News & Updates

20 for 20 Solidarity Awards: Leading women’s rights activists honoured for their groundbreaking work advancing women’s rights in Africa

KENYA, Nairobi, July 21, 2023

The 20 for 20 Solidarity Awards ceremony took place on July 11, 2023, honouring five outstanding women’s rights activists and four leading civil society organisations for their remarkable efforts in advocating for the ratification and implementation of the Maputo Protocol, the groundbreaking legal framework adopted on July 11, 2003, by the African Union (AU) to address specific challenges faced by women and girls across Africa.

The gala event was hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, by  Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR) with international women’s rights organisation Equality Now to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, officially known as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

The 20 for 20 Solidarity Award nominees and winners were recognised for the pivotal contributions they have made in championing the Protocol and advancing the rights of women and minorities. The Awards cover nine categories, each representing a distinct aspect of advocacy and progress, and the winners and runners up can be found here.



Celebrating 20 years of the Maputo Protocol

This year marks twenty years since the Protocol was adopted by the African Union in Maputo, Mozambique, marking a significant milestone for women and girls in Africa and the continent as a whole. To date, the Protocol has been ratified/acceeded by 44 countries, with South Sudan the most recent to join in June 2023. Only 11 AU Member States have still not acceded to it – Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Madagascar, Morocco, Niger, Somalia, and Sudan. SOAWR continues to monitor the full status of ratification via our Protocol Watch.

To recognise those who have played a leading role in advancing adoption and implementation of the Protocol, the Maputo At 20 campaign launched a public call on Africa Day on May 25, inviting people across Africa to nominate those who have contributed to the advancement of gender equality as espoused in the Maputo Protocol at national, regional, and continental levels. 

A panel of esteemed judges with extensive expertise in women’s rights selected the winners from an impressive pool of over 400 entries in countries across Africa. Entries were assessed on the grounds of the  impact, innovation and strategic relevance of their human rights advocacy, and the winners represent a diversity of human rights defenders in approach, identity, and geography. 

Speaking at the 20 for 20 Solidarity Awards ceremony, Hon. Janet Ramatoulie Sallah-Njie  AU Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, told attendees, “As we celebrate all the founding women on whose shoulders we continue to stand, we also celebrate our bilateral partners, traditional leaders, and men for their support in the ratification and domestication of the Maputo Protocol.”

Hon. Aisha Jumwa, the Cabinet Secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of Public Affairs, Gender and Affirmative Action, remarked, “We must all join hands to celebrate the promise of the Maputo Protocol for all African women and girls, and must work collaboratively to create a society that is free and fair for all. I commit the Government of Kenya as a champion of the Maputo Protocol as we advance in our bilateral engagements with other countries. We will seek to encourage the remaining eleven countries to ratify the Protocol.’’

Global Executive Director at Equality Now, Monha Sinha, said, “Africa has shown us that the world’s solutions to women’s rights issues can be driven locally and globally by championing the Maputo Protocol. I urge you all to adopt equality now as your call to action.’’ 

20 years of the Maputo Protocol – Where are we now? 

To mark the 20th anniversary of the Protocol and to promote the continued adoption and implementation of its progressive provisions, SOAWR, Equality Now, and Make Every Woman Count (MEWC) have released a landmark report, 20 Years of the Maputo Protocol: Where are we now?, which summarises progress made in Africa towards the ratification, domestication and implementation of the Protocol, highlighting key achievements and challenges.

The Protocol holds immense importance as a legal instrument for the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Africa. It addresses crucial issues affecting women’s lives, serves as a comprehensive legal framework, promotes women’s empowerment and participation, and establishes a system of accountability for African countries. All this fosters a culture of transparency and progress in the promotion of gender equality.

The Protocol explicitly condemns harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, and violence against women – sending a clear message that these violations must be eradicated. By integrating the Protocol’s principles into their legal systems, member states ignite a culture of gender equality. 

In the report, the SOAWR Coalition urges the 11 outstanding AU Member States to renew their commitments and promptly accede to the Maputo Protocol. By doing so, they will fulfil their promises to the women and girls in their countries, contributing to a more equitable and prosperous continent.

About SOAWR: Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) is a coalition of over 80 civil society organisations working across 33 African countries to protect women’s rights. Established in 2004, SOAWR works to protect the rights of girls and women as provided for in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). 

About the Maputo Protocol: The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol, is an African Union treaty adopted on 11 July 2003. It aims  to promote and protect women’s rights and gender equality across the African continent.

SOAWR has led a concerted continental campaign in liaison with Africa’s women’s movement to ratify the Protocol. Across the continent, different countries have enforced the Maputo Protocol either directly through state administrative and policy action or through decisions of courts both at the national and regional level demanding accountability for the rights therein. Indeed national and regional courts have relied on and referred to the Maputo Protocol in the adjudication of cases ensuring that the women’s rights enshrined in the Protocol become a reality for women and girls in Africa.