20th anniversary of the Maputo Protocol: celebrating and continuing to defend women’s rights in Africa


On 11 July 2003, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa was adopted in Maputo, Mozambique, thereby becoming known as the Maputo Protocol. To celebrate two decades of the Maputo Protocol’s existence, African women convened in Nairobi in July 2023, on the margins of the AU mid-year Summit for Heads of States and Government. The event has launched year-long celebrations that will be taken across the African continent and beyond.

Paris, Nairobi, 7 August 2023. From 10 to 11 July 2023, in Nairobi, FIDH participated in the 20-year anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, organised by the Solidarity for African Women Rights (SOWAR) Coalition and the African Union Women, Gender and Youth Directorate (AUC-WGYD), dubbed Maputo@20. The celebrations took a reflective approach. Leading women rights activists for the continent reflected on difficult journey that had led to the idea of an African women’s rights instrument being mooted to the African Union, the process and eventual adoption of the Protocol on 11 July 2003. The Maputo Protocol remains the fastest instrument to be ratified and enter into force, having met the ratification threshold in a record two years.

The Maputo Protocol has been lauded as the most progressive, comprehensive and responsive in safeguarding the rights of women and girls across the African Continent.

A key milestone celebrated at the 20th Anniversary was that 44 of the 55 African Union Member States had ratified the Maputo Protocol. South Sudan was hailed for being the latest entrant into the Maputo family having ratified the Protocol on 24 February 2023 and deposited the ratification with the African Union on 7 June 2023.

Beyond the 20 years celebration was an important discussion on the next steps needed to actualise the promises of the Maputo Protocol to African women and girls. While acknowledging that significant progress had been made towards creating awareness and acceptance on the importance the rights of women and girls’ in Africa, it was noted that the war was not over, the battle had not been won. There was a rising trend of backlash against the rights of women and gender equality driven by a well-organized anti-rights movement, particularly to stifle progress or action on sexual and reproductive health rights for women and girls. Many women and girls in the countries that are currently experiencing conflict and crisis cannot benefit from the protections of the Protocol.

FIDH celebrates the great milestones achieved by the African women rights movement in getting the continent to acknowledge that there can be no meaningful progress or development in Africa without leveraging on the full potential of women and building blocks that ensure gender equality.

“We celebrate the 44 remember states of the African Union that have ratified the Maputo Protocol, this is an important milestone that makes it close to the achievement of the goal of universal ratification of the Protocol. We join efforts on the call to strategically use the next decade to push for the full implementation of the Protocol, so that women and girls can enjoy without any hindrance the rights and protections offered by the Maputo Protocol” said Sheila Muwanga, Immediate former FIDH Vice-President.

While the focus has largely been to ensure universal ratification of the Maputo Protocol, with 80 percent of member states of the African Union having now ratified the Protocol, attention ought to be reinvigorated towards domestication and implementation of the Protocol.

Women in Africa have come a long way in building near universal acceptance that women’s rights and equality are necessary for development, and stability of the continent.

To further its achievements, as well as those of its partners on advancing women’s rights in Africa, FIDH commits to work with its partners for the next decade to advocate and monitor women’s rights with a focus on five key issues:

 Domestication and implementation of the Maputo Protocol so that women and girls get to fully enjoy the benefits of the Protocol,
 Securing women’s autonomy and rights to reproductive and sexual health,
 Building men’s support and accountability for gender equality,
 Find ways of addressing emerging challenges such as brought about by advancements into the digital world,
 Addressing rights violations in the contexts of crises, conflicts and disasters in the continent.

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