Women In Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) on Tuesday organised a side meeting and forum at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, as part of events marking the Eighth African Regional Conference on Women.
The theme for the meeting was 'Women's Rights Implementation in Africa'. WILDAF is a network of organizations and individuals who work in the area of law and development to promote and strengthen strategies which link law and development to increase women's capacity to claim and enjoy all their human rights.
WILDAF works in conjunction with other organizations spearheaded by the introduction and subsequent adoption of the protocol on the African Charter on human and peoples' rights on the rights of women in Africa.
In her keynote address, the Vice President and Minister responsible for women affairs Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy said she is deeply happy to join her colleague ministers responsible for women affairs and gender matters. She noted the presence of the Burundi minister working on women's rights and human rights in general.
She said at the level of the African Commission as well as the centre, when it comes to the rights of women, the whole of society stands behind culture, tradition, and religious misinterpretation.
It is said that in various areas, Africans tend to do so but the same Africans also embrace foreign values and norms and discard everything that shouts Africa. She noted that it depends on the situation and this is the challenge they are facing in Africa and women are facing the same in society.
Vice President Njie-Saidy highlighted that what has been achieved is relevant to the Beijing Platform for Action particularly Beijing+15. She emphasized that she is African and as they gathered here as a region and partners of Africa to take stock of what they have made since they adopted these important commitments made in Beijing in 1995 and the twelve critical areas of concerns.
The Vice President also mentioned that the ratification and adoption of the protocol on the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and indeed the Beijing Platform for Action and the AU solemn declaration on gender in Africa. All of these, she said, if implemented and action taken in each, then they will go a long way in fulfilling the requirements of all the critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action. The issues that are covered in the protocols, resolutions conventions and agreements are the same.
The Vice President stated that The Gambia Government has ratified both the UN CEDAW and the AU Protocol and we are coming with the women's bill that will domesticate the articles of all conventions and protocols.
She further said they intend to go the extra mile to ensure the ultimate elimination of discrimination against women and girls in The Gambia and Africa at large.
She promised to work hard to promote the UN CEDAW Convention throughout the region and called for the support of all stakeholders including human rights organizations.
Speaking earlier, the consultant at the forum, Mr. Mam Mbasa Faal highlighted that this is another campaign strategy to respect and ratify the interim but think that it is not enough campaign because they have not moved forward to respect women's rights in Africa.
Mr. Faal singled out one of the reasons for this as discrimination and asked what is discrimination? He explained that discrimination means when women cannot fulfill their rights by having no access to education, health and limited access to public officers. Women are not only victims of discrimination but also victims of sexual and domestic violence, harmful traditional practices such as FGM, early and forced marriages.
At the regional and international levels, he said, women are protected and are "the African Mechanism". He urged Member States to take necessary measures to respect women's human rights
Mr. Faal asserted that this is why they took CEDAW as the most ratified instrument but they have received reports from all member states. It is also realized that eight African member States do not want to ratify this convention.
The consultant stated that so far 38 countries in Africa have not ratified it but pointed out that Guinea Bissau recently ratified it. Such things are not helping us to realize our goal of respecting women's rights.
Secondly, there is no law punishing perpetrators of violence against women. There is need for ratification and legislation.
Thirdly, the lack of adoption of this legislation is a setback to the victims who are women.
In conclusion, he noted that high regional organizations are campaigning with other 100 organizations in Africa to end discrimination against women.
By Alhaji Ceesay