Art by: Akilu Temesgen

57 years ago today, the Organization of African Unity was established, which later became the African Union in 2002. Today, SIHA joins the rest of Africa in commemorating Africa Day. As more nations gained independence from colonial tyranny, they joined the impetus of the African Union to promote solidarity across the continent and liberation from racial oppression, political exclusion, economic exploitation and social injustice. Today the African Union has 55 members.

SIHA reminds the African Union that there is still work to be done by way of leading, guiding, defending and coordinating the African Union’s efforts on gender equality. Women and girls have and continue to lead at the frontlines – calling for reform, regime change, renewed and lawful democracy in a number of nations within the Greater Horn of Africa. African women’s role in political participation can no longer be minimized to casting votes and mere quota systems. It must be reiterated that true democracy is effective when women are allowed to fully participate in political activities – right from formulating their agenda, to claiming and taking their seat at the table of negotiation and policymaking in view of the lived realities of masses of women and in the interest of achieving gender equality.

SIHA reminds the African Union that the commitment to gender equality is enshrined in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), and in the Greater Horn of Africa region – Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan have yet to ratify the Protocol, and Uganda and Kenya have ratified with reservations. Thus, governments of these countries must demonstrate their commitment to the rights of women and girls and to the solidarity of African states in this aim by ratifying the Maputo Protocol without reservations.

As we use this day to celebrate African sovereignty and solidarity jolted by the African Union, its members and the entire continent, we stand with the memory of the African women who created the Maputo Protocol. This memory is a reminder of why women cannot be left out of the decision-making process, (at local, national or supranational levels) nor ignored through gender blind laws. We carry on the legacy of the women who came before us by continuing to push for equality for women and girls.