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AFRICA MOBILE PHONE USERS RALLY FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Campaigning organisation Fahamu is using SMS text messages to collect support for the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. All you have to do is send a message with the word "petition" and your name in the message to +27832933934. You will only be charged the cost set by your network provider for sending an international SMS.

According to Firoze Manji of Fahamu: "Mobile phone users in Africa and across the world can now send SMS's from their mobile phones to sign an online petition in support of a campaign urging African governments to ratify the African Union's Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which was adopted by the African Union on 11 July 2003. The Protocol offers significant protection for the rights of women in Africa, but has yet to receive the required number of country ratifications to come into force".

"To our knowledge, this is the first time that SMS technologies will have been used on a mass scale on the African continent in support of human rights," said Firoze Manji, Director of Fahamu, a human rights organisation that developed the facility. "The facility enables those with poor on non-existent internet access to sign the online petition and takes advantage of the fact that there are nearly eight times more mobile phone users compared to email users in Africa."

Initial testing of the SMS function indicates that it will be possible for mobile phone users to send SMS's from many countries and mobile phone networks in Africa. "We cannot be certain that people in every country will be able to use this facility, but we think most should be able to," said Manji.

HOW TO DO IT

Send a text message from your mobile/cell phone to: +27-832-933-934 with the message: petition your name
For example a message from Gertrude Emokor would say: petition gertrude Emokor

HOW TO SUPPORT THE SMS PETITION

Send text messages to your colleagues and friends alerting them to the petition and informing them how to sign by SMS. You can also use email and word of mouth to help spread the word.

Distribute leaflets about this initiative. We want to reach people with mobile phones who might not have internet access. If you work in a human rights or social justice organisation in Africa, why not volunteer to distribute leaflets for us about the petition to your networks and contacts. Send your details to sms-support@pambazuka.org and we will post you pamphlets to distribute.

You can also sign up for the petition online at:
http://www.pambazuka.org/petition/petition.php?id=1

The initiative has been supported by IDRC and Oxfam.