By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone-The government of Botswana announced this week that it has taken a decision to sign the Revised Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development.
Reports indicate that Botswana was one of the two member states of SADC that had not signed the Protocol on Gender and Development.
When the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development was conceived in 2008, a total of 11 SADC member states — Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe — ratified the protocol.
But the protocol entered into force in 2013 following the ratification of the instrument by the requisite two-thirds of member states.
While the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar signed the protocol, they are yet to rectify it.
The current revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development provides for the empowerment of women, elimination of discrimination and the promotion of gender equality and equity through gender-responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects.
In a statement, Botswana said the protocol is a commitment of SADC Heads of State in recognition of the fact that gender equality and equity is a fundamental human right.
It said the protocol therefore was aimed at providing for the empowerment of women; eliminating discrimination against them; and also achieving gender equality by encouraging and harmonising development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies and programmes.
Botswana said the decision to sign comes after the review of the protocol as per Article 38 of the Protocol and Article 22 of the SADC Treaty, which sets the procedure for review.
Botswana added that the Revised Protocol’s targets are more realistic thereby taking into consideration Botswana’s concerns.
“Furthermore, the protocol has been harmonised with other SADC Instruments to optimise resources and avoid duplication. It is important to indicate that while Botswana was not party to the protocol, the government remained committed to its ideals and purpose. In that regard, Botswana has made substantial progress regarding gender equality and women empowerment,” reads the statement.
It says this resulted in the overall ranking of Botswana at 70% in terms of implementation of the Protocol which is above the regional average of 67%; placing the country at position seven (7) out of the fifteen (15) Member States (SADC Gender Protocol Barometer:2015) .
To validate commitment, Botswana in 2016 made gender prominent in the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs. This followed re-naming of the National Gender Machinery from Women’s Affairs Department to Gender Affairs Department in 2013.
Botswana says the signing of the protocol solidifies Botswana’s commitment to promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women as aligned to the National Vision 2036, National Development Plan 11 and the National Policy on Gender and Development.
“Signing of this key instrument should also challenge all sectors in Botswana to intensify their efforts towards achieving gender equity and gender equality,” reads the statement.
The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development was revised in 2016 so that its objectives are aligned to various global targets and emerging issues.
They include among others ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls, elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual abuse.
They also include ending early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation and ensuring the full and effective participation of women in equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.
The SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, recently emphasised that “women’s and girls’ economic empowerment sets a direct path towards achieving gender equality and is a critical element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
However, for this to be achieved, it requires “all actors, whether governments, international institutions, civil society organizations or the private sector, to move beyond ‘business as usual’ and employ new ways of thinking and acting,” she added.