The forum on the participation of NGO’s in the 59th Ordinary Session of the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right (ACHPR) and the 33rd Africa Human Right Book Fair is currently underway at a hotel in Kololi.
The three-day forum has attracted participants from the African region and beyond.
In her opening statement on behalf of the Chairperson of the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Jamesina Essie L King stated that the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights elevated human rights as an issue deserving attention by the Africa Union (AU) and Member States, but that was not properly articulated in Women’s Rights.
“This has since been corrected with the adoption of the Maputo Protocol. The AU has also prioritised gender equality and integrated it in all its activities with the declaration of this year as the African year on human rights with particular focus on the rights of women,” she added.
Madam King posited that the African culture has been criticised for not respecting the rights of women, mostly because of the harmful practices that negate gender equality. However, she acknowledged, many campaigns have been launched against these practices such as FGM, forced marriage, gender-based violence and maternal deaths due to lack of access to adequate and affordable health facilities.
Commenting further, the AU Human Rights Commissioner commended the Governments of The Gambia for criminalising Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early/forced marriage; as well as Nigeria for the introduction of the recent gender and equal opportunity bill.
She thus urged other countries who have not committed themselves to these do so.
According to her, the NGOs and African Human Rights Institutions (NHRs) play a critical role in educating, promoting, challenging and defending in the name of public interest. “Without such engagements, governments would lack accountability and democracy at best, and would be fragile. I am confident that if engagement between AU organs and NHR’s and NGO’s is strengthened, it will enhance their participation within the African human rights system as part of the process to implement the human rights strategy for Africa,” she stated.
The chairperson of the Civil Society Forum on the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children, Sidikou Moussa, explained that the session is a platform where children’s issues need to be addressed.
Clement Voule, a steering committee member of the NGO’s Forum, highlighted some of the human right abuses which include forced marriage, early marriage, Female Genital Mutilation, among others.
While calling for concerted efforts to put an end to the issue, Voule hailed the Government of The Gambia for banning FGM and early marriage in the country.
Hanner Forster, Executive Director, ACDHRS chaired the session.
by Alhagie Babou Jallow