NGO Forum on Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa

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.