Southern Africa: A “radical mind shift” is needed in the count down to 2015

Southern Africa: A “radical mind shift” is needed in the count down to 2015

Date: November 26, 2012
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Southern Africa: A “radical mind shift” is needed in the count down to 2015, main message as the Gender Barometer is launched in SADC countries

There is rising anxiety as the clock clicks louder in the count down to 2015 the deadline for meeting the 28 targets of the SADC Gender Protocol. For every step forward, activists counted one-step backwards in the collection of data from the fifteen countries that informed the 2012 Southern Africa Gender Protocol Barometer. Click here for the full regional Barometer.

The Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance – 15 country networks and eight theme groups that campaigned for the protocol, its ratification, and now its implementation are calling on SADC governments to accelerate implementation. Over the last year, the Alliance slogan has progressed from 2015, yes we can! to 2015, yes we must!

The Alliance Think Tank launched the key findings of the Barometer at the8th Civil Society meeting ahead of the SADC Heads of State Summit in Maputo in August 2012. Over 120 women and men from civil society organisations from across the region attended.

The Alliance launched of the full report in Johannesburg, 21 September 2012 at an event co-hosted by the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) in its capacity as the lead organisation for the Peace and Security cluster.

Coincidentally Members of Parliament launched the report on both occasions under the auspices of the SADC Parliamentary Forum. Honourable Muremi a member of the Gender Portfolio Committee in Namibia launched the Barometer in Johannesburg while on a tour to learn more about South Africa’s best practices in promoting gender equality among other issues.

The main message sent to leaders that met in the Mozambican capital at the meeting held 16-17 August was not only that time is running out, but also that there are new priorities and concerns on the agenda.

Over the last year, momentum has mounted for an Addendum to the Protocol on Gender and Climate Change – a principle accepted by gender ministers in the lead up to COP 17 hosted by South Africa late last year.

A few high profile changes in female leadership do little to detract from the underlying patriarchal attitudes, reflected in the shockingly high levels of gender violence revealed by recent prevalence surveys; gender stereotypes in schools; the work place and the media; as well as predominantly male decision-making structures in all areas. Customary law contracts constitutional provisions with few ramifications in many countries.

With few exceptions, the last set of elections have been disappointing: the decrease in women’s representation both at national and local level in Zambia last year; persistent low levels of women’s representation in the DRC, and the marginal increase in women’s representation in the Lesotho national elections in May 2012.

Women still lack access to economic decision- making (26%), land, credit and other means of production. They constitute the majority of the poor; the unemployed; the dispossessed and those who work in the informal sector.

Whether in the bedroom or the boardroom, women are effectively rendered voiceless, with little say for example, in the use of male condoms so essential to preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS. Women’s lack of “voice” reflects in the media, where the proportion of women sources remains stubbornly at 19% of the total.

Evidence emerging from prevalence studies in three diverse countries – South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana and lately Zimbabwe – shows that one in three if not more women have experienced some form of gender violence over their lifetime, often multiple times, and multiple forms of violence.

One of the major Alliance successes over the last year has been getting gender onto the agenda of constitutional reviews in several countries, notably Zimbabwe and Zambia. Activists are especially fighting for the removal of claw-back clauses and constitutional guarantees of gender equality.

Since the re-launch of the 50/50 campaign in August last year, activists have realised that the way to achieve women’s equal representation and participation in decision-making is through Constitutional and legislated provisions. The amendment of the Mauritius Constitution and local government electoral law to allow for quotas is a strategic breakthrough for the island and the region. Detailed projections in the Barometer show that if rigorously pursued, these could still raise the level of women’s representation to over 30% in the remaining twelve elections at local and national level by 2015.
Now that the Protocol has been ratified, the focus has shifted quickly to implementation. The SADC Gender Unit, Alliance national focal networks, and Gender Links as the alliance coordinator have worked or will work with seven countries over two years to align their action plans to the SADC Gender Protocol and cost its implementation. Alliance members have gathered over 100 case studies of the Protocol@work – how this instrument is being used to ring up the changes for gender equality.

In her foreword to the South African Business Womens’ Association annual survey on women in the private sector inspired by the SADC Gender Protocol, the president of the association Kunyalala Maphis,a summed up what is needed when she said: “A radical mind shift: what we need is to shift gear from the slow, incremental changes.”

Read the section on country news section about the national launches of the country Barometers

Click here for the 2012 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer

Click here to read excerpts of the Barometer in English

Click here to read excerpts of the Barometer in Portuguese

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