50/50 yes we must!

Date: August 9, 2011
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Harare 5 August: The governance cluster of the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance has called on SADC governments to redouble their efforts to attain the target of gender parity in all areas of decision-making by 2015.

In a communiqué re-launching the 50/50 campaign following a meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, NGO representatives from nine SADC countries noted that with only four years to go, and an average representation of women in parliament of 25%, the region is only half way where it needs to be, with many countries having only one more election to go.

Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU), the governance cluster leader, and Gender Links, coordinator of the Alliance that campaigned for the adoption of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol, convened the meeting ahead of the SADC Heads of State Summit in Luanda on 17 August.

Delegates noted with concern that while the SADC regional average of 25% women in national parliaments exceeds the global average of 19%, this varies considerably between countries, under scoring a lack of political will.

With 18% women in parliament and elections due to take place within the next year, Zimbabwe is one such country. Other countries with elections on the horizon are Zambia (15% women in parliament) in September and DRC (with 12% women in parliament) by November. Local elections are taking place in Mauritius (7% women councillors) and Lesotho (58% women councillors) later this year. Malawi, which currently has no elected local government, has indefinitely postponed elections due to have been held this year.

Key urgent matters raised by delegates in relation to upcoming elections include:

  • In Zimbabwe, recent inter party efforts to bring the 50/50 demands to the fore are commendable, but there is an urgent need to seize this historic opportunity to incorporate special measures for ensuring equal representation in the new Constitution. The fact that the country has a deputy women president and deputy woman prime minister are important milestones that need to be built on and expanded.
  • In Zambia, the fact that the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has put up only 19 women out of 140 candidates for the coming elections sets a poor example on the eve of the only election that Zambia has before 2015. It is fervently hoped that other parties, due to submit candidates within the next few days for the September elections, will do much better than the MMD.
  • In DRC a progressive Constitutional provision for 50% women is being undermined by lack of implementing mechanisms and legal loopholes. The DRC is urged to seize this historic moment to honour its obligations.
  • Mauritius is commended for a ground breaking gender neutral quota in a draft law for upcoming local elections that provides for a minimum of 30 percent women or men candidates in the elections. But so far only 442 women candidates have come forward when more than 2000 are needed to give effect to the provisions. Now is the time for the women’s movement to rally and galvanise women at the local level to grab this historic opportunity with both hands.

Commenting ahead of the launch of the Alliance’s flagship 2011 Barometer at the SADC Heads of State Summit, the governance cluster said that now is the time “name and shame” governments that are not pulling their weight. The Barometer introduces the SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI) which, among others, has a combined score for governments of women’s representation in parliament, cabinet and local government. This ranks countries in the region in the following order from highest to lowest with regard to gender and governance: South Africa (1), Lesotho (2), Angola (3), Mozambique (4), Tanzania (5), Namibia (6), Seychelles (7), Malawi (8), Swaziland (9), Zimbabwe (10), Botswana (11), Mauritius (12), Zambia (13), Madagascar (14) and DRC (15).

What is evident, noted cluster leader and director of WIPSU Fanny Chirisa is that “where there is a will there is away. Change has taken place very rapidly in some SADC countries. Some are very close to achieving the 50/50. This tells us that the parity target can be achieved.” For example, South Africa has 44% women in parliament and Lesotho has 58% women in local government.

Invariably best performing countries (e.g. South Africa, Mozambique and Angola) have a combination of a Proportional Representation (PR) system and a voluntary party quota (this is legislated in the case of local elections in Namibia). The PR system is more conducive to women’s participation because parties vote for a party rather than for candidates, and provided parties distribute women evenly in the list they are bound to get in. The African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa is the first party in the region to have adopted a voluntary fifty-fifty quota followed through at national and local level. However, when the ANC lost ground in the May 2011 election, the proportion of women also declined from 40% to 38%. This has led to a call for legislated quotas in South Africa so that all parties, and not just the ANC, honour the 50/50 obligation.

Countries with the FPTP system have argued that quotas are impossible in this system but Lesotho shattered this myth through a system of 30% seats reserved for women in its 2005 elections. An additional 28% women won seats in the openly contested seats, giving Lesotho 58% women at this level – the only case of political decision-making in SADC in which women exceed men. But, claims of unfairness by men led Lesotho to revise the system. Rather than abandon the quota, Lesotho has borrowed from Tanzania, which has a FPTP system in which an additional 30% of seats are distributed to parties for women only on a PR basis.

This will be the system used in local elections in Lesotho later this year. Delegates hailed this as yet another example that innovative solutions are possible. “Countries with a constituency system can no longer claim that there are no options on quotas,” Chirisa said. “This all boils down to political will.”

As leaders prepare to go to Angola for the summit, the governance cluster of the Alliance has also called on countries that have not ratified the Protocol to do so as a matter of urgency. Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe have ratified the Protocol; Madagascar Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland; Zambia are yet to do so. One more ratification (two thirds, or nine out of the 13 signatories) is required for the Protocol to go into force. The matter has been debated in the South African parliament. Delegates called on South Africa to “use the magic month of August – women’s month in South Africa – to make a real statement of commitment by ratifying the Protocol.”

Delegates also urged Mauritius and Botswana, the only two countries that have not signed the Protocol, to “put their money where their mouth is” and ratify the Protocol. Mauritius has stated that it cannot ratify the Protocol because of the affirmative action clause. On the other hand it is adopting legislation for local elections that amounts to affirmative action. “This shows that where there is a will there is a way,” the delegates noted. “Mauritius and Botswana should not be left out of this march to freedom.”

The Alliance, organised through 15 country networks and ten theme clusters, is stepping up the drive for the implementation of the Protocol through action plans at national level and regional campaigns that leverage efforts on the ground to ensure the 28 targets are attained.

For more information please contact Fanny Chirisa on 00 263 772 372 881 or Loveness Jambaya Nyakujarah on 00 27 11 622 2877 or go to www.sadcgenderprotocol.org.

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