11 April 2017 - “The [Maputo] Protocol stands as a comprehensive instrument that demonstrates the good will of African States to end all forms of violence against women… Notwithstanding that, our role as women has been fraught with challenges and circumstances of vulnerability”. First Lady of Sierra Leone Her Excellency Mrs Sia Yama Koroma, rightly noted as she gave the Keynote address at a state reporting workshop that was hosted by the Gender Unit in Freetown from 22-24 March 2017. She was speaking at the opening ceremony which also saw the awarding of the first Extraordinary Vera Chirwa Award to the Chief Justice of Sierra Leone Honourable Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm, an alumnus of the Centre for Human Rights, for his contribution to human rights in Sierra Leone.
Chief Justice of Sierra Leone Honourable Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm receiving the Vera Chirwa Award from
Her Excellency Mrs Sia Yama Koroma, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone
The workshop brought together participants from Liberia, Ghana, Guinea and Sierra Leone who were drawn from the Ministries of Women, Justice and Foreign affairs as well as civil society organisations working on women’s rights and national human rights institutes. While some progress is notable in the laws and policy provisions of most of these countries, challenges in practice still exist. A central theme common to all the countries was the dilemma of with harmful practice within the context of preserving positive cultural values. Discussions ranged from the ‘bondo’ or ‘sande’ secret societies of Sierra Leone who practice female genital mutilation to the ‘trokosis’ and ‘woryokwes’of Eastern Ghana were young girls are given off as appeasement for crimes committed by clan members. Child, forced and early marriages a constant threat for young girls in both Guinea and Liberia alike. Other cross cutting challenges include violence against women, low economic status of women, limited political participation and poor access sexual and reproductive and health service.
While all four countries have ratified the The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) with Sierra Leone being the latest country to ratify in 2015, all of them are yet to report under the Maputo Protocol. If Sierra Leone were to produce a report post the training and within this year, it will make history as the first country to report under the Maputo protocol within the expected two years after ratification. Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights “Each State Party shall undertake to submit every two years, from the date the present Charter comes into force, a report on the legislative or other measures taken, with a view to giving effect to the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed by the present Charter.”
The state reporting workshops are designed to increase the capacity of states parties’ representatives who are expected to produce reports to the African Commission to be able to effectively prepare, consult on and submit reports that discuss the implementation and realization of the rights enshrined in the Maputo Protocol. In the workshops, participants are taken through the substantive provisions of the African Charter and the Maputo Protocol, the nuts and bolts of state reporting and the guidelines to state reporting under the Maputo protocol among other context specific topics.