Botswana: Pressure mounts for Botswana to sign the SADC Gender Protocol

Botswana: Pressure mounts for Botswana to sign the SADC Gender Protocol

Date: April 10, 2012
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Pressure mounts on Botswana to sign the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development as gender activists in the country met on 14 March to deliberate on a national strategy to get the government to adopt the legal instrument before the 2013 parliamentary elections.

The consultative meeting co-convened by the Botswana Council of NGOs (BOCONGO), in its role as the national focal network of the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance and Gender Links as the overall coordinator of the Alliance; resulted in the adoption of a strategy paper that sets out a rationale for Botswana to sign the SADC Gender Protocol.

Participants established a task team to take the process forward. Task team members that were nominated include Doreen Moeletsi and Bonela Game Makondo from the Women’s Affairs Department; Mrs Moje from Lifeline, Patricia Kole from Botswana Media Women’s Association (BOMWA); Keabonye Ntsabane of Gender Links; Bagaisi Mabilo from BOCONGO and Moemedi Tsimanyne from the Botswana Local Government Association (BALA).

The task team will soon meet to review the 2012 Botswana SADC Gender Protocol Barometer to validate the findings. The Barometer is an annual publication that tracks Botswana’s progress towards meeting the 28 targets of the SADC Gender Protocol.

While Botswana is not a signatory to the SADC Gender Protocol, the Alliance has done so in the understanding that the country is constitutionally committed to the ideals and targets of the Protocol, even though there may be disagreements on technicalities that prevent the government from signing.

One of the key concerns put forward by Botswana is that the language used in the SADC Gender Protocol is too mandatory. However on analysis of the provisions it is notable that the Protocol urges but does not oblige governments to achieve the 28 targets agreed for 2015.

The strategy is accompanied by an analysis to support the argument that Botswana is better served by signing and striving to achieve the targets, than by being left behind in this important regional development. Should Mauritius sign the Protocol, as appears increasingly likely, Botswana – host of SADC and one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the regional grouping – would be the only country not to have signed.

Overall Botswana is doing very well towards meeting the 28 targets of the SADC Gender Protocol with the country at number six out of the 15 SADC countries according the SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI) in the 2011 Southern Africa Gender protocol Alliance Barometer. The SGDI measures progress against 23 targets for which empirical data is available.

The meeting came up with four non- confrontational approaches:
– Careful balancing between lobbying and advocacy;
– Placing the issue in the public domain while cultivating key allies, inclusive – the campaign needs to be diverse, based on coalition building; urban and rural;
– Local government; traditional authorities, involvement of men – this should be a gender campaign, not just a women’s campaign and
– Inspirational – emphasising the positive arguments and showing that this will be a great contribution towards the achievement of Vision 2016.

The key dates of the campaign are the SADC Heads of State Summit in Mozambique in August 2012, the State of the Nation address in November and during the 2013 campaign period.

In fact, there is a chance that the Botswana may be left alone, as the only country that has not signed the SADC Gender Protocol following recent indications that Mauritius may be on the verge of signing. Mauritius’ held back because the country’s Constitution did not allow for affirmative action or positive discrimination Article Five provides for affirmative action and special measures to increase women’s representation and participation in decision making positions.

However, that argument has fallen away after Mauritius adopted the 2011 Local Government Act that provides that all party lists shall have at least 30% women and 30% men as candidates. This led to a constitutional amendment allowing for positive discrimination. Gender advocates had successfully made the case that this was the only way to increase women representation in local government currently sitting at 6%.

As a result there are political overtones at the highest level that signing of the SADC Gender Protocol may eventually happen in Mauritius, as there is no excuse now for not signing.

This will result in Botswana coming under the spotlight as the only country that will not have signed should Mauritius put ink to paper.


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