What does a merry Christmas and a happy New Year mean for gender equality?

What does a merry Christmas and a happy New Year mean for gender equality?

Date: December 14, 2015
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Welcome to the last Roadmap to Equality newsletter for 2015. The 16 Days of activism commemoration has just ended with events showcasing the prevalence and perpetration rates of gender based violence. The ultimate answer to this injustice is to have policies and programmes to end gender based violence not reduce it as highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As we wrap up 2015, we have a glimpse of hope that this will still be possible as the SADC Gender Protocol is being reviewed. Inclusion of a target to end gender based violence is key in achieving SDG Five.

A merry Christmas and a happy New Year would include a rights based approach to gender equality and not just a ‘ticking the box approach’. Thousands of women and men will face a gloomy Christmas because of failing economies, widening equality gaps in the society, overwhelming drought in the SADC region and dwindling funding for development. For many, there is no Christmas gift box to open as space for civil society continues to shrink; in particular that of gender equality movements. Unless there is renewed commitment towards gender equality in the region through domestication of the Sustainable Development Goals, most development frameworks are likely to fail simply because they have excluded more than half of the population.

At a recent gathering, the SADC region set to prove itself on raising a ray of hope for its citizens through the review of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. This ‘one-stop-shop’ instrument will be aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Beijing Plus Twenty review. The review process is uniquely attempting to cross reference the Gender Protocol with other SADC Protocols. Sadly, only a few of these Protocols are gender aware with the most aware being the Environment Management Protocol and the Employment and Labour Protocol.

The SADC Gender Protocol Alliance has been pushing for review of the Protocol targets to beyond minimalist levels. In particular, the SADC Gender Protocol Alliance is calling for concise language on the target of ending HIV and AIDS infections. This has been reiterated at the recently concluded International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) conference 2015. There is no excuse to relax about the pandemic when new infections, particularly in adolescents are reported. The youth are also failing to access treatment and counselling in safer spaces. Ending gender based violence as a target in the Post -2015 Protocol is also crucial whilst giving equal voice to women in the media should not be downplayed. The advent of social media should create more spaces for women to amplify their voices avoiding gender bias in media reporting. The SADC Gender Protocol Alliance will be issuing a position paper on the review of the Protocol to be distributed to its networks once the draft Protocol is shared from the SADC secretariat.

The year ahead is not all dull and gloom as we have seen justice in the Oscar Pistorius case in South Africa. Gender movements are reorganising for the SDGs with groups such as the Women’s Major Group and the Beyond 2015 part of the process. However, it is worrying that many gender movements folded in 2015 due to lack of development aid. The SADC Gender Protocol Alliance is calling upon development agencies to increase funding for gender equality as this has a huge bearing in the development of the SADC region. Similarly, the private sector should accelerate efforts to have direct corporate social responsibility towards gender equality. The governments also have a role to play by creating an enabling environment for civil society and jointly mobilising resources to close the equality gap.

The climate situation in the region is dire with heat waves affecting farming activities, a main source of livelihood in the region. Climate justice activists gathered this December in Paris for COP 21 to negotiate a climate change deal that will benefit both men and women alike (see detailed story below). When food and water is scarce, it leaves women more vulnerable due to the multiple roles they play. Women’s views were missing at the climate change negotiations. The Alliance urges SADC Member States to put in place gender responsive early warning systems for climate disasters and to include inclusive finance for adaptation and mitigation in national budgets. This raises the need to include more binding standalone climate change targets in the Post -2015 Gender Protocol.

On behalf of the SADC Gender Protocol Alliance, Gender Links wishes you a merry Christmas and a happy 2016! Let us face 2016 with renewed energy, more innovation and collaboration for action and results of the SDGs!


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