Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA)
The Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa was adopted by the AU Assembly in 2004, calling for member states’ continual action toward achieving gender equality and reinforcing their commitment to international and regional women’s rights instruments. In addition to calling for wider ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, it also addresses state responsibility for tackling violence against women and gender-based discrimination.
To achieve gender equality, the SDGEA is subdivided into 6 thematic areas of action: governance; peace and security; human rights; health; education; economic empowerment. Each of these areas of action are guided by international and regional human rights instruments which have been supported or adopted by the AU. Some of these instruments which form the normative framework for the SDGEA include:
• Dakar Platform for Action (1994)
• Beijing Platform for Action (1995)
• Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979)
• African Plan of Action to Accelerate the Implementation of the Dakar and Beijing
• Platforms for Action for the Advancement of Women (1999);
• Outcome Document of the Twenty-third Special Session of the United Nations
• General Assembly Special Session on the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for
• Action (2000);
• UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (2000) and successive Resolutions relating to women, peace and security.
• The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of
• Women in Africa (2003)
• Seventh African Regional Conference on Women (Beijing +10); Decade Review of the
• Implementation of the Dakar and Beijing Platforms for Action: Outcome and the Way
• Forward (2004)
• International Conference on Population Development Platform of Action (1994)
How does it help tackle violence against women?
4. Initiate, launch and engage within two years sustained public campaigns against gender based violence as well as the problem of trafficking in women and girls; Reinforce legal mechanisms that will protect women at the national level and end impunity of crimes committed against women in a manner that will change and positively alter the attitude and behaviour of the African society.”
Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa
Paragraph 4 of the SDGEA (quoted above) requires states to take action against gender-based violence. Although states are largely responsible for developing national action plans to fulfil the commitments in this provision, actors at the regional level have identified potential actions states can take. For example, in 2005 the first African Union Conference of Ministers Responsible for Women and Gender adopted an implementation framework that identified actions to eliminate gender-based violence as an area of commitment, calling on states to:
• Enact and/or strengthen existing legislation so as to make gender-based violence a crime and punish perpetrators more severely, and strengthen policies and provide adequate institutional and financial support to address the needs of victims and witnesses, and the rehabilitation of perpetrators
• Deepen the understanding of the problem of gender-based violence, its causes and consequences, through studies, community-based dialogue and public awareness campaigns and further develop strategies which will set specific short term and long-term objectives to:
o Respond effectively and adequately to the needs of individual victims and survivors of gender-based violence
o Take appropriate action with regard to the perpetrators of gender-based violence
o Build the capacity of law enforcement agencies to address gender-based violence
o Train media to cover issues of violence against women with sensitivity and enlist their support to promote equal and peaceful gender relations at the household level
• Formulate and adopt an African Protocol to prevent, eliminate and punish trafficking in women and children and develop plans and strategies to give effect to this protocol and the UN protocol at national level
• Adopt laws that outlaw the practice of female genital mutilation and other harmful practices
The SDGEA not only directly calls on states to tackle gender-based violence, it also addresses many issues that are necessary for eliminating it. Increased representation and participation of women in peace processes; campaigns against the abuse of girl children as wives and victims of sexual slavery; and promoting the implementation of legislation to guarantee women’s rights to land, property and inheritance are just a few measures that relate to ending violence against women in all its forms.
Want more? Read the full ‘Implementation Framework of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa’ adopted at the first African Union Conference of ministers responsible for women and gender (2005)
In operative paragraph 12 of the SDGEA, states commit themselves to report annually on progress made in gender mainstreaming and to address all issues raised within the Declaration – both at the national level, as well as the regional level. This includes regularly providing updates on progress made during ordinary sessions of the AU Assembly and reporting to other states that take part in the African Peer Review Mechanism. Additionally, the African Union Women’s Committee (AUWC) receives and considers reports as part of its goal of accelerating progress toward full implementation of the SDGEA.
Given that the elimination of gender-based violence is one of the key implementation areas of the SDGEA, this means that states commit themselves to annually reporting on any progress made in that respect. Civil society is also invited to engage with the AUWC’s state reporting procedure. After a state report is received, they are made available to civil society organisations. At this point, CSOs are given the opportunity to comment on the state’s report and call attention to areas of concern – including steps taken to eliminate gender-based violence.
Want more? Read the full ‘Guidelines for reporting on the AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa’ on the GIMAC website
• Read GIMAC’s ‘Civil society’s guidelines and mechanism for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa’
Gender is my Agenda Campaign (GIMAC)
Following the adoption of the SDGEA, the ‘Gender is my Agenda Campaign’ (GIMAC) was launched at the 8th Women’s Pre-Summit in Banjul (2006). Civil society organisations account for 47 of GIMAC’s 55 member organisations. GIMAC aims to disseminate information on the SDGEA to the widest possible audience and to monitor AU member states’ implementation of its provisions. As part of its work, GIMAC organises pre-summit consultative meetings on gender and mainstreaming and delivers recommendations to the AU Assembly for consideration during its ordinary sessions.
Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), an international NGO, is the coordinating body for GIMAC, and has been organising the Women’s AU Pre-Summit Consultative Meetings since 2002. It has been influential in advancing women’s rights within the AU and has developed partnerships with many AU bodies and other international organisations to mobilise support for GIMAC. It also helps organise the AU Pre-Summit Gender Consultative Meetings on behalf of GIMAC, bringing together civil society organisations, as well as African Ministers responsible for Gender and Women’s Affairs, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), AU organs, AUC Departments, the private sector, United Nations (UN) agencies and development partners. At the Consultative Meeting, all actors work together to produce recommendations to the AU Assembly to consider during ordinary session.
FAS serves as an important point of contact for civil society actors interested in working with GIMAC to progress state implementation of the SDGEA (contact information below).
Solemn Declaration Index
In January 2016, members from the GIMAC held a consultative meeting with other civil society actors, representatives from diplomatic missions and other experts – including the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa – to discuss strategies for the advancement of women’s rights in Africa.
As part of this meeting, GIMAC collected inputs from civil society to develop the first Solemn Declaration Index – providing evidence-based monitoring of the progress of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa. At the conclusion of the meeting, GIMAC issued recommendations to the AU Assembly based off of its finding, including: “Member States prioritize the implementation of a multi-sectoral approach to ending sexual and gender-based violence.”
Want more? Information on the next meeting by GIMAC and other documents related to the Solemn Declaration Index can be found on GIMAC’s website.
FAS International Secretariat
8, Rue du Vieux-Billard
P.O. Box 5037
CH-1211 Geneva 11
Tel. +41 22 328 80 50 | Fax. +41 22 328 80 52 | firstname.lastname@example.org
GIMAC Contact Page