Region: Alliance urges resolute action Post 2015

Date: July 19, 2016
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Johannesburg, 6 July: The Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance welcomes the strengthening of rights language in the revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development adopted on 22 June, but regrets the omission of timeframes that distinguished this Protocol from others. The Alliance also urges Botswana and Mauritius that have still not signed the Protocol to seize the opportunities created by the revision to join the fold.

“If the compromises made open the door for a more inclusive process, that would indeed be a win-win for our region,” noted Emma Kaliya, Chairperson of the Alliance, a network of women’s rights NGOs across the fifteen countries. “In the meanwhile we as civil society will take 2030 as the outside deadline for the attainment of all the objectives of the Protocol, since all our member states subscribe to Goal Five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) on gender equality.”

The Protocol, adopted in 2008, was originally aligned to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals that have now been replaced by the SDGs. In 2014, following lobbying by the Alliance at regional and global level, ministers agreed to review the SADC Gender Protocol and align it to the SDGs, Beijing Plus Twenty and the African Agenda 2063. They also directed that it be accompanied by a strong Monitoring, Evaluation and Results (MER) Framework.  The Gender Protocol is the only SADC Protocol that had specific time frames, and that has been reviewed.

A technical meeting in October involving member states, UNWOMEN and the Alliance recommended several updates to the regional instruments, including aligning the time frames to the 2030 targets. The senior officials meeting that preceded the annual meeting of gender ministers decided that specific targets should be incorporated in the MER framework that could not be adopted at the 2016 meeting as it had several gaps.

Botswana has in the past had concerns that it could not sign the Protocol because its time frames are were too tight and it is too prescriptive. Other concerns cited by Botswana as obstacles such as provisions on employment for widows, and the exclusion of widowers, have been amended.

The Government of Botswana which chaired the meeting left the door open to Botswana signing. 2016 marks the deadline for Botswana’s Vision 2016, and is the fiftieth anniversary of the country’s independence. “We believe it would be a great birthday present for Botswana if we could sign the Protocol. Botswana as the current SADC Chair can lead by example by signing the Protocol before it hands over to Swaziland,” said Chigedze Chinyepi of BOCONGO, the Alliance focal network in Botswana.

At the technical meeting in October 2015, Mauritius showed positive signs of moving towards signing after provisions on affirmative action that the island said run counter to its Constitution got changed to “special measures”. Mauritius then signalled at the gender ministers’ meeting that it would not be able to sign as the qualification in the revised Protocol that marriage before 18 be subject to national law had been removed.

Child marriages are a major issue in the SADC region and have been the focus of several campaigns, especially in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Mauritius says its national laws allow for marriage from 16 to 18 with parental consent and this is permitted by certain religious groups. During a closed meeting before the formal adoption of the revised Protocol, Ministers from other countries stood firm on 18 as the minimum age for marriage.

The Alliance applauds the SADC Ministers of Gender for the stronger language on preventing child marriages and new rights based language on Sexual Reproductive Health. Moving from “halving” to “eliminating” gender based violence is also huge step forward in localising the Sustainable Development Goals. In line with SDG language, the SADC region has also moved beyond women’s “equal” to “equal and effective” participation in decision- making.

The Protocol incorporates SDG language on the unwaged work, ownership and control of productive resources. After a long campaign to get climate change explicitly referenced in the Protocol, this has now been incorporated and cross referenced with the SADC Protocol on Environment and Sustainable Development. Missed opportunities in this section include food security, clean water and energy as well as tapping into indigenous knowledge.

The Alliance urges the SADC Secretariat to expedite the finalisation of a comprehensive MER framework with targets, baselines, indicators and timeframes, some of which should be achieved before 2030.

“The Alliance is available to assist in developing the MER framework if need be, based on our experience of the annual Barometer quoted extensively at the opening ceremony of the gender ministers meeting,” noted Colleen Lowe Morna, editor- in- chief of the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer that has been produced annually since 2009. “What we know is that what is not counted does not count, so we will go on counting down to 2030, and insist there can be no further moving of the goal posts in fifteen years’ time!”

For a comprehensive analysis of the revised SADC Gender Protocol, visit

For more information contact:

Emma Kaliya, Alliance Chair on 265 88 882 5376 OR

Colleen Lowe Morna, GL CEO on 27 82 651 6995

Sifisosami Dube, Alliance and Partnerships Manager on 27 78 274 5428