(By Prof Danny Bradlow)

Kofi Annan (80) was an important historical figure who played a critical role in many key events of the 1990s and 2000s. His death is therefore an opportunity to both celebrate his life and to begin honestly assessing his contributions to the world.

The Ghanaian diplomat’s legacy is complicated. He served as both head of the United Nations peacekeeping and as Secretary General of the UN. His tenure in these high offices – from 1992 to 2006 – were marked by great human tragedies as well as episodes of progress. His role in these events raises difficult questions about individual responsibility and the role of international organisations and their leaders in creating a more peaceful and just world.

(By Yolanda Booyzen)

If breastfeeding did not already exist, someone who invented it today would deserve a dual Nobel Prize in medicine and economics” – Keith Hansen, World Bank (2016).

At the beginning of every August, we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). And every year we are reminded of the elixir-like qualities of breastfeeding and how it can address some of the world’s toughest challenges – infant mortality, malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty, obesity and environmental degradation. The 2018 WBW campaign focuses on how breastfeeding is the “foundation of life” and how there are links between breastfeeding and each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(By Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

The African Union has taken several initiatives to demonstrate its commitment to eliminating injustices against women in Africa. The most recent has been a meeting ahead of the African Union (AU) summit scheduled for later this year to highlight the continent’s commitment to gender equality.

Other examples include the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020), adopting the African Union Gender Policy and creating a fund for African women. In addition, the AU declared 2016 the year of human rights with a particular focus on the rights of women.

Fifteen years ago the AU adopted the Maputo Protocol under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to boost the protection of women. Its implementation was meant to be overseen by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a human rights body set up under the African Charter. And the process was meant to be monitored by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Despite the protocol’s adoption, the violation of women’s rights is still widespread across the continent. The list is long. But some of the more egregious acts include violence against women, child marriage, gender-based discrimination and exploitative widow rites. The reasons for these range from culture, to tradition, ignorance, lack of education and patriarchy.

The problem is that the protocol’s provisions remain mere words on paper. This is because its potential has been stifled by a weak monitoring and evaluation function.

There is a solution to the problem: the creation of an institution whose sole purpose is to protect women’s rights. But it will require political will and a commitment to make the necessary funds available.

By Dr Ashwanee Budoo 

Mauritius has been shaken by the news of the death of a 13-year-old pregnant girl who was married. Her death was particularly shocking because the country doesn’t have a high child marriage rate. It’s extremely low compared to countries like Niger where 76% of brides are children or the Central African Republic where the figure is 68%. In fact it’s so low that no recent studies have been done to estimate the number of child marriages in the country.

Though rare, child marriages do take place and Mauritians typically turn a blind eye. But the death of the girl has sparked discussion on the state’s obligations to protect children from early marriage.

The child’s death happened just a few days before the second global meeting of Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 900 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage.

The meeting discussed the complexities of child marriage and the tools available to deal with it. Attendees agreed that urgent action must be taken if the world wants to see the end of child marriage in this generation. Child marriage is still legal in 117 countries.

In Mauritius, the girl’s death demonstrated that the issue must be given priority to ensure that children are protected.

(By Yolanda Booyzen) - One of the smartest investments that a country, a community and a family can make is to promote breastfeeding.

This is the message spread  by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international organisations that are promoting the benefits of breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding Week. The multiple advantages offered by breastfeeding include the most commonly known benefits of exceptional nutritional value, economic viability and cost-effectiveness, the prevention of childhood diseases, increased brain development in babies and a decreased risk of diabetes and some cancers in mothers.

(Prof Charles Ngwena) - As we celebrate Women’s Day let us engage in more than just reciting our affirmation of the equal citizenship and dignity of women in all their shades as adults, girl-children, transgender, straight, lesbian, disabled, black, white, brown and other shades of the human rainbow. Let us also engage in remembrance so that we summon our past and draw apt lessons. Histories are an integral part of our present and futures. Especially where unfulfilled promises or continuing injustices abide, as is borne by the continuing scourge of entrenched gender-based discrimination, including sexual violence and exploitation, remembrance offers us a powerful and creative cultural resource for investing with imaginary coherence our quest to create just, inclusive societies where women count. To this end, as we honour Women’s Day in South Africa, on the African continent and across the world and as we affirm the rightness of women’s equality, among other resources, we can draw on the memory of a Saartjie Baartman (also known as Sara or Sarah). The memory of the grotesque dehumanisation she suffered during her short life can serve to strengthen our resolve.

Whatever her intentions, the recent public utterance posted on Twitter by Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, reminding the nation of the enormous debt owed to colonialism, has generated public debate. In not so many words, in a nation still healing from a racially bruised past, Zille has been asking black Africans to be complicit in their own historical oppression and show gratitude to a system that was scrupulously built on white supremacy. This sounds incredulous, but perhaps not so once we understand where Zille is coming from – her situated reasoning and vantage point. The utterance shows all too clearly that the terms on which the world is understood, even by persons holding high public office, including in post-apartheid South Africa, are more than porous to self-serving 'regimes of truth'. Every truth has its history, but which is Zille's?

(By Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

The Maputo Protocol, adopted by the African Union in 2003, was expected to transform the landscape for women’s rights on the continent. Its aim was to set standards and create positive change across a range of areas including violence against women, child marriage, land rights and harmful practices.

But 14 years and 37 ratifications later there’s a great deal that remains undone.

This is largely because African states have tried to escape their responsibilities by claiming they don’t have the resources to implement the protocol. This is despite the fact that it specifically imposes an obligation on states to budget for women’s rights.

Three articles deal directly with the issue. For example, Article 4 calls for budgets to be made available to prevent violence against women while Article 10 (3) imposes an obligation on states to redirect military expenditure to social development and to promote women’s rights. Article 26(2) is the most important one since it imposes an obligation on states to provide the budgetary resources required to implement all of its articles.

Despite this, the obligation to fund the protection of women’s rights is often ignored by states.

Instead, most African countries prepare their budgets in a gender neutral way. But isn’t gender neutrality in fact “gender blindness”? Don’t national budgets that disregard the differences between men and women simply reinforce existing male dominated ways of doing things?

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(By Prof Danny Bradlow)

Kofi Annan (80) was an important historical figure who played a critical role in many key events of the 1990s and 2000s. His death is therefore an opportunity to both celebrate his life and to begin honestly assessing his contributions to the world.

The Ghanaian diplomat’s legacy is complicated. He served as both head of the United Nations peacekeeping and as Secretary General of the UN. His tenure in these high offices – from 1992 to 2006 – were marked by great human tragedies as well as episodes of progress. His role in these events raises difficult questions about individual responsibility and the role of international organisations and their leaders in creating a more peaceful and just world.

(By Yolanda Booyzen)

If breastfeeding did not already exist, someone who invented it today would deserve a dual Nobel Prize in medicine and economics” – Keith Hansen, World Bank (2016).

At the beginning of every August, we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). And every year we are reminded of the elixir-like qualities of breastfeeding and how it can address some of the world’s toughest challenges – infant mortality, malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty, obesity and environmental degradation. The 2018 WBW campaign focuses on how breastfeeding is the “foundation of life” and how there are links between breastfeeding and each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(By Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

The African Union has taken several initiatives to demonstrate its commitment to eliminating injustices against women in Africa. The most recent has been a meeting ahead of the African Union (AU) summit scheduled for later this year to highlight the continent’s commitment to gender equality.

Other examples include the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020), adopting the African Union Gender Policy and creating a fund for African women. In addition, the AU declared 2016 the year of human rights with a particular focus on the rights of women.

Fifteen years ago the AU adopted the Maputo Protocol under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to boost the protection of women. Its implementation was meant to be overseen by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a human rights body set up under the African Charter. And the process was meant to be monitored by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Despite the protocol’s adoption, the violation of women’s rights is still widespread across the continent. The list is long. But some of the more egregious acts include violence against women, child marriage, gender-based discrimination and exploitative widow rites. The reasons for these range from culture, to tradition, ignorance, lack of education and patriarchy.

The problem is that the protocol’s provisions remain mere words on paper. This is because its potential has been stifled by a weak monitoring and evaluation function.

There is a solution to the problem: the creation of an institution whose sole purpose is to protect women’s rights. But it will require political will and a commitment to make the necessary funds available.

By Dr Ashwanee Budoo 

Mauritius has been shaken by the news of the death of a 13-year-old pregnant girl who was married. Her death was particularly shocking because the country doesn’t have a high child marriage rate. It’s extremely low compared to countries like Niger where 76% of brides are children or the Central African Republic where the figure is 68%. In fact it’s so low that no recent studies have been done to estimate the number of child marriages in the country.

Though rare, child marriages do take place and Mauritians typically turn a blind eye. But the death of the girl has sparked discussion on the state’s obligations to protect children from early marriage.

The child’s death happened just a few days before the second global meeting of Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 900 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage.

The meeting discussed the complexities of child marriage and the tools available to deal with it. Attendees agreed that urgent action must be taken if the world wants to see the end of child marriage in this generation. Child marriage is still legal in 117 countries.

In Mauritius, the girl’s death demonstrated that the issue must be given priority to ensure that children are protected.

(By Yolanda Booyzen) - One of the smartest investments that a country, a community and a family can make is to promote breastfeeding.

This is the message spread  by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international organisations that are promoting the benefits of breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding Week. The multiple advantages offered by breastfeeding include the most commonly known benefits of exceptional nutritional value, economic viability and cost-effectiveness, the prevention of childhood diseases, increased brain development in babies and a decreased risk of diabetes and some cancers in mothers.

(Prof Charles Ngwena) - As we celebrate Women’s Day let us engage in more than just reciting our affirmation of the equal citizenship and dignity of women in all their shades as adults, girl-children, transgender, straight, lesbian, disabled, black, white, brown and other shades of the human rainbow. Let us also engage in remembrance so that we summon our past and draw apt lessons. Histories are an integral part of our present and futures. Especially where unfulfilled promises or continuing injustices abide, as is borne by the continuing scourge of entrenched gender-based discrimination, including sexual violence and exploitation, remembrance offers us a powerful and creative cultural resource for investing with imaginary coherence our quest to create just, inclusive societies where women count. To this end, as we honour Women’s Day in South Africa, on the African continent and across the world and as we affirm the rightness of women’s equality, among other resources, we can draw on the memory of a Saartjie Baartman (also known as Sara or Sarah). The memory of the grotesque dehumanisation she suffered during her short life can serve to strengthen our resolve.

Whatever her intentions, the recent public utterance posted on Twitter by Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, reminding the nation of the enormous debt owed to colonialism, has generated public debate. In not so many words, in a nation still healing from a racially bruised past, Zille has been asking black Africans to be complicit in their own historical oppression and show gratitude to a system that was scrupulously built on white supremacy. This sounds incredulous, but perhaps not so once we understand where Zille is coming from – her situated reasoning and vantage point. The utterance shows all too clearly that the terms on which the world is understood, even by persons holding high public office, including in post-apartheid South Africa, are more than porous to self-serving 'regimes of truth'. Every truth has its history, but which is Zille's?

(By Dr Ashwanee Budoo)

The Maputo Protocol, adopted by the African Union in 2003, was expected to transform the landscape for women’s rights on the continent. Its aim was to set standards and create positive change across a range of areas including violence against women, child marriage, land rights and harmful practices.

But 14 years and 37 ratifications later there’s a great deal that remains undone.

This is largely because African states have tried to escape their responsibilities by claiming they don’t have the resources to implement the protocol. This is despite the fact that it specifically imposes an obligation on states to budget for women’s rights.

Three articles deal directly with the issue. For example, Article 4 calls for budgets to be made available to prevent violence against women while Article 10 (3) imposes an obligation on states to redirect military expenditure to social development and to promote women’s rights. Article 26(2) is the most important one since it imposes an obligation on states to provide the budgetary resources required to implement all of its articles.

Despite this, the obligation to fund the protection of women’s rights is often ignored by states.

Instead, most African countries prepare their budgets in a gender neutral way. But isn’t gender neutrality in fact “gender blindness”? Don’t national budgets that disregard the differences between men and women simply reinforce existing male dominated ways of doing things?