Towards 50-50 by 2015
As the 2015 deadline fast approaches for Southern Africa to attain the target of 50:50 representation of men and women in key decision-making positions, there is need for the region to address some of the challenges affecting gender equality and parity.
Addressing the challenges would not only enable SADC to meet the 2015 deadline, but also allow the region to sustain the agenda to empower women.
Some of the identified challenges to gender equality include cultural and patriarchal systems that continue to look down upon women, gender-blind legal and policy framework, which constrain women from fully participating in socio-economic activities, as well as lack of political will to implement agreed decisions on gender development.
According to the SADC Gender Monitor 2013 released at the 33rd SADC Summit held in Malawi, Southern Africa has in the past few years recorded some positive achievements in promoting gender equality.
However, access to decision-making by women continues to be hindered by “gender insensitive electoral policies, lack of resources, and prevailing gender stereotypes based on customs and traditions.”
For example, while all SADC member states are signatories to various regional, continental and international instruments that promote gender equality and empowerment, most of them face challenges in ratifying and domesticating these commitments into national laws.
This, therefore, means that the instruments remain non-binding for years after being signed.
“The nature of the barriers to full and equal participation and representation by women, therefore, requires a holistic approach to solutions,” reads part of the SADC Gender Monitor 2013.
“This calls for joint efforts by all stakeholders – women’s groups, political parties, government ministries, traditional leaders, men’s groups, and parliamentarians to ensure there is national buy-in as member states accelerate initiatives towards the goal of 50:50 by 2015.”
The SADC Gender Monitor 2013 also calls for better coordination of relevant government ministries, women’s parliamentary groups and other stakeholders to promote gender equality and empowerment.
This is because there is absence of cooperation among various groups in dealing with issues to do with gender equality and empowerment.
Another solution to addressing the challenge is for member states to review their electoral systems to ensure gender representations in Parliament.
“Voluntary quotas are better than no quotas, and have been important in some Member States in reaching 30 percent representation quickly,” the gender monitor said.
Countries that have experienced positive results because of legislated quota for women include the United Republic of Tanzania – the only member state to have legislated a quota at national level, of 30 percent women representation, although some others have a quota at the level of local government.
Mozambique and South Africa use proportional representation electoral systems and their ruling parties have a policy that reserves quotas for women legislators, guaranteeing higher representation.
South Africa has about 42.3 percent women in Parliament second after Seychelles at 43.8 percent.
The average representation of women in Parliament was 25.8 percent as of mid-2013, marginally up from 20.6 percent in 2005 and 23 percent in 2011.
This is still short of the 50 percent target agreed under the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development signed in 2008 and entered into force in early 2013 after ratification by two-thirds of the signatories. Botswana and Mauritius have not signed or acceded to the Protocol.
With the 2015 deadline approaching, only five SADC countries are significantly close to the target of parity in Parliament, having gone above the 30 percent threshold set previously by regional leaders for representation of women.
These are Seychelles (43.8 percent), South Africa (42.3 percent), Mozambique (39.2 percent), Tanzania (36 percent) and Angola (34.1 percent).
Zimbabwe, which recently introduced a quote system now, has 31.5 percent representation in the National Assembly.
“The significant progress in some Member States shows that this is possible,” the SADC Gender Monitor 2013 says.
SADC Gender Monitor 2013 was produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) for the SADC Secretariat.
The monitor presents an account of progress made towards implementation of the SADC Gender Commitments in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
The publication gives special attention to Part 3 on Governance – Articles 12 and 13 on Women in Political and Decision-Making Positions.
This is very strategic as most SADC Member States will hold elections between 2013 and 2015. – sardc.net