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Africa Summit 2015

  • Webber Wentzel Law Firm 10 Fricker Road Sandton, GP, 2196 South Africa (map)

On July 30-31, 2015, the Human Rights in Childbirth Africa Summit convened speakers from a range of disciplines engaged with the human rights of birthing women, including lawyers, doctors, midwives, community health workers, researchers, and journalists. Speakers described evidence and advocacy efforts in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, and pertained to issues facing maternity care systems throughout Africa.

Over the two days of the Summit, attendees broke out into discussion groups, first with colleagues from their field, and then in multi-disciplinary groups. The discussions focused on situating the experiences of maternity care reported by African women in a human rights framework, and envisioning what African maternity care systems will look like when they put the rights and needs of women and communities at the center of policy and practice. In open plenary discussion, Summit attendees then distilled the issues and principles that arose in the discussion groups into a Consensus Statement that expressed the shared concerns, values, and solutions of the assembly.


The Human Rights in Childbirth (HRiC) Africa Summit will be the first Pan-African assembly on the role of human rights in women’s healthcare during pregnancy, birth and postpartum, convening human rights and maternal health advocates from around Africa on July 30-31, 2015. The Summit will be hosted in the Johannesburg offices of the top African law firm Webber Wentzel.

in·da·ba (ĭn-dä′bə)

  1. A council or meeting of indigenous peoples of southern Africa to discuss an important matter in a solution driven manner

  2. A matter of concern or for discussion.

Zinzile Seepie as interviewed at the Human Rights in Childbirth Summit, July 30, 2015.

The two-day HRiC: Africa Indaba will gather African human rights advocates, health care professionals, civil society organizations, and community representatives to discuss human rights concerns faced by women during pregnancy, birth and postpartum in regional maternity care systems around Africa.

The summit process will commit to the tradition of Indaba in which African “people get together to sort out the problems that affect them all, where everyone has a voice and where there is an attempt to find a common mind or a common story that everyone is able to tell when they go away from it.” (Rowan Williams)

The first day of the conference will focus on issues of common concern to numerous African nations, such as access to care, economic and environmental factors, discrimination and stigma, disrespect and abuse, and the role of midwifery and traditional healthy birth practices. The second day of the conference will examine and discuss three case studies of specific maternity care systems around Africa, for consideration and comparison of their successes and challenges.

It is envisioned that the outcome of the conference will be to:

  • Facilitate meaningful informational exchange on human rights best practices within maternal and infant health care in various regions of Africa;
  • Devise implementable measures for recognition of human rights in childbirth, with effective systems for accountability and redress;
  • Produce a Consensus Statement regarding human rights in African maternity care, with recommendations for action strategies.

The law firm that will house the summit, Webber Wentzel, has a pro bono gender equity division with great interest in furthering these topics. Our confirmed partners include the global advocacy organizations White Ribbon Alliance and Amnesty International, both of which will help bring human rights advocates from around Africa to speak at the event.

Through publications and multi-media coverage, the issues and findings revealed by the HRiC Africa Indaba 2015 will be amplified locally and globally. A Conference Report will consist of articles by Summit Presenters, detailing birth stories from their local communities that illuminate the human rights concerns that women are facing around Africa. Livestream online coverage of the event will open the doors to virtual attendees around the globe.

The Africa Summit provides an unprecedented opportunity for the assembled delegation to exchange information about models of respectful maternity care being explored across Africa. This exchange can provide a wide lens to catalyze a much-needed reorientation of policy and practice for the development of African maternity care.

The Millennium Developmental Goals (MDG5) reflected an initial paradigm shift in the recognition of preventable maternal mortality as a human rights issue. This assembly will advance further understanding of human rights in maternity care beyond the right to survival.

Dates: July 30-31, 2015 (8am-5pm on the 30th; 10am-6pm on the 31st) Venue: Webber Wentzel Law Firm - Johannesburg Office Street Address: 10 Fricker Road, Illovo Boulevard Johannesburg 2196 (MAP)

Summit Program

Johannesburg, South Africa

Day 1
Thursday, July 30th, 2015

8:00am – Registration

9:00am – Welcome

The panels of Day One will focus on human rights issues of concern to numerous African maternity care systems. Each panel will include speakers coming from around Africa to discuss the problems and solutions relevant to these issues playing out at a local level.

9:30am – Panel 1: Challenges

Moderator: Hermine Hayes-Klein, Human Rights in Childbirth

The speakers on this panel will present stories, research, and analysis of human rights violations in maternity care in nations around Southern Africa.  Issues under discussion will include infant mortality and women’s needs around loss, the experiences of HIV+ women and teen mothers, how the conditions in which midwives and doctors work affect their treatment of birthing women, and how pregnancy and childbirth fit into the full picture of women’s social, economic, and reproductive rights.

  • Malika Ndlovu, Mother and Poet
  • Prudence Mabele, Positive Women’s Network
  • Louise Carmody, Amnesty International
  • Yvonne Cullen, Amnesty International
  • Susan Bradley, City University London
  • Ebenezer Durojaye, University of the Western Cape

11:00am – Tea Break

11:30am – Panel 2: Solutions

Moderator: Tanya Parker, Zulu Birth Project

Speakers on this panel will present stories, evidence, and strategies for advancing women’s human rights in pregnancy and birth.  Issues will include the economics of maternity care development, legal advocacy to ensure accountability for women’s rights, community based care and effective transport systems for rural women, and systems for supporting the needs of both women and care providers.

  • Nthato Minyuku, Mother and Architect
  • Address Malata, International Confederation of Midwives
  • Evelyne Opondo, Center for Reproductive Rights
  • Karen Clark, Bus Fare Babies Program
  • Kenneth Simbaya, Union of Tanzanian Press
  • Sally Baker, Post Natal Depression Support Association
  • Felicity Ukoko, Well Being Foundation of Africa

1:00pm – Lunch

2:00pm – Round Table 1: Meet Your Colleagues

Speakers and attendees will have an opportunity to gather in groups of 10-15 colleagues working in a similar field.  Groups will include Lawyers, Providers, Researchers, and Activists.

Group 1: Lawyers and Advocates

Group 2: Healthcare Providers

Group 3: Activists and Policy Makers

Group 4: Scholars and Researchers

3:00pm – Tea Break

3:30pm – Round Table 2: Multi-Disciplinary Discussion Groups

Attendees and speakers will break into small groups to discuss specific human rights violations in light of their legal, clinical, social, and economic implications.  Groups will report back to the Summit on their findings as we identify themes for a consensus statement.

5:00pm – Closing

Day 2
Friday, July 31st, 2015
Case Studies and Consensus Statement

8:30am – Registration

9:00am – Panel 1: Human Rights in South African Maternity Care

Moderator: Robyn Sheldon, Mama Bamba

This Panel will provide a multi-disciplinary discussion of South African women’s concerns in maternity care in both the public and private sector.

  • Tshego Bessenaar, Ibis Reproductive Health
  • Jody-Lee Fredericks, Women’s Legal Centre
  • Marianne Littlejohn, Midwife
  • Raizel Davidow, Webber Wentzel law firm
  • Dr. Natalya Dinat, Obstetrician-Gynecologist
  • Camilla Pickles, University of Pretoria
  • Commissioner Maphazi, South African Commission for Gender Equity
  • Zinzile Seepie, Zulu Birth Project

11:30am – Tea Break

12:00pm – Panel 2: Making Rights a Reality: Perspectives on Advocacy

Moderator: Hermine Hayes-Klein, Human Rights in Childbirth

This Panel will provide a case study for efforts to make accessible, respectful maternity care a reality for women in Nigeria’s Kwara state.  This multi-disciplinary panel will illuminate the economic issues at stake in Nigerian maternity care as well as illuminate the path to implementation of respectful maternity care through national government, state government, and the policies and practices of doctors, midwives, and nurses.

  • Onyema Afulukwe, Center for Reproductive Rights
  • Felicity Ukoko, Well Being Foundation of Africa
  • Evelyne Opondo, Center for Reproductive Rights
  • Dr Aaron Mujajati, Zambia Medical Association

1:00pm – Lunch

2:00pm – Collective Discussion of Themes & Visions for Consensus Statement

3:30pm – Tea Break

4:00pm – Outlining Draft Consensus Statement

5:00pm – Closing and Goodbye




Call for Abstracts!

Human Rights in Childbirth - Africa Summit 2015

We invite abstracts for presentations for a wide variety of topics for the upcoming Human Rights in Childbirth Africa Indaba 2015. HRiC aims to have a wide variety of presentations, from grassroots initiatives, to studies, to art forms that address human rights and maternal care. Please share this call within your organization and to others in your network. Abstracts may be submitted for presentations on panels or workshops.  To see the current program, check the Program tab.

Abstracts may be submitted for oral presentations (including qualitative and/or quantitative research; policy, legal or situation analysis; programme evaluation; innovative initiatives and models). Presentations may be in oral format, as well as film, drama, song, technology micro-labs, skill building workshops, etc.

To submit an abstract, please email the following information to

  1. Author(s) and/or presenter(s) name, location, and organizational affiliation.
  2. Email address of one of the authors for correspondence.
  3. Briefly describe your work or experience related to maternity care and/or maternal and infant health.
  4. Title of Presentation
  5. Panel sub-topic or Conference theme that the submission addresses
  6. Specify the format of the presentation - oral, film, drama, song, demo, etc.
  7. Specify if presentation is for a panel or workshop (other formats/ media may also be proposed if not currently listed on conference webpage).
  8. Presentation Proposal or Abstract (within 350 words)

We welcome presenters from all languages and cultures that can speak to the issues at play in this summit.  Please indicate in your submission if a translator will be required.

Earlier Event: April 16
Eastern Europe 2015
Later Event: May 26
California Summit 2016