February 4

2012 Statement on February 4: African Women’s Health and Rights Day!

The Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) stands in solidarity with African women across the continent, marking February 4th- the annual day of action to support, demand, and defend women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.  


Women’s groups in countries all over Africa are mobilising for the recognition and respect of their sexual, reproductive and health rights; calling on their governments yet again to honour the human rights treaties to which they are signatories, to fully implement the ICPD Programme of Action, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol).


Grave violations of sexual and reproductive rights are on-going in Africa despite multiple treaties, agreements, and protocols that have been agreed to, signed, and ratified by African states. The violations include:
  • Lack of access to essential sexual and reproductive health supplies and services including obstetric health services; consequently resulting in high mortality rates and obstetric fistula, as a result of ideological and religious pressure and/or conditionalities imposed by international financial institutions.
  • Systematic stigmatisation of HIV positive women, including targeted instances of forced sterilisation and coercive abortions
  • Lack of access to safe abortion services is the primary cause of maternal mortality in the continent. The inaccessibility of safe abortion services is exacerbated by the physical attacks, harassment, death threats and criminal charges directed at safe abortion providers or those who speak out in support of legal, safe and accessible abortion
  • Verbal assaults, physical attacks, sexual harassment, death threats and criminal charges are directed at those who challenge patriarchal cultural and social norms, such as polygamy, child marriage, and female genital mutilation;
  • Sexual violence against women, surrounded by a culture of impunity due to a lack of safe mechanisms for seeking justice and redress. In particular, increased militarisation of societies has resulted in grave violations of women’s bodies;
  • ‘Corrective’ rape and other forms of violence, arrests, torture, and murder targeting people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI), and those who defend the rights of LGBTQI communities.
  • Continued lack of recognition of the sexual and reproductive needs and rights of diverse populations of marginalised peoples-including young people, people living with HIV/AIDS, people living with disabilities, minority ethnic populations, the LGBTQI communities, and sex workers.

As community advocates for women's human rights, and sexual rights and reproductive rights, we urge the African states to immediately prioritise the addressal of widespread violations of sexual and reproductive rights in their constituencies.


State parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights are signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention Against Torture (CAT), the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), as well as party to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Beijing Platform for Action.


Member states, therefore, have a legal and ethical obligation to ensure that all women’s human rights are recognised and respected; as well as exercised, including those to life, to be free from gendered violence, to the highest possible standards of health, and to be compensated when violations of these rights occur. In addition, we urge African state signatories to the Maputo Protocol, to follow through with their obligation to uphold the rights enshrined in this document.


The delay to take positive action has cost thousands of women’s lives; and continues to restrict access to holistic healthcare for African women and girls. Today, we stand together with women and girls all across Africa saying NO to further delay and YES to affirmative action towards recognition, respect, protection, and fulfilment of women’s sexual and reproductive rights.



Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)

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2010 Report: Africa Women's Sexual and Reproductive Rights Day Commemorated Around the World

Across the African continent, from Cairo to Cape Town, women are mobilising for recognition and respect of their sexual and reproductive rights. On February 4th, members and allies of the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights in communities throughout Africa held forums, dialogues with parliamentarians, participatory community theatre, and outreach programmes in schools and the streets to raise their voices for the recognition and respect of their rights to sexual and reproductive autonomy. Young women took leadership positions in the events, standing shoulder to shoulder with older generations of sexual and reproductive rights advocates, while men also participated as important allies.

WGNRR Member organisations and allies were involved in the following events as communities across the continent continued to mobilise for reproductive justice:

.         In Burundi:
o   Theatrical performances promoting sexual and reproductive rights were organised in rural and semi-urban communities near Bujumbura.

.         In Cameroon:
o   Community radio broadcasts featured discussions about ending the stigmatisation of women living with HIV/AIDS,

o   Public forums and theatrical performances were organised by women living with HIV/AIDS, sex workers, differently-abled people and those who identify as part of the marginalised ethnic minority of the Mbororo

.         In the D.R. Congo:
o   Forums discussing the reproductive rights and autonomy of women, young women's rights, the concerns of women living with HIV/AIDS and those who are differently-abled, and freedom from sexual violence were organised in various communities, featuring the voices and concerns of women living with HIV/AIDS and differently abled women

o   Young women competed in football matches that were held to symbolize the significance of women living empowered, autonomous and healthy lives 

o   Inter-active radio programming featured discussions on reproductive rights and health concerns

o   Young women animators facilitated street theatre in discussions about reproductive health in rural and urban communities

.         In Conakry, Guinee-Bissau:
o    Forums engaged young women in the national campaign against sexual violence

.         In Ghana:
o   Forums helped raise awareness about reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.

o   Outreach in schools raised awareness about reproductive health issues amongst school age children.

.         In Kenya:
o   Children, youth, women and people with HIV/AIDs joined public forums to discuss issues related to reproductive rights and an end to sexual violence through the use of drama, poetry, singing and dancing

.         In Nigeria:
o   Community forums were held to open up a space for women and youth living with HIV/AIDS, women criminalised as sex workers, and members of the lesbian/gay/trans/bisexual communities to speak out about their reproductive rights.

o   Letter writing was carried out by community groups to call on parliamentarians to respect reproductive rights of all.

o   Capacity building workshops on community mobilising and organizing for reproductive health and rights were held

.         In Freetown, Sierra Leone:
o   Meetings were convened between parliamentarians and women human rights lawyers to discuss new legislation about the sexual and reproductive rights of women.

.         In King Williams Town, South Africa:
o   A dialogue was convened amongst rural women and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender living with HIV/AIDS.

.         In Kigoma, Tanzania:
o    A public forum was held to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights amongst highly marginalised communities.

.         In  Uganda:
o   Theatrical activities, role plays, and presentations about women's reproductive rights took place in the rural village of Bukatira.

o   A forum to discuss the current state of sexual and reproductive rights nationally was organised in Kampala, bringing together diverse communities from all generations.

.         In Harare, Zimbabwe:
o   A forum was organised to share information and ideas and challenges related to advocacy encompassing sexual and reproductive rights, maternal health concerns, HIV/AIDS realities and sexual violence. Participants included networks of youth, sex workers, and People Living with HIV/AIDS. 

Download call for action and letters to the Embassies here.