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At the start of their careers, women’s rights advocates often do not have the prerequisite human rights knowledge necessary for women’s rights advocacy, including litigation. Furthermore, where human rights training is incorporated into the curriculum of law schools, this training is often not complemented by practical experience in applying human rights standards.

To address this, together with the SOAWR Coalition, a network of 63 national, regional, and international civil society organizations based in 32 countries, we established the African Youth for Maputo Protocol Essay Competition as part of a pilot project on ways of creating awareness amongst the next generation of women’s rights practitioners. We hope to address the scholarly and experiential gaps in women’s rights training in the continent through the competition, equipping law students in Africa with hands-on knowledge, skills, and tools to prepare them to become competent women’s rights advocates in their careers.

About the African Youth for Maputo Protocol Essay Competition

Established in 2021, the African Youth for Maputo Protocol Essay Competition seeks to promote scholarship and innovative approaches to solving the most significant challenges in the ratification, domestication, and implementation of the Maputo Protocol in Africa. We also hope to hone the skills and interests of the next generation of African women’s and girls’ rights practitioners by recognizing them for their work. The essay competition targeted students between the ages of 18 and 25 currently in university, with a preference for undergraduate students of African descent studying within the continent.

2021 Theme: Catalysing Progress on the Rights of Women and Girls in Africa through the Ratification, Domestication, and Implementation of the Maputo Protocol

This theme sought to elicit ideas, innovations, and approaches for promoting the ratification, domestication, and implementation of the Maputo Protocol in Africa, regardless of a country’s ratification status of the Protocol.
The competition had six sub-themes on some of the existing legal and policy gaps that could be addressed by the ratification, domestication, and implementation of the Protocol; national, regional, and continental case studies; commentary; and other forms of legal and policy review, including:

  • Challenges and Opportunities in Ratifying the Maputo Protocol
  • Article 5 (Elimination of Harmful Practices) and Article 17 (Right to Positive Cultural Context)
  • Article 6 (Marriage) and Article 7 (Separation, Divorce, and Annulment of Marriage)
  • Article 10 (Right to Peace) and Article 11 (Protection of Women in Armed Conflicts)
  • Article 14 (Health and Reproductive Rights)
  • Reservations to the Maputo Protocol

In all, students from 10 universities in 7 countries participated in the English and French components of the Essay Competition. To maintain high standards for the competition going forward, only one essay successfully met these standards in 2021, out of the six awards (three for the English and French components of the Essay Competition each).

The 2021 winner of the African Youth for the Maputo Protocol Essay Competition was Grace Gimbo, a law student of Makerere University, for her entry titled Defending Women’s Rights to Matrimonial Property at Annulment, Separation or Divorce in Uganda.

Stay tuned for more information on how to get involved in 2022.