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Pan-African Conference on Celebrating Courage and Overcoming Harmful Traditions

Date:      From 5-7 October, 2011

Venue: the Conference Center of the Commission of the African Union.

Organisers:  African Union Commission with the financial support of GIZ.

We honour our fathers and mothers past – indeed, all of the millions of African fathers and mothers who brought their children up so well in spite of the enormous difficulties they faced over the centuries. We say thank you to you all. And we owe it to you to cherish the good and the positive in African values, while combating those that are harmful and antithetical to the dignity of men and women throughout Africa. We will build on the past - a past for which, we acknowledge, we are primarily responsible for. Through knowledge, analysis, and reflection on who we are and why we are where we are, we hope to serve as the moral voice of Africa’s children, and to build an Africa that can claim its future and assure the rights and dignity of all its people” - Dr. Assefa Bequele


The Conference was attended by 80 participants from 24 African countries. The participants were mainly from the African Union, policy makers, civil society organisations, human rights activists, lawyers, academics, religious leaders, researchers, members of international NGOs.

The theme of the conference was Celebrating Courage, overcoming harmful traditional practices’. Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) are social customs inherited from one generation to another, inseparably connected to the values shared by the community. Unfortunately too many of these practices are in violation with human rights, especially affecting women and children. These include FGM, early marriage, corporal punishment, trokosi, sexual violence and breast ironing, just to mention some.

The objectives of the conference were as follows;

• To promote and protect the rights of women and girls.
• To acknowledge the efforts done and share experiences gained locally and regionally.
• To celebrate the courage of organisations but mainly the courage of women human rights activists who are the leaders in the fight to eliminate harmful practices.
• To examine the legal, social-cultural and religious factors of HTPs in order to make a change in people’s minds.

The conference was by way of plenary sessions on human rights and legal protection of women and girls with regards to HTPs. The sessions highlighted various aspects of positive and negative cultural practices and traditions as well as sexual and reproductive health rights and the challenges faced in combating HTPs. Case studies from Ethiopia, the Gambia and Senegal were discussed, and GIZ shared their experiences on how inter-generational dialogue is used as a tool for bringing change in people’s behaviour. In closing, the movie “Desert Flower” was shown and a framework for action, recommendations and a report of the conference were adopted by participants.


Statement of the AU Commissioner for Social Affairs l Download l

Best Practices in Africa: Summary of a qualitative study on innovative approaches to overcoming Harmful Traditional Practices l English l French l

Conference Concept Note l Download l

Press Release, 07 October 2011 l Download l


Further Information

African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights l Click here l

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) l Click here l

Call for Accelerated Action on the Implementation of the Plan of Action towards Africa Fit for Children l Click here l


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