Elsie Alexander – Botswana

Elsie Alexander – Botswana

Date: June 16, 2015
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Creating gender equality and equity in the SADC region: best practices and lessons from Gender Links

Civic groups in southern Africa have played an instrumental role in the promotion and advocacy of gender-sensitive policies and legal reform over the last three decades. In the past five years, a strong network of NGOs coordinated and led by Gender Links has demonstrated that coordinated collective action can make a difference to holding governments accountable to a gender and development agenda.

The SADC Protocol Alliance demonstrates the power of the women’s movement. The SADC Protocol Alliance is a best practice as it shows that through a coordinated, collective and proactive evidence-based strategy, governments have no alternative but to respond. With this, a more focused and deliverable strategy can be put forward to achieve the gender equality commitments made over the years.

There are significant lessons to learn from the SADC Protocol Alliance’s advocacy strategy over the last five years. The following are some of the experiences that indicate that the Alliance is a best practice in the region:

  • Gender Links is one of the proactive and powerful networks that have advanced gender equality by ensuring accountability by all SADC member states. The efforts to promote gender equality since the Beijing Plus Ten has demonstrated the power of civil society to promote legal and policy reform through a consistent, persistent, collective and proactive strategy.
  • Gender Links has provided the political space for coalition-building and sharing of experiences of like-minded women’s rights and development organisations. These organisations came together to maximise their knowledge, expertise and practices to contribute to a regional process that culminated into the adoption of the SADC Protocol in 2008.
  • As a result of the effective coordination and leadership of Gender Links, a strong women’s movement continues to hold governments accountable as part of the Protocol’s monitoring and evaluation process.
  • Through the development of partnerships, the Alliance is a strong solidarity that has identified innovative strategies and opportunities in order to address the numerous challenges that hamper the achievement of the gender equality.
  • The SADC Protocol is a unique policy and legal instrument as it embraces all the relevant international and regional instruments that have been signed and ratified by most SADC governments. It has measurable indicators and targets that facilitate the monitoring and evaluation of achievements and challenges. It is evident from the regional and national Barometer reports that SADC countries are at different levels and have a long way to go to realise the goal of gender equality.
  • A milestone achievement is that the Alliance has revived the power of the women’s movement in region by initiating a common agenda through ownership of the process as well as meaningful and active participation.
  • The lessons learnt and experiences will make a long-term difference to the gender agenda in the region and globally as the SADC Protocol is a unique, best practice and advocacy model to be shared and replicated globally.

As a member of SADC, Botswana has not signed the Protocol – a decision that indicates a lack of political will and commitment to gender equality. Despite the fact that the Botswana government has not signed the SADC Protocol, it has provided an opportunity for the women’s movement to strengthen its advocacy strategy as well as revive the capacity of the non-government organisations to act proactively and collectively. It has provided an opportunity for the women’s movement in Botswana to unite and rally around a common agenda. The women’s movement continues to use the SADC Protocol as an advocacy and research tool in order to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the national gender policy and development framework.



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