Human Rights in sub-Saharan Africa


  In contemporary sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), women are facing human rights abuses unparalleled elsewhere in the world. Despite the region’s diversity, its female inhabitants largely share experiences of sexual discrimination and abuse, intimate violence, political marginalization, and economic deprivation.   Despite the potential of various international conventions and conferences and the full body of human rights law, the lives of many African girls remain embroiled in violence. One reason is that UN treaties and conventions have not been locally interpreted in a way that is responsive to African women’s experiences of injustice. But robust human rights remain elusive for most SSA women primarily because neither the international community nor national leaders have given primacy to the voices of African women themselves. Transcending the rhetoric of rights starts with recognizing the agency of SSA women and following the agenda they set. Listening to their priorities for the future of human rights work in the region can ensure that international human rights norms have sufficient legitimacy within particular cultures and traditions to prove effective.


Kathryn Birdwell Wester



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University of Denver

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