SADC reviews gender protocol targets

SADC Ministers responsible for gender and women affairs met in Harare to review targets of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development for 2015.

The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development was adopted in 2008 to promote the empowerment of women, eliminate discrimination, and achieve gender quality and equity through gender-responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects.

However, the protocol only entered into force in 2013 following ratification of the instrument by the requisite two-thirds of Member States.

These are Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The meeting allowed the ministers to reflect on progress made in the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development targets for 2015, some of which were aligned to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that expire this year.

The discussion focused on the post-MDGs agenda and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be discussed later this year by the UN General Assembly in New York.

The ministers made a strong appeal for a larger budgetary allocation for the SADC Gender Unit for implementation of the gender programme at both regional and national levels.

Speaking at the meeting, Zimbabwe’s Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, said SADC remains committed to gender empowerment since there can be no real socio-economic development without gender parity and equality.

“The commitment by SADC Heads of State and Government to ensure gender equality remains on the agenda of the SADC regional integration thrust and this is commendable,” noted Hon. Mnangagwa.

He said the decision to review the targets set out in the protocol will further allow member states to “push forward the spirit of the protocol in achieving women’s empowerment and gender equality.”

Acting Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Sithembiso Nyoni concurred, saying the year 2015 is an important year for women as the African Union has declared it as the Year for Women’s Empowerment.

In addition, 2015 is the 15th Anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, as well as the 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Nyoni said it is critical to “reflect on the journey that commenced back in Beijing in 1995 to date,” adding that “this should be a moment of celebrating achievements as a region while at the same time paving the way forward on how to address and overcome challenges and stumbling blocks that we met along the way.”

She said SADC has made significant progress in appointing women from the SADC region to leadership positions, such as the chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Executive Secretary of SADC Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, Vice President of the Pan African Parliament, and the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Tax, applauded SADC member states for being the only regional economic community with a legally binding instrument on gender, and encouraged member states to safeguard the gains made in gender empowerment.

“As the first female executive secretary of SADC, I am among the direct products, and part of these efforts, and a living testimony that regional efforts on gender empowerment are indeed making a difference,” she said.

Although noteworthy progress has been made since the adoption of the protocol, challenges remain.

Minister Nyoni noted that there was still a lot of work to address other issues that impact on women in the region such as poverty, maternal and infant mortality, HIV infection, and gender-based violence. 

Member states were encouraged to develop comprehensive strategies to address these issues.

Gender ministers also welcomed the development of a training course for peace support operations on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) by the SADC Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre (RPTC). Thirteen SADC member states were represented by ministers and senior officials from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Swaziland, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Botswana, which takes over the SADC chair in August, will host the next meeting in 2016.   –

June 2015
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