary- are complicit.
Governments have been advised to develop effective mechanisms and procedures to ensure that national and international procedures do not re-victimize women during judicial proceedings. Some measures that can help prevent added discrimination and abuse of victims are: protection of victims and witnesses, psychological support, health services, and training judicial and police personnel on gender-based violence. The International Criminal Court statute establishes a series of gender-sensitive procedural measures to that end, which do not end complicity, but at least create a more just and transparent process for victims. However, justice is not only 'legal'. Justice is related to accountability of the state and society for crimes against women, which is not merely punishing perpetrators.
But returning to the judicial or semi-judicial system, women do not access justice systems because they lack the economic resources, are intimidated by the perpetrators, and lack the belief in a system that does not treat them equally. Institutional discrimination against women in the judiciary is a systematic pattern before and after conflict.
Post-conflict situations are further complicated by judicial systems' inadequate human and economic resources to judge a large quantity of cases resulting in the need for complementary or alternative justice systems, such as truth and reconciliation commissions.
The is no one formula to achieve justice, truth and transparency, human rights principles and a feminist understanding of the culture of peace. Peace processes are opportunities to create new discourses and alternate social, economic and political spaces, where dialogue begins with commonalities and takes into account differences, where new relationships of power are practiced which do not oppress, where other paradigms are created.
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* The author is a Costa Rican feminist lawyer, women´s human rights activist, and a former professor of law. She works as an independent consultant for national and international organizations.
* This is a shortened version of an article 'Masculinity, Peace Processes, Impunity and Justice' from the website of WHRnet (http://www.whrnet.org). WHRnet updates readers on women's human rights issues and policy developments globally and provides information and analyses that support advocacy actions. WHRnet has a regular e-bulletin. (To subscribe, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" in the subject line).
* Click on the link below for the bibliography to this article
Abeyesekera, Sunila. A Women's Human Rights Perspective on War and Conflict.
February 2003, Women's Human Rights Net
Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo); Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Center for Legal and Social Studies); Familiares de Desaparecidos por Razones Políticas (Family of the Disappeared for Political Reasons); Liga Argentina por los Derechos del Hombre (Argentine League for the Rights of Man); Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora (Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Founders); Servicio de Paz y Justicia (Service for Peace and Justice). La Impunidad en América Latina. El Caso Argentino. Informe al Parlamento Europeo (Impunity in Latin America. Argentina. Report to the European Parliament). Argentina, October 1996.
Adams, M. and Bradbury, M. Conflict and Development. Organisational. Adaption in Conflict Situations. Oxfam Discussion Paper, No. 4, Oxford, 1995.
Anderlini, S. N. Women, Peace and Security: A Policy Audit. From the Beijing Platform for Action to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and Beyond. London: International Alert, 2001
Asociación Internacional de Derecho Penal (International Association for Criminal Law). La Corte Penal Internacional, Ratificación y Aplicación por las Legislaciones Nacionales (The International Criminal Court, Ratification and Application by National Legislatures). International Review of Penal Law. Toulouse, France: Edición Erés, 2000.
Bell, Emma and Lata Narayanaswamy. Gender and Armed Conflict: Supporting Resources Collection. England: Bridge/Institute of Development Studies, 2003
Byrne, Bridget. Gender, Conflict and Development: Volume I: Overview. BRIDGE Report 34. Brighton: BRIDGE/Institute of Development Studies, 1996
Cockburn, Cynthia. Militarismos, Fundamentalismos y Nacionalismos (Militarisms, Fundamentalisms and Nationalisms). Contribution to opening panel of the Encuentro Internacional de Mujeres contra la Guerra (International Meeting of Women Against War).
Bogota, August 2003
United Nations Security Council. Resolution 1325. 2000
Cuya, Esteban. Las Comisiones de la Verdad en América Latina (Truth Commissions in Latin America). KO'AGA ROÑE'ETA se.iii. 1996
Facio, Alda. Análisis sobre la Corte Penal Internacional. Las Mujeres y la Corte Penal Internacional (Analysis of the International Criminal Court. Women and the International Criminal Court). Presentation at a Seminar on the International Criminal Court organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Buenos Aires: Human Rights Watch and Coalition of NGOs for the ICC, May 2001
Kaufman, Michael. Men, Feminism, and Men's Contradictory Experiences of Power. Revised edition, published in Harry Brod and Michael Kaufman, eds., Theorizing Masculinities, Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications, 1994, pp. 142-165. The first version in Spanish was published in Luz G. Arango, Magdalena León, Mara Viveros (eds.), Género e identidad. Ensayos sobre lo femenino y lo masculino, Bogota, Tercer Mundo, 1995, pp. 123-146. Toronto, Canada, 1997.
Montero, Justa. Pekín y el debate internacional sobre la mujer (Beijing and the International Debate on Women). In Papeles No. 56. 1995
Lagarde, Marcela. Género y Poderes (Gender and Powers). Heredia: Instituto de Estudios de la Mujer, Universidad Nacional Autónoma, 1995.
---. Género y feminismo (Gender and Feminism), Desarrollo Humano y Democracia (Human Development and Democracy). Cuadernos Inacabados. Spain: Editorial Horas y Horas, 1997.
Obando, Ana Elena. Presentation for seminar, Women: Rights, Peace and Development, Medellín, Colombia, March 8, 2004. Note: Parts of this article on masculinity and peace were explained and presented by the author at the seminar.
---. Módulo Mujer, Poder y Violencia (Women, Power and Violence Module). Training Program on Human Rights. San José, Costa Rica: Inter-American Institute for Human Rights, IIHR, 1999.
---. Address presented at the University of Panama. Violence against Women, Human Rights and War. Panama, November 28, 2001.
---. "The Right to Peace". Whrnet. October 2004.
Rehn, Elizabeth and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Women, War and Peace: The Independent Experts: Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Women's Role in Peace-building. Volume 1. New York: United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), 2002
Starhawk. Truth or Dare, Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery. New York: HaperCollins Publishers, 1990.
United Nations Development Program. "Gender Approaches in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations." 2002
United Nations. Recommendations on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, Women, Peace and Security: Study submitted by the Secretary-General pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). UN document S/2002/1154, of October 16, 2002, has more information on the issue.
United Nations. "Women, Peace and Security". Study submitted by the Secretary- General pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1325. 2002
Velásquez Toro, Magdala. "Reflexiones Feministas para la Construcción de una Agenda de Paz de la Sociedad Civil con Perspectiva de Género" ("Feminist Thoughts on Creating a Civil Society Peace Agenda with a Gender Perspective"). Red Nacional de Mujeres (National Network of Women), linked to the process of Mujeres en Audiencia por la Vida y la Paz (Women in Hearings for Life and Peace). Panel in Colombia. September 28, 2000
---. "Anotaciones para una postura feminista en torno a las mujeres, la guerra y la paz." ("Notes on a feminist position on women, war and peace") Written for Nova et Vetera.
The thesis presented here is part of a study sponsored by Fundación Sisma Mujer de Bogotá. September 2004.
H: Djibouti s’engage vers la voie très prochaine d’une ratification du Protocole / Djibouti moves towards ratification
Zeinab Ali Kamil
Djibouti s’engage vers la voie très prochaine d’une ratification du Protocole de Maputo relatif aux droits des femmes en Afrique
[English translation follows]
L’Union Nationale des Femmes Djiboutiennes , membre du Mouvement de Solidarité pour les Droits des Femmes en Afrique mène depuis juillet 2004 des actions de plaidoyer en faveur de la ratification par la République de Djibouti du protocole à la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples relatif aux droits des femmes.
Grâce à l’engagement de la première dame de Djibouti, présidente de l’UNFD, Madame Kadra Mahamoud Haid, la société civile djiboutienne se mobilise en faveur de la ratification du protocole de Maputo.
Par le moyen de pétitions, une large frange de la population djiboutienne composée de parlementaires, de juges, de personnes opérant dans les secteurs public et privé demeure aujourd’hui avisée de l’existence de cette convention africaine promouvant les droits des femmes en Afrique.
En juin 2004, une pétition a , en un temps record de 48 heures, recueilli 270 signatures.
Les médias djiboutiens n’ont pas manqué à leur tour de souligner les actions de plaidoyer menées par l’UNFD ; Saisissant l’occasion de la conférence des Chefs d’Etats de l’Union Africaine réunis en juillet 2004 à Addis-Abeba, l’UNFD a adressé, par la voie de communiqués de presse à la Radio télévision de Djibouti dans les quatre langues nationales arabe, afar , somali et français, des messages à la population djiboutienne en vue de l’informer de l’existence du protocole de Maputo, convention avant-gardiste dans la protection des femmes djiboutiennes et a fortiori des femmes africaines.
La stratégie informative de l’UNFD s’est poursuivie par l’engagement officiel de la première dame de Djibouti en faveur de la ratification par Djibouti du protocole de Maputo et ce par le voie d’une interview conduite par le journal « la Nation ».
L’UNFD, connue depuis les premiers jours de l’indépendance de la République de Djibouti pour son fervent combat en faveur des droits des femmes djiboutiennes, démontre ses capacités mobilisatrices, portant cette fois le flambeau de la cause des femmes de tout le continent africain.
En décembre 2004, dans le cadre des 16 jours d’activisme, 383 signatures ont été collectées par le support d’une pétition.
Par ailleurs, les militantes de l’UNFD ne relâchent pas leurs efforts de sensibilisation ; Ainsi, au cours d’un colloque « Femmes et Citoyenneté à Djibouti »organisé par l’association djiboutienne dénommée Solidarité Féminine qui s’est tenu le 17 et 18 janvier 2005, Mme Zeinab Kamil Ali a présenté, devant une large auditoire composé de personnalités issues d’horizons divers, les disposition méritoires du protocole de Maputo, la genèse du texte ainsi qu’une analyse comparative du protocole avec la législation djiboutienne.
Réaffirmant les atouts du protocole de Maputo, convention caractérisée par son pragmatisme, sa connaissance de la réalité des femmes africaines et sa volonté de conciliation des différentes acceptions juridiques de la protection des droits de la femme africaine, cette militante a clôturé son plaidoyer sur l’indispensable texte de référence que constituera, dès sa ratification, le protocole de Maputo pour les besoins de toute réforme de la législation djiboutienne relatif aux droits des femmes.
Fort de cette effervescence de la société civile djiboutienne, il semblerait que le Gouvernement de la République de Djibouti par l’entremise de Mme Hawa Ahmed Youssouf, Ministre déléguée à la promotion de la femme a déjà inscrit, sur son agenda, l’adoption en conseil des ministres du projet de loi portant ratification du protocole à la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples relatif aux droits des femmes.
Since July 2004 the National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD), member of the Solidarity Movement for Women’s Rights in Africa, has been carrying out lobbying activities promoting ratification by the Djibouti Republic of the protocol relating to women’s rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Thanks to the involvement of Kadra Mahamoud Haid, first lady of Djibouti and President of UNFD, Djibouti civil society is mobilising in favour of ratifying the protocol.
A wide sector of the Djibouti population including members of parliament, judges and public and private sector workers is now aware of the existence of this African convention promoting women’s rights in Africa.
One petition in June 2004 raised 270 signatures in a record 48 hours. Nor did the Djibouti media miss their opportunity to highlight the UNFD lobbying actions: UNFD seized the opportunity of the African Union Heads of State meeting in Addis Ababa in July 2004 to prepare press communiqués for RTD (Djibouti Radio Television station) in the four national languages of Arabic, Afar, Somali and French informing the people of Djibouti of the existence of the Maputo protocol, a progressive convention in the vanguard of protecting Djiboutian women and indeed all African women.
The UNFD information strategy continued with the first lady of Djibouti’s official support for ratification of the Maputo protocol by Djibouti in an interview published in Djibouti’s ‘La Nation’ newspaper.
UNFD, known since the early days of the Djibouti Republic’s independence for its ardent fight for the rights of Djiboutian women, has demonstrated its ability to mobilise support, this time carrying the torch for women’s rights over the whole African continent.
In December 2004 during a 16-day action period, 383 signatures were collected with the help of a petition.
And UNFD activists have not been slackening their awareness-raising efforts since then: at a symposium from 17 to 18 January on ‘Women and Citizenship in Djibouti’ organised by the Djibouti association Women’s Solidarity, Mrs Zeinab Kamil Ali made a presentation to an audience of people from a variety of backgrounds on the positive measures in the Maputo protocol and how the text was arrived at, as well as a comparative analysis of the protocol with Djibouti legislation.
Activist Mrs Ali reaffirmed the key points in the Maputo protocol, describing it as a convention characterised by its pragmatism, its awareness of the reality of African women and its willingness to reconcile the differing juridical readings of the protection of African women’s rights. She brought her advocacy to a close, highlighting how indispensable a reference text the Maputo protocol once ratified will be for the purpose of any reform of the Djibouti legislature relating to women’s rights.
It now appears that through the intervention of Mrs Hawa Ahmed Youssouf, Minister in charge of women’s advancement, the Government of the Djibouti Republic has already put the adoption of the draft law on the council of ministers’ schedule, bringing closer the ratification of the protocol.
[our thanks to Clare Smedley for providing this translation]
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I: Campaign update: What’s happening around the continent?
An update on the campaign for the ratification of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
- Based on a recent update compiled by Equality Now
Status of signatures and ratifications
Total signatures – 33
Total ratifications – 7
The Executive Council Session of the African Union will take place in Abuja on 28-29 January 2005.
The 4th African Union Ordinary Summit - will take place 30/31 January in Abuja (Nigeria).
Pre-Summit on Gender will be held in Abuja during 25-26 January 2005
Members of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOWR) Coalition will have a consultation meeting on 26th January in Abuja and ask lobbying strategies and share campaign updates.
Conference on FGM in Djibouti - No Peace Without Justice, in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Djibouti, will be hosting a conference during 2-3 February 2005 in Djibouti. The conference will discuss the Protocol on the Rights of Women with a view to advocating for its ratification and generate strategies for implementation.
“Engendering African Politics” Conference, April 2005, Addis Ababa.
The African Association of Political Science is sponsoring a conference to bring together policy makers and activists to develop and debate recommendations for strengthening a women’s rights platform across Africa.
“When Women Gain, So Does the World” Conference, June 19-21, Washington, DC.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research will host the Eighth International Women’s Policy Research Conference. The conference will cover topics such as ‘family, culture, and population’, women’s leadership in public life, and women’s rights to health and income security. For more information visit www.iwpr.org
Latest Country Updates
The WiLDAF West Africa Office reported that on January 6, the National Assembly of Benin unanimously approved a law that authorized ratification of the Protocol. Although the official instrument of ratification must still be deposited with the African Union in order to take effect, the passage of No 2005-04 signals a willingness on the part of the Assembly to make the Protocol a reality for Beninese women.
FRENCH: Décembre 2004 : conduite d’une pétition dans le cadre des 16 jours d’activisme
- Support explicatif du protocole : document « présentation du protocole de Maputo au regard de la législation djiboutienne » établi par Mme Zeinab Kamil Ali
- Militantes chargées de la collecte de signatures de divers horizons
- Approche d’une large frange de la population djiboutienne : parlementaires, juges, personnel des Nations Unies, travailleurs du secteur public, personnel du secteur bancaire, ports et zones franches, travailleurs du secteur privé
- Collecte de 383 signatures
Janvier 2005 : participation de Mme Zeinab KAMIL ALI au colloque « Femmes et citoyenneté » organisé par une association djiboutienne SOLIDARTE FEMININE
- 1ère journée 17 janvier 2005 : intervention de Mme Zeinab Kamil Ali sur le thème des droits des femmes en Afrique
- Intervention axée sur une présentation du Protocole de Maputo et un fervent plaidoyer pour sa ratification par Djibouti
- Sensibilisation de femmes parlementaires, de la société civile, avocats, juges et représentants diplomatiques de l’ambassade américaine, représentant de la banque mondiale dans le cadre de ce colloque
ENGLISH: In December 2004, the National Union of Djiboutian Women, working as member of the coalition “Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR)”, collected
383 signatures on a petition to the Heads of States calling for ratification
of the Maputo Protocol. Those signing the petition reflected a large section
of the Djiboutian population, including judges, United Nations personnel,
public sector workers, and private sector workers. Also in December, Zeinab
Kamil published an article titled “Presentation of the Maputo Protocol With
Regard to the Djiboutian Legislation.”
In January 2005 Zeinab Kamil participated in a symposium titled “Women and
Citizenship” organized by a Djiboutian association, Female Solidarity. She
made a presentation on women’s rights in Africa and emphasized the need for
ratification of the Maputo Protocol in Djibouti.
UNFD is continuing with its campaign and anticipates that the Djibouti
government will soon be discussing the ratification of the Protocol.
The Guinean Parliament has ratified the Protocol and the government has indicated that it is in the process of forwarding the ratification to the African Union. Campaign focus is moving to domestication of the Protocol.
The Coalition on Violence against Women (COVAW) is continuing with the lobbying of the Kenyan government to ratify the Protocol.
Due to the recent election, much of the lobbying work of the FDC (Foundation for Community Development) has been at a stand still. However, the government has promised to put the Protocol on the agenda of the First Session of Parliament. The FDC will continue its campaigning work to ensure that this happens and that the Protocol receives a fair and full discussion. Congratulations to Mozambique for the appointment of a female Prime Minister who also holds the position of Finance Minister!
Sister Namibia is continuing campaigns to popularize the Protocol in the country. Naimbia was the 4th country to ratify the Protocol.
Nigeria ratified the Protocol and activists are now focusing on domestication and implementation.
The South African Parliament ratified the Protocol in December 2004 and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since deposited the instrument of ratification to the African Union.
Progress on the Protocol has been slow in the Uganda. Akina Mama wa Afrika attributed this to the election campaigning and the fact that Ugandan women activists are focusing their energies on the Domestic Relations Bill, currently in the house, to ensure that this new family law bill will protect women’s rights. Despite these intervening events, the Ministry of Gender has prepared a cabinet brief on the Protocol which Akina Mama wa Afrika will use to lobby other members of government.
News Brief 1 – How to speed up ratifications to the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa? This was the central question of a session at the recently-concluded 36th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights co-chaired by Equality Now Programme Officer Caroline Osero-Ageng’o and the Special Rapporteur on Women’s Rights Commissioner Angela Melo.
Commissioner Melo noted that she had been in contact with various NGOs and 48 ministries of foreign affairs as well as 45 officials that are working with these ministers. She has also been in contact with Mrs. Mongella, the Speaker of the Pan African Parliament. She said that the problem of lack of translation into Portuguese was slowing work amongst the Lusophone countries and noted that there was need to support the Special Rapporteur in her work for the ratification of the Protocol.
Together with the participants they explored strategies of attaining ratification and came up with the following suggestions:
- translate the Protocol into national languages and disseminate it at national levels in all countries,
- undertake an audit of ratification of the CEDAW and discuss the experiences in different countries, including whether it has been translated into national laws, with a view to replicating successful strategies,
- create awareness on the Protocol – meet religious associations and lobby parliamentarians with a view to building a strong constituency of support for ratification, and ensure coordination so as to reduce the expenses on the campaign, and
- engage men in the campaign on women’s rights issues.
News brief 2 - Mary Wandia (FEMNET), Hannah Forster (ACDHRS), Kafui KUWONU (WiLDAF) and Faiza Mohamed (Equality Now) attended a consultation on Human Rights that was organized by the Political Affairs Division of the African Union, with support from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and held at the African Union conference center in Addis Ababa from 9-10 December 2004.
They used this opportunity to brief participants, who were from all regions of Africa and the Diaspora and working on human rights, media, youth, community development, corruption, capacity building and peace building, about the campaign and urged them to add their signatures to the petition; and included a call for a speedy ratification of the Protocol in the communiqué that was generated at the conclusion of the consultation meeting.
The African Union declared the week of 6th –13th December 2004 as a treaties week whereby member states were called upon to ratify pending Protocols. Unfortunately, the Protocol on Women’s Rights only received 2 additional signatures – Chad and Swaziland – but no ratifications.
Text Now 4 Women’s Rights campaign and Petition signatures
This component to the campaign aimed at recruiting mobile users in Africa to support the online petition currently running at the Pambazuka website has continued. There are currently 3935 signatories to the petition, about 500 of which have been received by SMS. Signatories have been received from 111 countries. This breaks down into 43 African countries and 68 countries from outside of Africa. 'Block votes' numbering several thousand have also been received from membership organisations, but these have yet to be tabulated.
There are now over 500 people who have signed up for free SMS alerts about the campaign. If you haven't registered for this service, visit http://www.pambazuka.org/petition/alerts.php
J: Signed and sealed, but hard work ahead
Moving towards domestication: the challenges facing the seven countries who have ratified the Protocol
The following list of countries have signed and ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa: Comoros, Lesotho, Libya, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa.
The Union of Comoros is an emerging democracy ruled by President Azali Assoumani, who took power in a coup in April 1999 and subsequently was elected in April 2002.
Equality before the law
The Constitution provides for equality of persons and inheritance and property rights do not discriminate against women. Despite the existence of some matriarchal traditions, men continue to have the dominant role in society. Societal discrimination against women exists mainly in rural farming areas. While more women are part of the labour force earning decent wages in major towns, there are not a lot of women who hold high positions in business.
In 2002, there was one woman in the Cabinet and there were two women who held senior government positions. In relation to other African countries, Comoros has low female political representation, and currently, there are no women in Parliament. According to the World Bank ‘Africa Country Gender Database’ (ACGD) the gender disaggregated data for education, literacy and the representation of women in parliament show a gender gap that is smaller than the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) averages, with the exception of the primary enrollment gap.
Health, violence and reproductive rights
A woman can seek protection through the courts in the case of violence, but the problem is usually resolved within the extended family or at the village level. Prostitution is illegal, and most citizens did not consider it to be a problem.
The rates for people aged 15-24: Male 65.6%; Female 52.2% (UNESCO 2004)
Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with King Letsie III as Head of State. In May 2002, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, the leader of the Lesotho Congress for democracy (LCD) party, won re-election and was the Head of Government.
Equality before the law
The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex and in civil courts, women and men are accorded equal rights. However, under the traditional chieftainship system, the rights of women in areas such as property rights, inheritance, and contracts are very limited.
After the May 2002 elections, there were 12 women in the 80-member National Assembly, and 12 women in the 33-member Senate. Four women were government ministers, and two women were assistant ministers. Currently, there are 14 out of 120 Parliamentary seats occupied by women.
Health, violence and reproductive rights
Although domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and prostitution occur frequently and are considered criminal offences, few cases are reported or brought to trial. Slowly, wife beating is becoming socially unacceptable behaviour and rape can result in a minimum sentence of 5 years' imprisonment, with no option for a fine.
The rates for people aged 15-24: Male: 73.7%; Female: 90.3% (UNESCO 1990)
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Elected by the General People's Congress, the current Secretary of the General People's Committee is Shukri Muhammad Ghanim. National elections are indirect through a hierarchy of people's committees.
Equality before the law
While the 1969 Constitutional Proclamation granted women total equality, societal discrimination has kept them from attaining their full family or civil rights. However, due to oil wealth, development and education programs, young, urban women tend to have 'modern' attitudes towards life, whereas less educated, rural or older women tend to guard their more traditional attitudes towards family and employment.
Although Libya has ratified The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), they have entered reservations based on Shari'a Law, to CEDAW Article 2 which entails pursuing a policy measure to condemn all discrimination against women, and; Article 16 which eliminates discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.
In theory, the People's Committees are open to both men and women and provide political participation. However, there is not much evidence to support this information, as Libya does not have any women holding positions in Parliament.
Health, violence and reproductive rights
Violence against women continues to be a problem and the intervention of community or family members usually limits the reporting of domestic violence. Traditional attitudes and practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) are still practiced in remote areas of the country. Prostitution and related offenses including sexual trafficking are illegal in the Penal Code, however they continue to exist.
The rates for people aged 15-24: Male = 99.8%; Female = 94.0% (UNESCO 2004)
Namibia is a multiparty, multiracial democracy. President Sam Nujoma was re-elected in 1999, which international and domestic observers agreed were free, but included some government harassment of the opposition, unequal access to media coverage and campaign financing.
Equality before the law
The Constitution prohibits discrimination against women, including employment discrimination and against women married under civil law. Women married under customary (traditional) law continue to face legal and cultural discrimination. Traditional practices that permitted family members to confiscate the property of deceased men from their widows and children still exist.
Because women were heavily involved in liberation struggles in Namibia, they have also been integral in the process of re-building the country. Namibia is among the top 20 countries in the world at having the highest proportion of women members of parliament with 19 out 72 seats.
Health, violence and reproductive rights
Domestic violence against women and children, including rape and child abuse, is widespread due to traditional attitudes regarding the subordination of women. However, there has been improvement in the attention paid to the problems of rape and domestic violence such as longer prison sentences for rapists and abusers and gender sensitivity courses for the police.
The rates for people aged 15-24: Male: 90.6%; Female: 94.0% (UNESCO 2004)
President Olusegun Obasanjo's win in the April 2003 elections marked the first civilian transfer of power in Nigeria's history. The federal Constitution provides for diversity in legislation, letting some northern states practice the Muslim Shari' a Law.
Equality before the law
The Nigerian constitution of 1979 prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, as do the constitutions of 1992 and 1999. Before Nigeria's 1992 constitution only men could pass on their Nigerian citizenship to their spouses. Despite changes, some rights may still be outside the grasp of women due to continuing social and administrative mores.
No customary prohibitions prevent women's participation in politics, but women have not contested for political positions on a level matching men. Currently there are 24 Parliamentary seats out of 340 being occupied by women.
Health, violence and reproductive rights
Domestic abuse is common in Nigeria. Female genital mutilation, rape, prostitution and sexual harassment are significant problems in Nigeria. Women in Nigeria also suffer legal discrimination in the control of contraception by denying them access to contraception by the Planned Parenthood Foundation of Nigeria without the signed consent of their spouses. Abortion is also legally and socially controlled. Shari'a Law in northern parts of Nigeria have been criticized for their harsh punishments of women, such as death by stoning for adultery.
The rates for people aged 15-24: Male: 90.7%; Female: 86.5% (UNESCO 2004)
The largely Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which took power in 1994 and declared a Government of National Unity has remained the principal political force. President Paul Kagame was sworn in on April 22, 2000, in what was the first nonviolent presidential change in the country's history.
Equality before the law
Since the 1994 genocide, women have assumed a larger role in the modern sector, and many run their own businesses. Nevertheless, women continue to have limited opportunities for education, employment, and promotion. Government efforts such as scholarships for girls in schools, the provision of loans to rural women, and a Ministry of Gender program have all worked to increase the role of women in the workforce. The 1992 Family Code allows women to inherit property from their fathers and husbands and allows couples to choose the legal property arrangements they wish to adopt.
There are no laws that restrict the participation of women in the political process. With 49% of seats won by women in the recent parliamentary elections, Rwanda became the country that has the most number of women parliamentarians in the world. Rwanda reserves 30 percent of seats in the Lower House and Senate for women.
Health, violence and reproductive rights
Societal and domestic cases normally were handled within the context of the extended family and rarely came before the courts. Genocide survivors, including women and girls who were raped in 1994, have not been able to obtain reparations such as monetary compensation or other assistance for the human rights abuses they suffered. Further, many of them are now infected with HIV/AIDS and do not have adequate resources and support.
The rates for people aged 15-24: Male: 86.3%; Female: 83.6% (UNESCO 2004)
After apartheid, South Africa had its first democratic elections for national and provincial government in April 1994. The African National Congress became the ruling party and Nelson Mandela became President. South Africa is now a constitutional democracy and the President is Thabo Mbeki.
Equality before the law
The South African Constitution has entrenched gender equality as a key political value. The Joint Committee on the Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women has been extremely influential in putting forth legislation such as The Termination of Pregnancy Act (easy access to abortion); The Maintenance Act of 1998 (rights and services for single mothers, pregnant women) and; The 1998 Domestic Violence Act (domestic violence as a public matter). However despite these laws, labour markets, rural practices, limited land rights and inequalities in resources and power within households, continue to marginalise women.
Right after South Africa's second democratic elections in June 1999, the newly elected President Thabo Mbeki appointed eight women to ministerial positions, double the number in the first government. The country ranks seventh in the world in terms of women parliamentary representatives (30 per cent).
Health, violence and reproductive rights
Despite legislation and a high number of women in political positions, there continues to be a lack of services and support for issues such as violence against women, HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, unemployment, housing, health care and rape. All of this despite the fact that South Africa has one of the highest incidence of rape in the world and 15% of women are infected with AIDS. Further, increasing levels of violence have increased women's fear and vulnerability, made it difficult for them to take up social and economic opportunities and put them at a higher risk of HIV infection.
The rates for people aged 15-24: Male: 91.8%; Female: 91.7% (UNESCO 2004)
* Compiled by Rina Alluri, Fahamu
K: Ten facts and figures on women’s rights
1. 600,000 women - one every minute - die each year from pregnancy-related causes.*
2. In the Global South, women traditionally eat less and do not get more food during pregnancy.*
3. 90% of the rural female labour force get classified as "housewives".*
4. Women produce nearly 80% of the food on the planet, but receive less than 10% of agricultural assistance.*
5. 75% of the refugees and internally displaced in the world are women.*
6. In Ethiopia and Nigeria almost 50 % of the maternal deaths result from complications due to abortion.**
7. In Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, and Zimbabwe the level of unwanted pregnancies among adolescent girls is 50% or more.**
8. In several African countries, up to 70% of women treated for abortion complications are younger than 20. **
9. In Uganda 49% of surveyed schoolgirls who responded that they were sexually active said they had been coerced to have sex.**
10. In North Sudan, 89% of women have undergone infibulation, the most severe type of female genital mutilation (FGM).**
* Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP) is an international, non-governmental organization (NGO) that empowers women and girls in the Global South to re-imagine and re-structure their roles in their families, communities, and societies.
** AMANITARE, which evolved from the need for a coordinated Pan-African effort to consolidate the skills, knowledge and institutional resources of groups and individuals active in the field of sexual and reproductive health, gender equality, and women's rights.
Tears of Hope: A Collection of Short Stories by Ugandan Rural Women
Edited by Ayeta Anne Wangusa and Violet Barungi
Exclusively distributed by African Books Collective Ltd, The Jam Factory, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HU United Kingdom
When Frieda’s husband came home drunk and she was unable to provide him with the money he demanded, he went to the bedroom and came out swinging a panga.
“I have no money, please I have no money. You know I can’t have any,” Frieda begged. She escaped from the house and went to hide behind a tree, to which a goat was tied. Her husband, in a rage, swung the panga and split open the head of the goat, killing it instantly.
Frieda knew that the blow was meant for her. She knew that if she stayed with her husband any longer it would only be a matter of time before either her or her children were killed.
The decision to leave was the end of 14 years of constant battery. The odds were stacked against her – she returned to her parents, but received no support for the children from her husband. He began selling off possessions and property they had acquired during the marriage, but her attempts to access these resources where thwarted by a corrupt beurocracy heavily weighted in favour of her husband.
After a long struggle, she found out about a legal aid clinic that supported women in claims about land and property conflicts, domestic violence, rape and other abuses. The legal aid clinic helped her to achieve limited justice – her husband is prevented from selling their property – but she is still on the back foot in a society where the odds are stacked against her.
Frieda’s story is typical of the collection of short stories in ‘Tears of Hope: A collection of Short Stories by Ugandan Rural Women’. The eight short stories reflect the situation of African rural women in an overwhelmingly male dominated society. These are stories about the lived experience of women that demonstrate their suffering, pain and humiliation, but also show the enormous inner strength, courage and fortitude of women.
Each story is a window on the discrimination that women face. In ‘Where do I belong?’ we are shown that women are valued for the offspring that they produce and that that offspring had better be male.
‘Frieda’s World’ follows on this theme. Women are seen and chosen for their potential fertility and their ability to work hard and increase the wealth of their husbands. Women are seen to be nothing more than a bundle of flesh to be beaten into submission, even through they are more often than not the producer of food and nurturer of children.
Many of the stories, told in the first person, are extremely moving. In ‘Maria demands her share’, Maria describes her husband coming home form work some time in 1994, extremely worried. The setting is Rwanda and as her husband notifies her, it is time to flee because the situation has reached a stage where their lives are in danger. They lose everything and join a mass of humanity running for their lives. Maria’s husband is subsequently murdered by her own brother, who uses the confusion to settle an old family score related to Maria’s bride price. From that stage on, Maria’s life becomes a constant struggle for dignity.
The system of male domination breeds selfishness and oppression, not only from the male members of society, but also from women eager to hold on to whatever tentative positions they have established for themselves within the hierarchy. In that hierarchy, women can only exist by belonging to someone, by being a possession. Breaking out of that structure to go it alone is a hard road fraught with difficulties. So, for example, if a women finds herself in a situation of domestic violence she must not expect the authorities to take action. The only way to escape is to leave her husband, following which she will stigmatised for not being able to make her marriage work and face immense pressure to return to her situation of abuse.
Each story involves the main character finding out about and accessing her rights, and even though these laws might be limited in the protection they offer, they do more often than not offer some respite.
But the stories also show that standing up for these rights and using the law to fight their oppression is only half of the battle. In this sense it is not only about accessing rights within the framework of the law, it is also about confronting a hostile society who, even when the law is against them, do everything within their power to make sure that women are deprived and disempowered. If, however, the violence that the characters in these stories suffer at the hands of their spouses is relentless, so is the determination and courage of the women to make sure that their rights are enforced. This is the real inspiration of this collection of short stories: It is through the courage of women like the eight represented in these stories that society is forced to make shifts, forced to change.
Reviewed by Patrick Burnett, Fahamu
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