Tuesday, June 2, 2020

NGO Forum on Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa

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By Kebba Jeffang The lack of safety and protection of women human rights defenders in Africa was one of the topics under discussion at the recently concluded NGOs Forum held in Banjul.Madam Tarek Salama, representing Nazra for Feminist Studies, said women are equally important as human rights defenders but that there is no safety of those doing it in Africa. She said the societal perception make it even tough for governments to understand that women can defend peoples’ rights because they are ‘women’. “The perception of the societies on women HRDs is a major gap and that the local realities in Africa need change for them to develop. This NGOs Forum is timely because it is a convenient point to discuss and put in mechanisms to eradicate some of these myths. Culture in Africa is that women are meant to be seen but no to be heard and this needs to change. We have to know that women HRDs are people who defend the rights of women and we must be given safety environment and maximum protection,” said Tarek. Madam Pedam Marthe Coulibaly, another woman HRD, said the good laws, policies, and conventions are made and ratified by African leaders but it is unfortunate that implementation becomes a problem all the time. She said Africa has good mechanisms in place but that it is only a small number of the countries that protect HRDS, especially women. She said there are Special Rapporteurs at the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) that are protecting the women HRDs, but that it is unfortunate that there are still violations of the rights of defenders. Madam Coulibaly advised the Human Rights Defenders, particularly the women, to be good at networking and to establish an efficient communication system that ensures a regular publication of attacks on the HRDs. She noted that there is a good law enacted in her native country of Ivory Coast in 2014 protecting the HRDs, including the protection of their rights and responsibilities. She said the same law also outlined the state’s obligations on women human rights defenders. “We noted that countries are good for setting up or ratifying laws but implementation is problematic,” said Coulibaly. Madam Fadzai Muparutza, Coalition of African Lesbians, decried the intolerance of lesbians and lesbians’ rights defenders in Africa. She said they are faced with lots of intimidation in the societies as women human rights defenders.

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