Today Nadine Gordimer, Maryse Conde, Wole Soyinka, Shirin Ebadi, Mary Robinson and others join the campaign "Africa for Women's Rights" in calling on African governments to protect the human rights of women in law and practice.

Open Letter to African Heads of State

VERSION FRANÇAISE

Your Excellencies,

18 December 2009 will mark the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We are writing to you in the name of all the actors of the campaign “Africa for Women’s Rights: Ratify and Respect!” to call upon you to respect the obligations to which you committed yourselves when ratifying this and other international treaties. We urge you to take this occasion to announce concrete measures to implement the human rights of women in your country and thereby to contribute to ending persistent and widespread discrimination and violence against women across the continent.

The campaign “Africa for Women’s Rights: Ratify and Respect!” was launched on 8 March 2009, by over one hundred African organizations in over 40 countries across Africa. The campaign aims to achieve the ratification without reservations of CEDAW and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), the harmonization of national laws with their provisions and adoption of all necessary measures to implement them.

Ratification of CEDAW has directly contributed to positive reforms in many African states, including the abolition of female genital mutilation, reform of discriminatory legislation, the adoption of legislation to protect women from violence and discrimination.

While these signs of progress provide encouragement to our movement, they remain woefully insufficient and across the continent discriminatory laws and practices remain widespread. Although, all African states except Somalia and Sudan have now ratified CEDAW, its provisions remain widely unimplemented, principally as a result of a lack of political will. We reiterate the campaign’s call upon you and your government to take the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the CEDAW to announce and to take urgent measures to:

  • Ratify without reservations, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, CEDAW, and the Optional Protocol to CEDAW
  • Bring national legislation in conformity with the provisions of international and regional women’s human rights protection instruments, by abolishing discriminatory laws and adopting laws to protect women’s human rights
  • Put in place all necessary measures to ensure the effective application of these laws.

We urge you to heed our call to action and take concrete steps to end the persistent and widespread discrimination and violence against women across Africa.

Yours sincerely,

Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Literature Prize Laureate, 1991
Wole Soyinka, Nobel Literature Prize Laureate, 1986
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 2003
Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Maryse Conde, Writer
Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women
Reine Alapini Gansou, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)
Yakin Erturk, Former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
Angela Melo
Pierre Sane