The Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) in Cape Town, South Africa, and the United NationsDevelopment Fund for Women’s (UNIFEM) Southern and Central African regional offices co-hosteda policy seminar on “Implementing the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in Emerging Post-Conflict Countries” in Johannesburg,South Africa, on 6 and 7 November 2006.
The objective of the seminar was to discuss and identify concrete avenues for engendering reconstruction andpeace processes in African societies emerging from conflict through a thorough and effective use of theProtocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Women’sProtocol). Sixteen years after the adoption of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of allForms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) of 1979, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’Rights and civil society organisations working on women’s rights agreed to prioritise the adoption of a Protocolto the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. Following severalobstacles, the draft Protocol was put on the agenda of the second ordinary session of the African Union (AU)Assembly of Heads of State and Government and adopted in July 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique. The adoptionof the Protocol was accompanied by intensive lobbying by women’s groups and human rights activists forratification and implementation. These efforts resulted in the Protocol’s entry into force in November 2005.
The Protocol highlights prevalent discrimination against women and the negative impact of poverty; HIV/AIDS;harmful traditional practices; the persistence of violence against women in society; women’s exclusion from politicsand decision-making; illiteracy; and limited access of girls to education. A critical component of the Protocol is also itsfocus on the protection of women and girls in situations of armed conflicts and post-conflict reconstruction processes.
By proclaiming a range of civil and political rights, the 2003 Women’s Protocol allows women living in societiesemerging from conflict to engage as equal partners in activities such as political participation; access to, andmanagement of, land and inherited properties; and protection from violence. In addition to civil and politicalrights, the Protocol provides for fundamental economic, social and cultural rights that are essential forengendering post-conflict reconstruction. The Protocol further calls for equal opportunity and access of womento education and training. This is relevant in post-conflict reconstruction processes in which young girls andwomen who have been deprived of education require quality education and training. Education and training arefurther needed for women to access employment, including in societies emerging from conflict whereemployers, who hire men because of economic pressure, often discriminate against women.
Demographic changes produced by conflicts include increased female-male ratios due to men dying inconflicts; migration; and increased numbers of orphans and elderly survivors. In many cases, unemployedwomen who become head of families turn to prostitution, which intensifies the threat and spread of HIV/AIDSin post-conflict settings. The 2003 Protocol states that parties are required to respect, protect, and promote theright of women to health, including sexual and reproductive rights. Such rights cover the right to be protectedagainst sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
Female-headed households, especially in post-conflict environments, are usually among the poorest segmentsof populations in Africa. Rebuilding infrastructure and providing basic services that take into account gender-sensitive programming are some of the important measures to be taken in these situations. Under Article 24 ofthe Protocol, African governments undertake to ensure the protection of poor women and female heads offamilies, and to provide them with an environment suitable to their condition and their special physical,economic and social needs. With regard to Demilitarisation, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programmes, post-conflict reconstruction requires a consideration of the specific needs of women duringplanning for DDR, and the involvement of women in DDR programmes. To fill the existing gender gap within DDR processes, and to design and deliver programmes that can equitably benefit women and men in the DDRphase of post-conflict peace-building, the Protocol requires states parties to take all appropriate measures toensure the participation of women in the promotion and maintenance of peace, including with regard to theplanning, formulation and implementation of post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation. Africangovernments also commit themselves under the Protocol to ensuring that women are involved in programmesof education for peace and a culture of peace, as well as in conflict prevention structures and processes