By Sola Ogundipe

THE Nigerian government and governments of other African countries have been charged  to prioritise the lives and wellbeing of women and girls by domesticating the Maputo protocol.

The Maputo protocol (Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa), is one of the world’s most comprehensive and progressive women’s human rights instruments.

It was adopted by Heads of State and Government in Maputo, Mozambique, in  2003,  to guarantee extensive rights to African women and girls, with progressive provisions on harmful traditional practices, reproductive health & rights, roles in political processes, economic empowerment and ending violence against women.

Making the call in commemoration of the 2022 African Women’s Day in honour of all  women and girls in the continent, Lucky Palmer, the  Country  Director, Ipas Nigeria Health Foundation, said  domesticating the Maputo protocol will ensure that all barriers inhibiting women and girls in Nigeria from exercising their rights to bodily autonomy are removed.

Palmer, who spoke amid the euphoria that emerged on the heels of the outstanding performances of Nigerian women  in the World Athletic Championships and the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, noted: “Nigeria is a signatory to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), a framework which is indigenous to the African People and specifically provides for the bodily autonomy of women and girls across Africa. Women with wellspaced children can support family livelihood, which enhances household food security.

“Nigeria is confronted with high incidences of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), which sometimes results in unwanted pregnancies, leading to unsafe abortions, thereby contributing to the already high maternal mortality rate in the country. “Ipas Nigeria Health Foundation is committed to ending unsafe abortions, SGBV and providing unhindered access to contraceptives, putting us at the forefront as advocates for reproductive justice. Through our work at the National and State levels, we advocate for policies and law reforms that promote women’s rights and challenge harmful social norms in the communities that act as barriers to women and girls’ access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health services.

Further, Palmer stated: “This year’s theme ‘Towards the African Women’s Decade: Realizing Women’s Human Capital through accelerated social and economic development, addressing the scourge of violence, food insecurity and good nutrition on the African continent’ resonates with Ipas Nigeria Health Foundation’s goal of ensuring that every woman and girl on the African Continent, has the right to their bodily autonomy free from all forms of violence and discrimination.

“We call on the Government in Nigeria and across Africa to prioritize the lives and well-being of women and girls. We believe that domesticating the Maputo protocol will ensure that all barriers inhibiting women and girls in Nigeria from exercising their rights to bodily autonomy are removed.

“We also use this medium to congratulate the Pan-African Women’s Organisation (PAWO), a specialized agency of the African Union, on her 60th anniversary. We appreciate their important role in mobilizing African women on the continent and the Diaspora to rally around collective struggles for a free and prosperous Africa.”  

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