Region committed to gender equality
SADC is committed to improving the status of women and will endeavour to mainstream gender in all of its regional integration programmes.
This was said when the SADC region joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day on 8 March, which this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform For Action, as well as the 15th anniversary of the United Nations Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The theme for this year is — “Empowering Women; Empowering Humanity: Picture it”.
Speaking during the commemoration held in Gaborone, Botswana, the SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said the region remained committed to empowering women and attainting gender equality.
“Empowering Women is indeed Empowering Humanity as women are the backbone of our economies and they are the majority of those involved in agricultural production for subsistence livelihoods and food security,” she said.
“Since women make up the majority of the poorest in our region, there is no doubt that only their empowerment will make a different in addressing poverty and reaching the set targets of poverty eradication.”
She said it is important for SADC Member States to continue to integrate “a gender perspective in our different policies, programmes and activities across all sectors of regional integration so that we can realize the SADC vision of ensuring economic well-being and improvement of the standards of living and quality of life of the people of Southern Africa.”
Dr Tax, said that, while SADC has made significant strides to empower women, a lot more still needed to be done to ensure gender equality in the region.
“SADC Member States have achieved significant progress in access and equity in primary education and, for some countries, secondary and tertiary education,” she said, adding that the “overall, the gap between boys and girls in schools is decreasing within the SADC region.”
“However, retention at secondary to tertiary levels is a challenge due to high drop-out rates for girls, hence the gross enrolment ratio for tertiary education is still very low.”
On health, she said achievements have been made to reduce new HIV infections particularly through interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission. This achievement, she said, should be replicated in reducing the number of women who die from pregnancy-related causes. On the participation and represe
ntation of women in politics and decision-making, a steady upward trend has been noted over the past few years.
“On average the region’s representation of women in parliament is about 25 percent with seven of the 15 Member States having more than 30 percent representation of women in Parliament, three of which have reached 40 percent,” Dr Tax said.
This is in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which calls for equal representation of women and men in decision-making.
Gender equality in southern Africa is firmly rooted in the regional integration agenda and SADC Member States support the fundamental principle that both women and men must be engaged in decision-making at all levels and in all areas. Some of the major achievements realized by SADC in promoting gender equality and parity are:
• Signature and adoption of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in 2008, with ratification and entry into force on 22 February 2013, and Member States have started implementing the Protocol;
• This built on the achievements of the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development of 1997 and its 1998 Addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women and Children which called upon Member States to commit to, among others, repeal laws that discriminate against women;
• One of the goals of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan is to facilitate the achievement of substantive equality between women and men in the SADC region, through mainstreaming gender into all national and regional policies, programmes and activities;
• Adoption of the SADC Gender Policy by the SADC Council of Ministers in 2007;
• Establishment of ministries responsible for Gender or Women’s Affairs in 12 of the 15 SADC Member States to manage and advocate the empowerment of women and gender equality commitments;
• All SADC Member States have legislation or related instruments for addressing Gender Based Violence, with nine countries having specific legislation pertaining to sexual offences;
• Development of a Regional Women’s Economic Empowerment Strategy in 2011, which has seen an increase in the number of women in economic decision-making positions;
• SADC guidelines on gender budgeting developed and implemented; and
• The participation and representation of women in politics and decision-making has significantly improved in the region, although progress is inconsistent across the region. – SADC Today