Editorial note

Editorial note

Date: June 5, 2012
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Welcome to the 26th edition of the Roadmap to Equality! Tracking progress towards the implementation and ratification of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

The Southern Africa Gender Protocol notes with concern developments in Lesotho around the just ended national elections.SADC Member States seem to be moving one-step forward and two steps back in the area of governance in spite of advocacy by civil society, within government and political parties.

Even though the results are yet to be publicised, the country has already missed the mark of reaching the target of 5050 women in parliament by 2015 because this is the last election. For a country doing so well at local level where it is close to parity with 49.1% women representation in local government and a law to sustain this, it is disappointing that at national level based on fielded candidates the country has not demonstrated its full commitment.

“According to the party lists that were released both parties have fielded only 20% women which is way below the 50% target of the SADC Gender Protocol,À Lesotho gender activist and SADC Gender Protocol Barometer researcher, Matseliso Mapetla told Gender Links in a telephone interview. She predicts that women representation may be as low as 10%.

The Head of the SADC Gender Unit Magdeline Madibela opened the women in politics conference to strategise on implementation for the 5050 regional framework with the sobering quote from Daniel Defoe. The quote from the sometimes controversial women’s rights defender from the late 1600s and early 1700s struck a code in my mind.

Defoe said “For I cannot think that God Almighty ever made them (women) so delicate, so glorious creatures and furnished them with such charms, so agreeable and so delightful to mankind, with souls capable of the same accomplishments with men, and all that to be only Stewards of our Houses, Cooks and SlavesÀ.

As we celebrated Africa Day in the third year of the Africa Decade for Women launched in 2010, I could not help but ponder on the dichotomy of the women of Africa in the context of Defoe’s statement.

On the one hand there has been a lot of progress with beacons like the South Africa Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma vying for the top post as Chair of the African Women and inauguration of Africa’s second female President Joyce Banda. Click here to read more about the campaign for Zuma’s election.

On the other hand women are still in the houses, cooking and are slaves. In the houses and cooking because in many African communities patriarchal mind-sets still dominate, women are less educated and lack employment opportunities hence live in abject poverty. Slaves because like the Minister of Women, Children and Persons with Disability, Lulu Xingwana said violence against women has actually reached crisis levels. Click here to read more.

Slaves because their voices are silenced. Xingwana further lamented the fact that women were being silenced during the Traditional Courts hearing where in some provinces women were told that they are not invited. “Women’s right to self-representation have been denied,this behaviour cannot be allowed to persist in a democratic South Africa. As a department, we shoulder a responsibility to ensure that women can freely interact and exercise their right to be heard in all democratic processes.” Click here to read more

It is against this background that Sikhonzile Ndlovu, Gender Links Media Manager called for new voices in the media on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. Research shows that women’s voices are largely missing in the media, the antithesis of a “pluralistic press” which is meant to reflect the “widest possible range of opinion within the community” as espoused in the Windhoek Declaration. Click here to read more.

There is a flicker of hope even in the tone of Defoe À“ that womenare “capable of the same accomplishments with menÀ. This is brought to life by the just ended third Local Government and Gender Justice Summit and Awards hosted by Gender Links at the end which affirms good practices of mainstreaming gender at the local level. Women are at work breathing life to the SADC Gender Protocol targets. Read more about the Summit.

The fact that women now sit on boards, are chief executive officers and other achievements also signals a milestone towards gender equality as will be presented at the launch of the 2012 Business Census report to be launched by the Business Women Association of South Africa.

Churches are becoming more involved in promoting gender equality and the fact that SADC Secretariat has started work on the Regional Poverty Observatory are all indicators that with a multi-sector approach there is hope for many more achievements. Hopefully by 2015 all the women who are tired of being in the house, cooking and enslaved will able to exercise choice as well as their rights fully.

Till next time

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