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Sierra Leone News: Gender Minister assures of Maputo Protocol ratification

Minister and the UN Women Country Manager posed with the missionAs the  follow-up  ratification mission  from the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition continues to meet with stakeholders in the country on the status of the Maputo Protocol, the Minister of Gender, Alhaji Moijue Kaikai, has assured them that government will indeed ratify the Protocol.
The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol),  is a comprehensive instrument that demonstrates the commitment of African Heads of States to end all forms of discrimination, violence and gender stereotypes against women.
While addressing the delegates from different African countries yesterday in his office, the Minister said as a government “we are committed to ratifying the Protocol and the empowerment and protection of women and children”.
He said some of the instruments in the Protocol have been domesticated locally and this includes the three Gender Acts and the Child Rights Act.
Kaikai said he will take the document to Cabinet for discussion before it will be tabled in Parliament for ratification. The country will also pass legislation on the age consent of 18 years for girls to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
He said, already there are eight districts in the country which have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AMNet on this issue.
The Minister said he has no problem with some of the articles in the Protocol especially the ones that deal with abortion and polygamy.
One of the delegates from Liberia, Una Yeama Thompson said none of them wrote the Protocol but rather African Heads of States or their representatives signed it in Maputo. She said “we are holding our government answerable because of the commitment they made to ratify the Protocol.”
Amie Joof from The Gambia said “we are Africans and we are not propagating an Agenda that somebody gave to us”.
She noted that The Gambia ratified the Protocol with reservations on FGM, but that through dialogue they were able to find   alternative employment for the initiators of FGM.
UN Women Country Representative, Mary Okumu, said the government is committed to gender  issues as it has been displayed by the commitment made by the Minister.
Executive Director, AMNet Sierra Leone, Hawa Samai said her organisation had signed MOU in eight districts with initiators or ‘Soweis’ for them to abandon child FGM.
Valerie Tucker, Ipas Country Manager and Policy Adviser, thanked the Minister for his commitment and said this was the most successful meeting they have held since the delegates arrived. She hoped that the Protocol will be ratified very soon.
Earlier on, Jane Serwanga from Kenya explained the purpose of the mission and why SOAWR is interested in the ratification of the Protocol.
SOAWR’s, main area of focus has been to ensure universal ratification , domestication and implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of Women in Africa.
SOAWR has engaged in targeted advocacy in seeking ratification of the Protocol in Sierra Leone. In June 2012, SOAWR undertook advocacy mission and through this, action was mobilised towards a ratification campaign.
Before meeting with the Minister the Mission also had a Civil Society stakeholders meeting at the YWCA conference hall.
By Abibatu Kamara
Wednesday April 09, 2014

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