Southern Africa: The SADC We Want campaign demands commitment

Southern Africa: The SADC We Want campaign demands commitment

Date: September 9, 2014
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Harare, 29 July: The 10th SADC Civil Society Forum was officially opened yesterday morning with members and various participants agreeing that equality and sustainable development is at the core of the “SADC We Want”-a regional people-centred development campaign that calls on states to guarantee the rights and dignity of every human being.

The Apex Alliance which includes the Southern African Trade Unions Coordination Council (SATUCC), SADC Council of NGOs (SADC-CNGO) and the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA) launched the campaign at the 8th SADC Civil Society Forum in Mozambique in 2012. These different groups are carrying out a sustained campaign to collect at least 10 million signatures in support of their key demands for advancing quality and equitable distribution of resources.

The participants discussed the progress, challenges and emerging issues since the 9th Civil Society Forum convened last year. In his opening remarks, SADC-CNGO chairperson Paul Juru, commended SADC member states for signing the SADC Gender Protocol which among other gender equality provisions, calls for 50/50 representation of both men and women in political and economic decision-making, respect for their sexual reproductive health rights and equal access to education.

With the Protocol in force across the region Juru said, “Women at least women have a platform to stand and clamour for their rights.” However he pointed out that a lack of political will and financial resources are major stumbling blocks towards attaining gender equality in the region. He warned that if the situation does not change, the Protocol risks being part of the many unimplemented protocols which remain paper-bound. Juru challenged women to participate in influential positions both in politics and the private sector.

Trudi Hartzenberg, Executive Director of Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa (TRALAC), spoke about the need for civil society to focus on the impact of the legislation governing women entrepreneurs, small businesses and informal traders. She added that women account for a large proportion of the informal sector and cross-border traders. Laws to support these women are still superficial, while their lacking access to productive resources and credit hinders their participation in the formal economy and perpetuating inequality. “It is also disappointing to note that women are sometimes required to pay bribes at borders and in order for them to avoid such incidents, they decide to travel at night, which is very risky. Women are prone to robbery at night, let alone sexual abuse,” she added.

Executive Director of the SADC-CNGO Boichoko Ditlhake, spoke strongly on how SADC member states are failing to come up with a position on the rights of people with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations. “On the issue of gays and lesbians as SADC we have reached hard rock. Our diversity in culture, customs, values and norms makes it difficult for us to reach to an inclusive position on this issue, but it is important to note that the issue is a reality that we are living with,” said Ditlhake.

Ditlhake also stressed the need of solidarity among SADC civil society groups. He lamented the lack of unity at continental level. For example, countries are failing to come together to find a solution for Boko Haram abduction of the Nigerian girls. “We cannot allow such things to happen in front of our eyes. Girls continue to be abused in Nigeria, gender-based violence and rape cases continue to be lead stories in our papers,” he said.

At the official opening, delegates also discussed how the issue of corruption, tax evasion and disharmony between governments and civil society, groups are standing in the way of sustainable development and equality. Labour organisations from the region such as Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) were outspoken about the reluctance of different member states to enact and implement labour laws aligned to the recommendations of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Members of the SATUCC complained about the alarming levels of unemployment, poor working conditions and intimidation of workers based on their political and trade union affiliations, especially in countries like Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The SADC We Want campaigners are calling on Heads of State to establish a SADC Parliament by 2015, establish a Regional Court of Justice and to Sign, ratify and domesticate the Protocol on the Facilitation of the Movement of Persons. Participants also proposed that member states should be sanctioned if they fail to adhere to the provisions of existing protocols they have committed to.

This article is part of the GL News Service special coverage of the SADC Civil Society Forum underway in Zimbabwe, offering fresh views on everyday news.


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