Although most African countries have written constitutions, which guarantee all persons equal rights before the law and prohibit any discrimination on the grounds of sex, religion or nationality, the social life of women is largely shaped by customary laws and practices and most disputes are resolved outside the court system. Women often neither know of their rights and entitlements nor dare to claim them due to the adverse effects such a move would bear on them in given social contexts. As such, customary practices that discriminate against women on inheritance, wills, divorce, property provision, child custody and maintenance are still embodied in the civil law.
This was the logic behind the Conference held from 1st – 3rd October, 2001 that brought together women to look at various constitutions with the aim of strategising on how to intervene in implementation processes in order to ensure that laws practiced guarantee equal rights to women. The Conference also enabled them to exchange experiences and share ideas on how to challenge the existing negative laws.