SADC women push to redress gender imbalances

Earlier this year, the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development came into force after 10 member states had ratified the instrument to reach the two-thirds required.
The countries that have ratified the instrument are Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Botswana and Mauritius are yet to sign the instrument of protocol, while the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar and Malawi are yet to ratify.
The protocol, which was signed in 2008, provides for member states to ensure that by 2015, at least 50% of decision making positions in the public and private sectors are held by women. The chairperson of SADC Regional Women’s Parliamentary Caucus Biata Beatrice Nyamupinga on Thursday said they are concerned about the participation of women in politics in the region.
Speaking during the meeting of the SADC Parliamentary Forum in Gaborone, Nyamupinga called on all member countries to implement the SADC protocol on Gender and Development.
“Despite our continued call for countries to implement the protocol for the realisation of the 50 percent target for the representation of women in decision making positions by 2015; some countries have not committed to implementing it,” she said.
Nyamupinga who is also Member of Parliament for Zimbabwe stressed that regional parliaments have not done enough to facilitate implementation of the SADC gender protocol.
Nyamupinga opined that member states should create conducive electoral policy environment and framework, by reviewing electoral laws and adopting electoral systems that are gender friendly.
“I therefore call on regional parliaments to accord SADC women equal rights and opportunities, both inside and outside the courts.
“The need to domesticate the provisions of the Protocol, such as the enactment of various pieces of legislation aimed at the protection and empowerment of women, is still very real, and the role of Parliamentarians in this regard is critical,” she said.
Statistics she said have shown a strong correlation between the percentage of women in Parliament and the type of Electoral System that is used in Member States.
“States that use the Proportional Representation System and those that use a combination of different electoral systems have realised an upward trend in the number of women in Parliament, while states using the Constituency (First-Past-the-Post) System have not been able to either maintain, let alone increase, the number of women in Parliament,” she observed.
Nyamupinga suggested that to deal with these challenges a few remedies should be adopted, among them being that Member states must review their electoral laws and adopt electoral systems that have proved to be gender friendly such as Proportional Representation Systems as opposed to First-Past-The Post System
In the case of quotas political parties could be required to voluntarily reserve seats regarded as safe for women in order to achieve the set target of 50/50 representation, she said.
As to women representation in management positions in both the public and private sector, Nyamupinga calls for member States to integrate affirmative action provisions in their recruitment policies to address the imbalances of the past and facilitate the entry of more women in to positions of power.
Despite the several rhetorical commitments to achieving gender parity in decision-making, many commentators believe that a lot still need to be done in order to achieve the ideals sets out SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
Nyamupinga heaped praise on Zimbabwe’s progressive new constitution, which among other things, sets up a Constitutional Court and Gender Equality Commission to deal with women’s rights, and ensuring that customary laws and practices that infringe on women’s rights are invalidated.
“In this Constitution, women are guaranteed 60 seats on the basis of proportional representation.
“The Constitution also provides for equality at work in relation to promotion, paid maternity leave and family healthcare, equality in marriage, gender balance in the distribution of agricultural land, and gender balance on the Land Commission, among other things,” said Nyamutinga.
Despite the fact that Namibia has made progress in women representation especially at local authority level, there still under presentation of women at political level.
During its extraordinary congress held at coastal town of Swakopmund last weekend, the ruling party SWAPO has amended its constitution to allow for a 50/50 representation in all its structures.
The amendment that will take effect on August 26, 2013 represent a major leap for Namibia to comply with the  ideals sets out in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
The amendment was hailed as victory for Namibian women, which President Hifikepunye Pohamba describe as “a significant and commendable step,” which “heralds the long aspired to objective of introducing 50/50 men and women representation in all party organs and structures.”
Speaking during the closing of the congress which was attended by about 500 delegates – Pohamba noted that Namibian women have made significant sacrifices during the struggle for independence, freedom and social justice.
“The time has come for women to take their rightful place in the party structures and leadership so that they can contribute meaningfully to the development of the country,” he said. Namibia is expected to hold national and presidential elections next year.
• Reporting by Mpho Tebele in Gaborone and Andreas Thomas in Windhoek


July 2013
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