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African Nations Urge Government to Enforce Fairer Family Laws

The pact, known as the Maputo Protocol, came into force in 2005 and guarantees extensive rights in areas from protection against violence to economic empowerment

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family laws
FILE - A woman protests against underage marriage in Lagos, Nigeria, July 20, 2013. VOA

Women and girls in Africa are still being pushed into forced or early marriages, while those in unhappy unions face discrimination when seeking divorce, campaigners said on Tuesday, urging governments to enforce fairer family laws.

The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) — a coalition of 50 groups — said while most nations had committed to a pan-African pact on women’s rights, states had failed to enforce laws relating to marriage, divorce, child maintenance and inheritance.

The pact, known as the Maputo Protocol, came into force in 2005 and guarantees extensive rights in areas from protection against violence to economic empowerment.

Anisah Ari from the Nigeria-based Women Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, a SOAWR member, said while African nations had taken steps in other areas such as tackling sexual violence, family laws were largely being ignored.

family laws
File: Sudanese Women carrying 50kg bag of grains. Wikimedia Commons

“While the Maputo Protocol affirms women’s rights to exercise self-determination and bodily autonomy — free from discrimination, coercion and violence — many African girls and women continue to bear the brunt of discriminatory family laws,” Ari told a news conference.

“For instance, despite the fact that women have a right to inherit their husbands’ properties after death, this is not always assured — leading to protracted legal battles.”

The SOAWR members, which come from 25 African countries, said many nations had enacted progressive family laws in line with the Maputo Protocol, but the laws were not being enforced.

Women’s contribution and access to familial property was rarely recognized during marital disputes, and women often faced an uphill struggle when seeking child maintenance, they added.

family laws
Women wear the Algerian flag during a protest in Algiers, April 26, 2019. VOA

The legally binding pact, lauded as the most progressive human rights instrument for women and girls in Africa, has been signed and ratified by 42 of the African Union’s 55 member states. Three countries — Botswana, Morocco and Egypt — have neither signed nor ratified it.

The SOAWR members — which come from countries such as Tunisia, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya — said addressing the protection and rights of women and girls in the family was the integral to the advancement of women.

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“Family laws are key as the family unit is where the socialization of gender roles begins. It is where girls first learn their rights and roles in society,” said Violet Muthiga from Sauti Ya Wanawake, a Kenya-based women’s rights group.

“So if we can intervene at the family level to ensure they are protected and treated fairly, we can change perceptions and curb practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation — all of which happen with the family unit.” (VOA)

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Africa: Initiative Aims to Expand Diabetes Treatment

Diabetes, a disease that once mainly affected rich countries, is now most prevalent in low-and-middle-income countries

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Africa, Initiative, Diabetes
A blood sugare analyser and an insulin syringe are seen on a table, Nov. 13, 2019. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet) VOA

On the eve of World Diabetes Day, November 14, the World Health Organization is launching a new initiative it believes will allow greater access to life-saving insulin at lower prices for a greater number of people suffering from diabetes.Africa

More than 420 million people globally suffer from diabetes and are in need of insulin to stay alive.  Diabetes, a disease that once mainly affected rich countries, is now most prevalent in low-and-middle-income countries.

There is an ample supply of insulin on the world market.   But the medication is costly and unaffordable for most people in developing countries.  The World Health Organization says it believes its first-ever insulin prequalification program will make the life-saving treatment widely available to poor people at dramatically lower prices.

The prequalification program is a tool for assessing the quality, safety and efficacy of a medicine.  Emer Cooke, director of regulation of medicines and other health technologies at the WHO, says anyone who buys a WHO prequalified medication can be sure that the product is safe and effective.

Africa, Initiative, Diabetes
More than 420 million people globally suffer from diabetes and are in need of insulin to stay alive. Pixabay

“We hope that by increasing the number of quality suppliers of insulin there will be a broader price range to cater for less-resourced health systems,” said Cooke.  “We are also confident that competition will bring prices down.  That way countries will have a greater choice of products that are more affordable.”

Three manufacturers control most of the global market for insulin.  They set prices that are prohibitive for many people and countries.  In the United States, the average price for a month’s supply of insulin is around $450.

In the lead-up to this launch, the World Health Organization collected data from 24 countries in four regions of the world.  In some countries, the data show a month’s supply of insulin could cost between 15 and 22 percent of a worker’s take home pay.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death.  It can lead to costly and debilitating complications, such as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and lower limb amputations.

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Overweight and obesity, as well as physical inactivity are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes.  The disease is treatable with insulin and often preventable with a change of lifestyle that involves better diet and more exercise. (VOA)