The Centre for Human Rights hosted the Advanced Human Rights Course on Women’s Rights in Africa from 25 – 29 March 2019. The course was organised by the Women’s Rights Unit, in collaboration with the Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC). 

The course was attended by over 60 participants, from 24 different countries, 20 of which were African. Among the participants were the students on the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HDRA) programme, PhD candidates, human rights activists, government officials, judicial officers, policy makers and academics.

The methodology used on the advanced course was based on two approaches: on one hand, presentations which consisted of a theoretical dispensation of important themes on the rights of women, and on the other hand, exercises and discussion points which aimed at enriching the practical examples and assimilated theories.

Ms Patience Mungwari Mpani, Programme Manager of the Women’s Rights Unit opened the course by setting the scene and introducing the course themes. She was then followed by Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights, who delivered the opening remarks and welcomed the participants to the course.

Prof Fareda Banda, one of the few female law professors at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, presented an interactive lecture titled ‘Women, Law and Human Rights’. Prof Banda introduced concepts and principles of international human rights law relating to women’s rights which include discrimination, equality, fairness, and equity. She gave an overview of the legal protection of women’s rights under the United Nations frameworks and Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). She further discussed other important issues such as the impact of the feminist movement on the fulfilment of the rights of women, how to deal with difference and the theory behind intersectionality.

Ms Isthar Lakani, from the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT) in Cape Town, is a human rights activist who touched on issues such as advocacy, activism and social justice. She shared her personal experiences as a human rights activist and the use of strategic and creative methods other than traditional litigation and research. She emphasised the use of the arts and pop culture as methods to render the invisible visible and to force policymakers to react. Her main argument is that most of the time formalism in advocacy and activism is not sufficient and needs creative backing. She believes in creativity and strategy to push for change. At the end of her presentation, she gave the participants a practical group exercise to conduct demonstrations using social movement strategies of their choice that they consider proficient to bring change.

Ms Karen Stefiszyn, an independent gender equality consultant and Extraordinary Lecturer at the Centre for Human Rights lectured on gender, equality and women’s rights in the United Nations system. This was followed by an interesting panel discussion with Prof Fareda Banda and Prof Rashida Manjoo (from the University of Cape Town) on transforming international human rights from an African feminist perspective. The panel was moderated by Ms Tabitha Saoyo Griffith from the Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN).

Prof Sylvia Tamale from Makerere University in Uganda presented on issues surrounding sexuality, society, culture and the law. Prof Rashida Majoo focused on the legal protection of women from violence by looking at the normative gaps in international law. Ms Thabitha Saoyo Griffith led a discussion on the use of human rights principles to realise sexual land reproductive health rights from both a legal and advocacy-based approach.

The lectures and speakers included:

  • Professor Fareda Banda (School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), who spoke on women, law and human rights from an African perspective
  • Ms Isthar Lakani (Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT), who spoke on advocacy, activism and social justice
  • Ms Karen Stefiszyn (Gender Equality Specialist & Independent Consultant), who lectured on gender equality and women’s rights in the UN system
  • Prof Sylvia Tamale (Makerere University), who spoke on the legal protection of women from violence: normative gaps in the international law
  • Prof Rashida Manjoo (University of Cape Town), who spoke on the legal protection  of women  from violence: normative  gaps in international law
  • Ms Thabitha Saoyo (Deputy Executive Director of  KELIN - Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS), who delivered a lecture on using human rights principles to realise sexual and reproductive.
  • Prof Sylvia Tamale also lectured on Frameworks for understanding oppression: Theoretical and practical perspectives
  • Dr Mariam Kamuyu (Gender Equality Specialist) who spoke on the gender responsiveness of the African human rights system
  • Prof Thandabantu Nhlapo (University of Cape Town) who spoke on culture, religion and women’s rights in Africa
  • Esther Waweru (Legal Adviser, Solidarity for African Women’s Rights) who spoke on breathing life into the Maputo Protocol.

The course consisted of a number of practical exercises and included the following:

  • Roundtable on ‘Transforming human rights from an African feminist perspective’ by Prof Fareda Banda and Prof Rashida Manjoo, which moderated by Tabitha Saoyo.
  • Panel discussion on ‘Human Rights and cultural practices’ by Prof Thandabantu Nhlapo, Dr Nakatha Murungi (Centre for Human Rights) and Esther Waweru, which was moderated by Dr. Mariam Kamunyu.


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