Girls Not Brides Urges Governments to Implement the New Global Target to End Child Marriage they Committed to at the United Nations

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PRESS RELEASE by Girls Not Brides on International Day of the Girl 2015

As the global community marks International Day of the Girl Child, on 11 October 2015, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage calls on governments around the world to develop, implement and fund policies, programmes, and plans to end child marriage.

If we do not act now, the number of women married as children is set to soar to 1.2 billion by 2050.

Girls Not Brides has launched its #MyLifeAt15 campaign to remind governments of the 15 million girls every year whose ambitions are thwarted when they are married as children. The campaign follows the recent adoption of the first global target to eliminate childearly and forced marriage as part of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

The International Day of the Girl Child was declared by the United Nations in 2011 as a day to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.

Lakshmi Sundaram, Executive Director of Girls Not Brides, said, “Child marriage was a taboo subject just a few years ago. Now, we are delighted to see a target on ending child marriage in the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, but it’s not enough for governments to agree on targets to end child marriage. If we truly want to see a change in the lives of the 15 million girls married every year, governments have to live up to their commitments.”

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What role did women’s groups play in setting the 2030 Agenda?

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Listen to Dinah Musindarwezo, Executive Director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) talking with IWHC‘s Jessie Clyde about the critical role the women’s movement in Africa played in mobilizing and contributing to the formation of the Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the 2030 Agenda.

“women’s rights organizations felt it was critical to ensure the voices, the realities, the needs and interests of African women and girls inform the next development Agenda”

“women’s groups brought the rights perspectives to the table…as well as inclusion of comprehensive gender equality issues such as ending violence against women, sexual and reproductive health and rights, harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriages, women’s participation and representation in all levels of decision making levels – both public and private”

PRESS RELEASE: An Appeal to African Leaders: Support Gender Equality in the Sustainable Development Goals Without Reservations

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24th September 2015

For Immediate Release

On the eve of the adoption of the landmark Post-2015 Development Agenda over 140 advocates for the rights of women and girls in Africa are urging their leaders to support targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Indeed, these targets are already in line with existing African commitments that guarantee universal access to a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services.

The two targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals call on governments to:

3.7 By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes;

5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.

In a Statement titled African Women & Girls Call on their Governments to Support Gender Equality in Totality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, advocates note that throughout the negotiation process some African governments have spoken out against inclusion of these targets. This despite all 54 member states of the African Union having adopted and implemented progressive regional commitments on the right to sexual and reproductive health. [1]

Ms. Dinah Musindarwezo of FEMNET said, “We are urging our Heads of State and Government to stand in solidarity with the millions of African women and girls affected by poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, and explicitly support the SRHR targets 3.7 and 5.6 in the Post-2015 Development Agenda without any reservation.”

 

For more information please contact:

On behalf of SOAWR: Kavinya Makau, kmakau@equalitynow.org and/or Naisola Likimani – likimanin@ipas.org

On behalf of FEMNET:, Dinah Musindarwezo director@femnet.or.ke and/or Rachel Kagoiya: library@femnet.or.ke

[1] Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (2006); The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003) popularly known as ‘Maputo Protocol’; the Common Africa Position (CAP) on the Post-2015 development agenda

On Making Promises to Women & Girls: It’s Time for Authentic Realization

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The Africa We Want

Recent headlines have been bleak for women and girls in the developing world: the Islamic State runs a system of sex slaves for its recruits; terrorists in Nigeria kidnap girls to marry their soldiers; women can be shot for going to school or splashed with acid if their in-laws don’t like their dowries. Amid these and other grim reports is the heartening news of an international agreement to do better for women and girls worldwide: the United Nations’ new 2030 Development Agenda.

Agreed upon by UN member States in early August and set for formal UN adoption next month, the 2030 Agenda emerged from more than two years of difficult negotiations on pledges that member countries will make to build upon the Millennium Development Goals, which expire this year. The MDGs guided real investments that made serious progress against poverty, but women’s needs and interests got short shrift. The new framework of 17 goals and 169 targets has the promise of being truly transformative for women and girls around the world.

It addresses gender equality much more robustly than the MDGs did and recognizes achieving gender equality as a goal in itself and not just a means to achieving other development goals. Crucially, it recognizes the issue as cutting across every economic and social question and as central to ending poverty due to the gendered dynamics of poverty. Governments have made lofty commitments: to end sex discrimination, gender-based violence, child marriages and female genital mutilation; to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health care services; to protect women’s and girls’ reproductive rights; to recognize and value the burdens of unpaid care work on women and girls; to expand women’s economic opportunities and ensure their rights to resources; and to ensure equal access to education, eliminating gender disparities in schools.

It is a tall agenda, not to say a visionary dream, for millions of women and girls worldwide. But if these fine words translate into any serious action by the 193 UN member countries, the prioritization of women’s rights will ensure that inequalities are at least addressed, if not ended. That alone would be progress.

In Africa, however, we remain concerned that a lack of political will may undermine if not block the redistribution of wealth, power, resources and opportunities that is key to the process. We worry, for example, that during the 2030 Agenda negotiations, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon consistently called for removal of language on gender equality, reproductive rights, recognition of human rights and non-discrimination for all. We remain hopeful and encouraged by the majority of African Governments that saw the need for gender equality and women’s rights and joined other progressive states across the globe to support the gender equality agenda. We are inspired by the strong voices of African women and girls that constantly held their governments accountable and pushed for an ambitious transformative agenda from the beginning of the consultations and negotiations to the last hour of the negotiations.

This and similar foot-dragging elsewhere fly in the face of the January 2014 agreement by African heads of state on the Common African Position, which said “No person – regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status – is denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities.” The heads of state specifically highlighted the critical links among gender equality, women’s rights, women’s empowerment and Africa’s structural transformation.

Other agreements with similar terms promising action for women include the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa; The Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights; The International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action and The Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases.

Isn’t it time for governments to live up to these promises? We call on African leaders to integrate them and the related parts of the 2030 Agenda into their domestic political processes and policies and – most importantly – to allocate adequate and sufficient resources (financial, technical and human). Such concrete steps won’t stop extremists and terrorists from continued abuses of women’s human rights, but they will build a stronger foundation for the millions of people who are not extremists and wish only peace and economic security for themselves and their families.

This is why we welcome the 2030 Development Agenda. With a real commitment, it has the potential to transform Africa and the world by realizing women’s and girls’ rights and the achievement of gender equality.

The author, Dinah Musindarwezo is the Executive Director of FEMNET (the African Women’s Development and Communication Network), a pan-African membership organization working to advance women’s rights and amplify African women’s voices across Africa since its inception in 1988. Dinah Musindarwezo is a feminist who is passionate about advocating for gender equality and human rights for all. Connect with Dinah at director@femnet.or.ke and/or @DinahRwiza.

STATEMENT: African Women & Girls Call on their Governments to Support Gender Equality in Totality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

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Kindly add your Organization’s Name and Country to Endorse this Statement

African Heads of State and Government will join their counterparts in New York from 25th to 27th September 2015, to adopt the Post-2015 development agenda currently titled Transforming our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals in a landmark Summit that crowns several years of consultations and negotiations.

As advocates for the rights of women and girls in Africa, we noted with concern that during the negotiation phase several governments, including some African governments, expressed reservations on goals and targets related to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The African continent has some of the most progressive and inclusive regional instruments on sexual and reproductive health and rights, adopted by all 54 member states of the African Union (AU). These include The Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (2006) which aims to achieve universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services by 2015; The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003) popularly known as ‘Maputo Protocol’ which contains explicit provisions on the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health and the Common Africa Position (CAP) developed through wide consultation of different African stakeholders and adopted by the African Heads of State and Government as its united position on the Post-2015 development agenda. Further information on the specific provisions of the above instruments are annexed to this Statement.

Under the leadership and mechanisms of the AU, these instruments have been implemented to various degrees in individual member states, with increasing emphasis on monitoring and accountability.

In the recent concluded African Union Summit in June 2015, convened under the theme “Year of Women Empowerment and Development Towards Africa Agenda 2063”, African Heads of State and Government, re-stated their commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights by resolving to “ensure that Sexual and Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights of African women are implemented and mutually accounted for in the existing commitments to women’s reproductive health and rights, as adopted by the African Heads of State in the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women (Maputo Protocol) in 2003, and the Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in 2006.”

Based on the regional commitments above and various national commitments at constitutional, legal and policy level, Africa has made commitments in line with the two key targets on SRHR in the Sustainable Development Goals, namely:

3.7 By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes;

5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.

We therefore urge our Heads of State and Government to stand in solidarity with the millions of African women and girls affected by poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, and explicitly support the SRHR targets 3.7 and 5.6 in the Post-2015 development agenda without any reservation.

We pledge our support to working with you to make these targets a reality.

………………………………………………………………………………
Statement Prepared by:-

SOAWR – Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (www.soawr.org)
A Coalition of 46 organizations drawn from 24 AU states to advance ratification, domestication and implementation of the AU Women’s Rights Protocol as read together with national, regional and international legal frameworks that advance the rights of girls and women in Africa. Equality Now’s Africa Regional Office serves as the SOAWR coalition secretariat and is committed to ending discrimination against girls and women. Contact on behalf of SOAWR, Kavinya Makau, kmakau@equalitynow.org and Naisola Likimani – nlikimani@gmail.com

FEMNET – African Women’s Development and Communication Network (www.femnet.co)
A women’s rights network of 503 African women’s rights organizations and individual gender advocates based in 43 African countries. Contact on behalf of FEMNET, Dinah Musindarwezo director@femnet.or.ke and/or Rachel Kagoiya: library@femnet.or.ke

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Read the Full STATEMENT here

A UNITED FRONT FOR THE NOT MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS GENDER PRINCIPLE IN KENYA

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By Kerigo Odada

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 upholds the rights of women as being equal in law to men, and entitled to enjoy equal CoK 2010 opportunities in the political, social and economic spheres. Under Article 81 (b) not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive public bodies shall be of the same gender.

Under Article 27 of the constitution the government is required to develop and pass policies and laws, including affirmative action programs and policies to address the past discrimination that women have faced. Additionally, the government is required to develop policies and laws to ensure that, not more than two-thirds of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same sex. However this law that was a significant achievement for women has recently come under threat since the Chepkonga Bill was tabled before parliament. The Bill seeks to amend the provision of articles 81 (b) by providing for its progressive realization. This move by the Chair of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee was not taken lightly by women and men who are in support of gender parity in political representation.

Civil Society Organizations came together in support of an advocacy campaign against the Chepkong’a Bill. The campaign is meant to ensure that the two-thirds gender rule is fully implemented as set out in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and that women’s participation in politics and government is safeguarded.

CSOs-led campaigns such as Thuluthi Mbili Za Mama Twazitaka Sasa and Green Amendment, both supported byDoc1  likeminded parliamentarians under the umbrella of KEPHRA (Kenya Parliamentary for Human Rights Association) and KEWOPA (Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association) came together in support of one formula that has already been tabled before parliament by Leader of Majority in Parliament Hon. Aden Duale.

Before the merger of the advocacy campaigns in support of the Geen ammendmenttwo-thirds gender principle, CSOs were championing two different Bills presenting two different formulae.

The two formulae being championed by CSOs were:

Twinning: Have the 290 constituencies contested as usual. Then pair up 98 neighbouring constituencies for women to compete among themselves in addition to the 47 slots already created in counties. For example, Kibra merged with Langata, Westlands paired up with Kabete, Dagoreti North with Dagoreti Westland. Again the team was proposing nomination slots to be extended by 14 to make it 20 to represent youth, women and persons with disabilities. In summary, if this proposal had gone through, there would be 290 MPs, 145 female elected MPs and 20 nominated MPs to represent special groups and one Speaker adding up to 456 persons in the National Assembly.

The ‘greatest looser’: currently being championed by CSOs, KEWOPA and KEPHRA. It was tabled by the Attorney General through Hon. Duale after High Court Judge, Justice Mumbi Ngugi gave the Attorney General and the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) 40 days to prepare and table the two-thirds gender rule Bill before Parliament. The Bill states that, after an election, if the number of women does not meet the constitutional threshold, the gap will be bridged by picking additional women as per party lists. Political parties will submit a list of members to be nominated. According to the Bill, the allocation of the seats will be done proportionally on the basis of the number of seats won by a political party in order to ensure the empowerment through nomination will be spread to many people. The Bill also stipulates that one cannot be nominated for the special seats for more than two terms. It says the provision for the special seats will lapse 20 years after the 2017 elections.

The Bill introduces new clauses to Articles 97 and 98 to alter the composition of the National Assembly and the Senate. “The composition of the National Assembly (Senate) comprises of the number of special seat members necessary to ‎ensure no more than two-thirds of the membership of the National Assembly (Senate) is of the same gender,” the new clause says. The Bill also introduces new clauses to Articles 97 and 98 to ensure the special seats are allocated proportionate to the number of seats won by a political party, determined after a general election.

Moving a motion to reduce the Bill’s publication period, majority leader Aden Duale said the National Assembly will seek the extension of the fast-approaching August 27 deadline for the Bill’s enactment.

The laws that are targeted for review are the Elections Act, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act, the Political Parties Act, the County Governments Act and the National Gender and Equality Commission Act.

FEMNET is united with the women’s movement in Kenya and in Africa in calling on the Parliament to act in the interest of both men and women in fulfilling the promise the Kenya Constitution that is recognized as one of the most

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progressive Constitutions in Africa. Often we hear about the huge cost associated with increasing the number of women in parliament and yet we do not hear about the cost of excluding experiences, expertise of more that 50 percent of the population from being part of the decision-making on matters that impact their lives.

Kenya is the only country in the Eastern Africa that has recently entered the category of the middle income country, is one of the Countries’ that hosted the women’s international conference, hosted the launch of the African Women’s Decade in 2010 and recently co-facilitated the just concluded negotiations of the Post-2015 Development Agenda that has emerged with great wins for gender equality. Yet, in Eastern Africa, Kenya is performing dismally on women’s political representation. Kenya falls short of reaching the 30 percent threshold of women’s representation as stipulated in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and definitely far below the African Union’s 50 percent gender parity policy framework. For this situation to change there is a need to change the Kenyan political systems and most importantly the gender perceptions of the policymakers and the entire citizenry.

The recent 20 years review of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing +20) showed that eight countries in Africa including South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Seychelles and Uganda have reached the 30 percent target of women in the national parliament. It is high time that Kenya learnt from these countries. With or without formulas, implementing the two thirds gender principle is do-able!

Kerigo Odada is a lawyer passionate about pan-Africanism, economic empowerment and political participation of women and girls, currently attached to the Advocacy Programme at FEMNET. Follow her at @eunidada