Make room for Inclusion and Diversity in The Maputo Protocol

By Imali  Ngusale

Access to health services remains a challenge for many young women and girls despite the numerous protocols and conventions that ensures the rights of women, participants at function marking 20 years of the Maputo Protocol in Nairobi, Kenya said.

According to Nakato Martha Clara from SRHR Alliance in Uganda, women must pay attention to the silenced voices that are still being oppressed by old and contemporary laws.

“This is why we are deliberate and intentional about advocating for the full implementation of the Maputo Protocol,” she said.

She urged women to stop living in the standards of hypocrisy and have deliberate conversations that make the implementation of Maputo protocol open and diverse.

Ruth Akulu from the SRHR Alliance noted that “If we choose to be silent then we side with the oppressor.”

She also said women have had to be discrete when seeking health services. “This calls for us to address the stigma experienced by women 20 years after the adoption of #MaputoProtocol,” said Akulu.

Sheila Odongo the Sexual Reproductive Health Rights officer at the Africa Women’s Development and Communications Network said, “We have come a long way but we also have a longer path to follow if we intend to fully realize the reproductive health rights of girls and young women.”

Odongo insisted that young women and girls in Kenya cannot access reproductive health services yet massive investments have been made by the government.

Fisayo Owoyemi, a We Lead Community of Action facilitator from Nigeria said it is important for men to recognize that toxic patriarchy exists and human rights are not granted without advocacy.

“As reproductive health and rights advocates, we have the duty of knowing how to effectively navigate the growing hostility against key populations in various countries while safeguarding the community at the same time is very crucial,” added Owoyemi.

Feminists from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Niger consented to this view citing that some renown gender activists are bias because they choose what to advocate for.”

Some insist that so long as governments have reproductive health policies that should suffice and can ascertain reproductive health services free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights policies.

However, not many activists disagree stating that inclusion and diversity has literally been avoided in the Maputo protocol discussions and this jeopardizes the status of inclusivity and diversity.

According to the 2023 Status of the World Report, noted that there were over 121 million unintended pregnancies which represents nearly half of all pregnancies globally.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) advocacy were born out of numerous policies which include but not limited to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Maputo protocol which is Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the continental policy framework for mainstreaming of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights to accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 3.

These policies create the basis for African girls and women in all their diversities to champion for the full implementation of Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol, however, decisions makers are often shy from discussing Article 14.

The writer is a gender and human rights development journalist who is  passionate about  telling African stories through African voices. She currently works as a communications and  knowledge management expert at the  African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET).