The Maputo Protocol “places a moral obligation on African Union
Member States to promote equal opportunities for
men and women to play meaningful roles in society,” according to the Women, `Gender and Development Directorate of the African Union Commission.
In the 18 years since Namibia has signed the Maputo Protocol, it has rarely been mentioned by our leaders, or by anyone talking about gender equality, despite signing on to this moral obligation. But does this mean that we haven’t made any progress with implementing the document?
Sister Namibia’s newest project, #MappingMaputo2022, is all about exploring whether this potentially powerful document is in line with the progress we’ve made when it comes to gender equality in this country. We’re specifically looking at the articles of the Maputo Protocol that address health and reproductive rights and the prevention of violence against women, which are issues that Namibian citizens have been talking about for years. Movements like #ShutItAllDown and #LegalizeAbortionNA are part of a long legacy of Namibians demanding access to gender equality and justice.
We are currently campaigning for access to free and safe abortion on demand, as well as many other aspects of sexual and reproductive health. But Namibians are very familiar with conversations about gender based violence. We talk about it on social media, our leaders talk about it in Parliament, and our media reports on it daily. But what is bigger conversation about why sexual and gender based violence in Namibia persist, and what are some of the very specific promises that our leaders have made?
Namibia’s National Plan of Action on GBV
Namibia has developed two plans of action on GBV since 2012, and the current plan lapses at the end of 2023. The goal of the document is to set up stakeholders for success, and outline activities that are actually achievable and designed to have the biggest positive impact with the limited resources the government has access to.
Gender based violence is defined in the plan as “all forms of violence perpetrated against an individual on the basis of their sex and is therefore understood to be violence caused by unequal power relations between men and women. GBV includes all acts which cause physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or economic harm, including the threat to take such acts.”
While our leaders seldom actually reference the document, it is meant to guide the government and other stakeholders’ approach to survivors, perpetrators and communities. The latest version of the plan highlights four areas: care, protection and dignity for survivors; strengthening primary prevention mechanisms; transforming gender norms among young Namibians; and developing adequate data and funding systems for GBV monitoring.
These action areas all work together. In the words of the plan itself:
If survivors of GBV are provided with correct and empathetic services, if communities are proactive in preventing and responding to GBV, if young people are given the tools for long-term gender transformation, if GBV prevention and response is adequately funded and data-driven, then GBV survivors will receive justice, those experiencing or at risk of GBV will seek support and tolerance and incidence of GBV will reduce.
So where does this leave us?
We believe that the National Plan of Action on GBV is an extremely useful tool, and one that was developed and written with both justice for survivors and realistic outcomes in mind. The problem is, it’s not clear how it has been used, if at all, and where our demands for accountability or recognition of efforts need to be directed. Our plan over the next year, is to look at each of the action areas, in the context of health and reproductive rights and the prevention of violence against women.
Ultimately, we want to see how the Maputo Protocol is showing up in our policies – and in our lives. Join us as we explore some of the promises that have been made, and how far we have come in the last 18 years.
Image credit: StArt Art Gallery