This day was dedicated as the ‘Day of the African Woman’ on the occasion of the first Congress of the Pan African Women’s Organisation (PAWO) held in Dakar, Senegal on 31 July 1974.
In Celebration of this day, the Commission reminds us to support the activities organised by civil society organisations and governments across the Continent. The ‘Day of the African Woman’ carries very important historical significance:
- It was on the 31 July 1962 In Dar Es Salem when women from across the four corners of the African continent gathered for the first time and created the first women organisation called ‘The Conference of African women;’
- Twelve years on, after the establishment of the CFA, Women gathered again on the 31 July 1974 in Dakar, Senegal, to create an even more representative organisation called the Pan African Women’s organisation (PAWO);
The African Commission highlights these events to demonstrate the historical role women played in society which is the character of women as pioneers able to build and lead in developments.
Back in 1962, when the idea to establish PAWO was conceived, the main aim was to establish an organisation which will ensure full and effective participation of women in political, economic and social development particularly in the African Member States, and Internationally. Today as we mark this day we can point out some positive developments:
- In 2007 during the African Union Head of States Summit out of 11 Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights 7 female commissioners were elected. The ACHPR further developed on this positive move and elected two female Commissioners at the helm of the Commission, i.e. Justice Sanjie Masenono Monageng as the Chairperson and Dr. Angela Melo as the Vice Chairperson. These elections demonstrate the commitment of the ACHPR towards the realisation of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa on gender parities in its organs.
It is therefore, very important to always be mindful of the fundamental principles upon which organisations are established, PAWO in this case, to assess whether we are making progress to realise our aims and objectives.
The principles of PAWO then are still relevant to this day. PAWO recognised that Africa as a Continent still needs to respect the rights of her peoples, in particular the rights of the vulnerable groups, which includes women’s rights. PAWO further raised issues of unity, solidarity, peace and development. All these issues are still in the agenda of Africa as a continent. Women are still faced with challenges, of expanding their capabilities, how to attain their full freedoms and dignity and also how to promote and sustaining women’s empowerment programmes
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, through the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa urges all of us to continue observing the rights of women, endeavour to empower and develop women The Special Rapporteur reminds us that in some African countries women still lack access to economic rights, access to land ownership, ability to influence reproductive and family development such as who to marry, how many children to have and their spacing. All of these rights are provided for women’s enjoyment and practice in the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, of which only 25 Member States, party to the African Charter have ratified.
It is against this background, the we mark this ‘Day of the African Women’ to urge all member states who have not ratified the Protocol, to do so. The Special Rapporteur would like to emphasis that a delay in ratifying the Protocol, delays the enjoyment of freedoms rights enshrined in the Protocol. Thus perpetuating suffering of the women of Africa, which goes against the foundation on which this day was dedicated.
Banjul , 31 July 2008
For further information, please contact:
The Secretariat of the African Commission