65th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Item 8: Activity report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of women

Delivered by Hassan Shire, Chairperson AfricanDefenders

 Honourable Chairperson, distinguished Commissioners, State delegates, representatives of National Human Rights Institutions and non-governmental organisations,

DefendDefenders (The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) welcomes this opportunity to address the Commission on issues key to the promotion and protection of the rights of women in Africa. Women are key players in the advancement of human rights and have in many cases been at the forefront in advocating for change. For instance, in Sudan, the women’s movement during the peaceful 2018 protests was pivotal in ousting al-Bahir’s  dictatorial regime.

In 2018, DefendDefenders conducted extensive research on the challenges faced by marginalised human rights defenders, including WHRDs in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. These findings are not only unique to WHRDs in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda but also apply to all WHRDs across the continent.

Our findings show that WHRDs face specific vulnerabilities linked to pervasive patriarchal norms and traditional gender stereotypes in their respective societies. Additionally, as opposed to their male counterparts, WHRDs are prone to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Those working in conflict areas like South Sudan, face heightened risks of SGBV where sexual violence is used as a weapon of war.

In light of our findings, we urge member states to:

  • Recognise and acknowledge the crucial role played by WHRDs, as an initial step towards their protection;
  • Ensure that violations against WHRDs committed by state and non-state actors online as well as offline are promptly and impartially investigated and that those responsible are held accountable;
  • Strengthen national institutions to ensure the protection of women and girls; and
  • Ensure that victims of sexual violence are attended to by qualified personnel who are professionally trained to interact with victims of such violence, and respond to their specific situation and needs


I thank you