Activists call on governments and NGOs to speed up march to equality

Date: August 18, 2010
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Windhoek, 18 August: With only five years to go for governments to meet the 28 targets in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, activists have given a 54% progress rating, down one percent from a baseline study last year. Country scores ranged from 79% in Namibia to 38% in Zimbabwe.

In a letter to the SADC Council of NGOs, gender activists also bemoaned the lack of gender representation and sensitivity in the civil society forum that preceded the Heads of State Summit in Windhoek, Namibia this week. They called on SADC-CNGO “to introspect on its representation of women, and their participation, and urgently acts to bridge these gaps.”

Speaking at the launch of the 2010 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer during the Sixth Civil Society Forum parallel to the SADC Summit that celebrated the organisation’s thirtieth anniversary on 17 August, Gender Links Executive Director Colleen Lowe Morna said that “while there are a few bright signs on the horizon, every indicator tells us that it is still a long walk to equality for women.”

The tracking tool is the annual flagship of the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance, the grouping of over 40 NGOs that campaigned for the adoption of the Protocol in 2008. Although governments will be filing their own reports to the SADC secretariat for the first time this year, the Barometer is derived from country shadow reports that include a “citizen score card” and is the only overall regional analysis. 2010 is a critical benchmarking year for the Protocol; marks the 30th anniversary of SADC; 15th anniversary of the Beijing Conference and the first year of the African Decade for Women.

The report raises a red flag against the fact that Mauritius and Botswana have not signed, and only Namibia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho have ratified the Protocol. “We need to send out a strong message to our governments that we will not accept legal technicalities as an excuse for not delivering,” Lowe-Morna said. Gender Links coordinates the work of the Alliance that has focal organisations in each country and seven theme clusters led by NGOs with expertise in constitutional and legal rights, governance, peace and conflict resolution, economic justice, gender violence, HIV and AIDS and media.

Compared to last year, the report finds that there have been some advances in education, notably at the tertiary level and that there has been an increase in women’s participation in economic decision-making from 18% to 23%. But women’s representation in parliament declined from 24% to 23% following losses in the Botswana and Namibian elections. A new chapter on peace and conflict resolution compiled by the Institute for Security Studies that leads this sector bemoans the lack of gender disaggregated data in this area, and the glaring gender gaps in the military, police and prison services of the region where this information exists.

Sections 12 and 13 of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development demand that government and non-state actors facilitate the equal representation and participation of women in all bodies and at all levels.

Reflecting on their experience of the SADC civil society forum, the 35 delegates to the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance caucus meeting expressed “grave concern the absence of women’s voices and concerns at the 6th SADC-CNGO Congress. Most of the presenters on the programme were male. For instance, the presenters on the session titled ‘Solidarity reflections and collaborative actions on hotspots and other emerging challenges’ were all male, and their presentations were gender-blind.

“There seemed to be lack of consideration of gendered perspectives in all the themes that were discussed during the sessions. An example is the documentary on Zimbabwean farmers which was basically a story of male white farmers and black male farm workers lacking in perspectives and voices of both female white farmers and female black farm workers. It is the opinion of the Alliance that the documentary on its own presented a biased and unbalanced perspective of the situation. It is common knowledge that the crisis in Zimbabwe had a gendered impact on white female farmers and female black workers; the video was silent on this.”

Declaring that failure by SADC-CNGO to live up to the ideals of the gender protocol “goes against the grain of democracy and respect of human rights that we claim to follow as civic society in the region” the Alliance has demanded that it be formally recognised as the voice of women in the forum and offered to help plan such meetings in future. An Alliance delegation delivered the letter to the SADC-CNGO Secretariat which has agreed to an urgent follow up meeting at its Gaborone offices to address the concerns raised.

The 2010 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer features several examples of the “Protocol at work” including how members of the Alliance have been lobbying for gender provisions in constitutional reviews in Zambia, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

Citing the Gender Coordination Network that she leads as an example, Emma Kaliya said the Protocol had been used to raise the level of women in parliament from 14% to 21% in the May 2009 elections in Malawi and is being cited in preparations for local elections scheduled for later this year. “I can say without doubt that the Protocol is making a difference,” said Kaliya who won the Drivers of Change award for the 50/50 campaign alongside President Bingu wa Mutharika, winner of the award for fighting poverty in October 2009.

(For the full Barometer go to more information go to or contact Loveness Jambaya-Nyakujarah on or 27 84 365 6930)



  • The SADC Gender Protocol has been a reference point for women in constitutional review process in Zambia, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.
  • In Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia – there are now more women than men in tertiary institutions.
  • Women now constitute 23% of economic decision-makers, up from 18% in 2009.
  • Business Women in South Africa is using the gender protocol to benchmark progress in achieving gender parity in the private sector.
  • GEMSA, in partnership with Voluntary Services Overseas- Regional Aids Initiative Southern Africa (VSO-RAISA) is taking forward the “Making Care Work Count Campaign” through advocating stand alone care work policies in line with the provisions of the SADC Gender Protocol.


  • Mauritius and Botswana have not yet signed the Protocol and only Namibia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho have ratified it.
  • Other than education, use of contraceptives, and births attended by skilled personnel, the only area in which women are consistently above the 50% mark is the proportion of women living with HIV and AIDS.
  • The contradictions between customary law and codified law undercut women’s rights at every turn.
  • There has been a decline in women’s participation in parliament from 24% to 23% as a result of losses in the Botswana and Namibia elections last year.
  • Gender violence continues to escalate and take new forms with trafficking now a major threat.
  • There has been a paltry 2% increase in women sources in the media from 17% in the 2003 Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) to 19% in the Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS).

Variations between countries

  • Mauritius has the region’s lowest maternal mortality with only 28 deaths per 100, 000 compared to 1140 per 100 000 in Malawi (one of the highest rates in the world).
  • While 99% of HIV positive pregnant women in Seychelles receive Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTC) treatment in DRC the comparative figure is 4%




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