GL@15: Country operations are GL’s hands and feet

GL@15: Country operations are GL’s hands and feet

Date: June 26, 2016
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“The GL satellite and field offices have demonstrated the value of having representation on the ground. They are able to take up complex programmes, like the gender violence indicators, or the work with local government, and to ensure effective back up and follow up.” (GL Vision 2020).

Imagine how odd and weird it would be if the human body had no arms and legs, hands and feet? Movement from one place to the other would be greatly compromised. Handling of anything would be totally impossible. We would not witness the good things around us that have contributed immensely to the development of the world.

This is not only the case with human beings. The same goes for the many institutions that we see around us; GL included.

GL is a Non-Governmental Organisation established in March 2001 with the purpose of promoting gender equality and justice – “a region in which women and men are able to participate equally in all aspects of public and private life in accordance with the provisions of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development.”

It would not have been possible for GL to fan across the SADC region operating entirely from its offices at Headquarters. Hence GL had to create limbs, to which would be attached the hands and feet. These limbs would be the GL Country Offices around the SADC Region. These would be offices that would carry out the mandate of GL in all SADC member states on the ground.

The importance of these offices is that they are able to reach places which GL would not otherwise be able to reach if the activities of the institution were centrally located. GL opened Francophone and Lusophone offices headquartered in Mauritius and Mozambique respectively. These offices were meant to target French and Portuguese speaking countries in the region. Country Offices were also registered in Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar (which later took over as the Francophone head office), Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Gone are the days when partners accused GL of being a South African organisation working in other Southern African countries through subcontracts with its local partners. The Country Managers have become regular faces in government ministries, especially the Ministries of Gender. They have become regulars in the Community Based Organisations which work towards the emancipation of both women and men.

Initially, GL did not have an office in Lesotho, but with time, on realising the need to strengthen the national work and partnership activities, they established a national office. Both organisations are now working together very closely. The Director of Gender in the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sport and Recreation (MGYSR), ‘Matau Futho-Letsatsi, says: “We have done so much together over the years. We have held workshops and events, we are training women and men to act in a gender aware way. There are so many strengths in our work together. We have officers in the districts, and whenever GL goes there for work, we are together. We have the human resources, and they have a package of information and training for community and district councils. By working together, it enhances our mandate, and pushes forward our common agenda.”

Ironically, with the shrinking funding landscape, the country-work most threatened is in GL’s home base, South Africa, regarded a middle-income country. In the articles that follow, my fellow board members reflect on why GL should remain strong in its home base, while also strengthening other bases, notably the Francophone and Lusophone bases.

Written by Rethabile Pholo, GL Board Member and Chair of the Country Operations Committee