Gender meeting to push SADC leaders on gender equality

Date: January 1, 1970
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4 August 2008, Johannesburg. South Africa will soon host the annual SADC Heads of State Summit 10 À“ 17 August. Over 60 organisations and individuals from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and across Africa are convening in Johannesburg from 14-16 August 2008, parallel to the SADC Summit, to lobby for the adoption of a draft protocol on Gender and Development. Opening with a keynote address by Dr Essop Pahad, Hon. Minister in the Presidency, activists hope President Thabo Mbeki will bring South Africa’s progressive stance on gender equality to bear on a positive outcome.

The meeting is being convened by the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance (the Alliance), a coalition of more than 16 SADC-based non-governmental organisations and individuals, who have been spearheading the campaign for the adoption of the draft Protocol since 2005. The Alliance Meeting will start with the launch of a book, “Business Unusual, Gender and the Economy” on the evening of Wed 13 August, will also include the launch of an Economic Justice Network, and the main meeting will be from 14-16 August, with a wrap up press conference on 16 August
The draft Protocol is a landmark development in the SADC legal system, in that it seeks to bring together all existing international and regional commitments by governments to achieve gender equality, coupled with measurable targets in all sectors. Once adopted and ratified, it will bind all SADC Member States to increase their level of action to address the many existing gaps that are limiting the momentum to enable women and men to have full and meaningful equality.
Negotiated and renegotiated since 2005, NGOs were disappointed when previous drafts whittled down key women’s rights issues, and leaders deferred adoption at the 2007 Summit for “further consultation.” It has since undergone several technical inputs, including a review by SADC Ministers of Gender and Justice, and will undergo a final review by the Council of Ministers at Summit before presentation to Heads of State and Government for adoption.
The Protocol is unique in that it currently sets 23 targets for achieving gender equality by 2015, including commitment by governments to eliminate gender violence, abolish the legal minority status of women, and achievement of at least 50% representations by 2015. It also call for stepping up prevention, treatment and support of the affected and infected with HIV and AIDS, and ensuring women participate equally in trade and entrepreneurship.
Whilst the current draft contains some far-reaching rights and freedoms, some crucial issues still hang in the balance. For example, lack of recognition of rape in marriage, which leaves a legal gap in at least 8 SADC countries that have not yet criminalised this form of rape. Other areas include non-obligatory language in the Protocol such as “endeavour” that leaves room for governments to drag their feet; the draft is also silent on issues relating to the rights of cohabiting couples.
During the parallel meeting the Alliance aims to influence government representatives from the 14 SADC Member States to close gaps in the draft Protocol, ensure the language and content is not watered down, and that the final draft presented to SADC leaders for signature maintains the high standards required to achieve full equality between women and men.
The Alliance is determined to ensure that heads of State put their money where their mouths are and ensure meaningful change and progress for all citizens of the region.
Click here to read more about the Protocol and the Alliance Meeting
For more information:
Pamela Mhlanga, Deputy Director, Gender Links
9 Derrick Avenue, Cyrildene
Johannesburg 2198, South Africa
Phone              + 27 (0) 11 622 2877       , Fax 27 (0) 11 622 4732 (additional information on the website)

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