Calls for gender-friendly legislation

In his statement to mark the commemoration of the International Women’s Day that falls on 8 March, the SADC executive secretary has implored the region to honour women for their contribution to the growth of society. Tomaz Augusto Salom’o, citing the role played by women in the freedom struggle, said “the gender equality and equity debate is not just rhetoric for the SADC region.” He called for the recognition of women for their courageous involvement in the struggle against racism, colonialism, apartheid and now poverty. According to Salom’o, women continue to occupy central positions in efforts towards addressing issues of food insecurity and HIV and AIDS. SADC recognises that equality and equity between women and men leads to developmental and economic growth. “The equality agenda is not just about improving the situation of women, rather, it is about recognising that our region is borne on the well being of all its citizenry, and more so on the women who are the cornerstones of our families, our communities, our industries, our countries and indeed our region,” Salom’o said. Referring to women as decision makers, freedom fighters, campaigners, home makers, Salom’o added that community builders and leaders should strive to meet the targets of equality between men and women by addressing the existing disparities. Emphasis must be placed on control and ownership of resources and decision making across the various sectors. “We must master the courage to confront the perpetual injustices and marginalisation that we all continue to allow to be levelled against our mothers, sisters and daughters. “We must rise up to the leadership call of affirming the human dignity of all women regardless of their status in society,” Salom’o said. He noted the indignity suffered by women through domestic violence, denial of legal entity, harmful and subordinating cultural or religious practices, and sexual crimes such as rape, girl child molestation, femicide and sexual harassment. “These must no longer be tolerated in the laws, policies, societies and practices of our member states. “The home must be safe for women; the school must be safe for the girl child; our societies must be safe for all women,” said Salom’o. SADC member states have a challenge to show the political will needed to implement the already articulated policies and bridge the wide gender gap. Salom’o’s challenge is backed by the resolve made at the recent Council of Ministers in Botswana to enhance institutional capacity that will eradicate gender inequality in member states. SADC member states are guided by the Declaration on Gender and Development signed by the Heads of State and Government in 1997 in which they made commitments to place gender on the region’s priority list. Gender and development have also been kept as top priority after the SADC restructuring to ensure that the commitments are reflected in the planning and implementation of policies and programmes at both regional and national levels. ‘ sardc.net

March 2006
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