Statement by civil society at the SADC Gender Ministers Meeting

Date: July 30, 2013
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Maputo, 14 February: On behalf of my colleagues in the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance, I feel very privileged and honoured to stand before you today and deliver this speech. The gender sector in our region is unique in the extent to which it has opened the door to civil society participation. Together with our Governments, we campaigned for a SADC Protocol on Gender and Development with 28 targets to be achieved by 2015. With two years to go until this deadline, also the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, we have changed our slogan from “yes we can” to “yes we must”!

We wish to thank SADC and UNWOMEN for enabling us to make our voice heard at this strategic gathering. We want to assure our governments that we are your firm partners and allies in taking forward the gender agenda in our countries. You have been elected to deliver a better life to all our citizens – especially for women. We are the hands, feet, eyes and ears, hearts and heads, that can help deliver these visionary goals. We are not your competitors but rather an implementing arm of our Governments.

The immediate focus of our attention is the CSW, that will spotlight this year on Violence Against Women and Girls. Emerging findings from prevalence studies on GBV in five SADC countries show that between one quarter and two thirds of women in these countries experience some form of gender violence over their lifetime. The highest form of such violence – emotional violence – barely features in police statistics. Yet it daily undermines women’s agency and self-worth; costing our countries billions of dollars that could otherwise go into economic development.

Today, Valentine’s Day, citizens around the world are joining hands in the One Billion Rising Campaign to say “No” to gender violence. We wish to commend the draft SADC position paper to the CSW. It is a bold statement from our region that women’s rights are human rights; that we must tackle the root causes of gender violence – patriarchal norms and harmful traditional practices that result in gross human rights violations being perpetrated with impunity.

We note with particular concern the impunity with which women’s rights are violated in situations of conflict such as the Eastern DRC. How can our region stand aside when this area is being termed the rape capital of Africa? We urge our Ministers to denounce rape as a weapon of war in the strongest possible terms and help to liberate women trapped in this conflict.

While the MDG’s have highlighted the basic needs of the poor, women and children, the post 2015 agenda needs to take a rights-based approach that recognises that rights are indivisible. This means that all marginalised groups -the poor, rural dwellers, the disabled, sex workers, and sexual minorities among others -must be acknowledged and accorded their rights. “Rights cannot be given by one hand and taken away by the other hand” and there is need to avoid equating rights to morality.

Women have a right to security of person; to bodily integrity; to make decisions and choices over our lives and bodies, including the right to safe abortions.

While many of our countries have developed strong laws and policies, implementation is weak, and resources scanty. Let us not just look good on paper – let us walk the talk and it cannot be business as usual anymore but be it business unusual. We applaud the draft SADC position paper to the CSW for its insistence on dedicated resources for ending gender violence, and for calling on all SADC countries to measure the extent, effect, response and prevention of GBV to benchmark progress.

We meet in Maputo today in the aftermath of furious floods that have also just hit Mauritius. Climate change is no longer a theory. We are witnessing its devastating consequences on all our citizens, especially women and children. We commend the draft SADC position paper for making the link between climate and gender justice.

We take this opportunity to remind Our Ministers of their commitment on 18 November 2011, in the SADC Engendered Position Paper on Climate Change for CoP17, to develop an addendum to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development to address issues related to Sustainable Development. Now that the SADC Gender Protocol is in force, we urge our ministers to seize this opportunity to place issues of gender and climate change squarely on the agenda through an addendum.

Since its adoption in 2008, the SADC Gender Protocol has demonstrated its relevance by being a living instrument, known, used and employed by its citizens. In March this year, country networks of the Alliance will be organising SADC Gender Protocol@Work summits in 13 countries. These will culminate in a regional summit in Johannesburg from 22-24 April. We call on our Ministers to support these efforts to accelerate the pace of change in the critical count down to 2015. “This is the SADC that Women Want”
Yes we can, and yes, we must! The Time is Now.

Delivered by Emma Kaliya on behalf of members of the SADC Gender Protocol Alliance.

Serena Polana Hotel, Maputo, Mozambique.


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