Gender under the spotlight at SADC Summit

Date: January 1, 1970
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6 August: Southern African Heads of State will come under pressure at their summit in Gaborone from 17-18 August to move from vague promises to concrete action through adopting the principle of a Protocol for Accelerating Gender Equality.  
The proposal follows an audit of the 1997 SADC Declaration on Gender and Development conducted by experts from the region ahead of the summit. They argue that moral suasion has not worked. Legally binding measures are now being sought to move SADC from a “region of commitments to one of implementation.”
The principle of a protocol has already been accepted by the Integrated Council of Ministers (ICM) that met in Lesotho in June to prepare for the summit. It will be further debated at a civil society meeting being convened by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and SADC Council of NGOs from 14-16 August in Gaborone, Botswana, where the summit will be held.  
The research, coordinated by Gender Links, points out that incorporating all existing commitments into one comprehensive set of targets and indicators for achieving gender equality and setting new targets where these do not exist would be a global first.      
An example of this is in the area of decision-making, where the African Union (AU) has come out in favour of gender parity, but has not set targets for when this is to be achieved. Among the proposed measures is that the current SADC target of thirty percent women in decision-making by 2005 be raised to 50 percent by 2020 with different bench marks for each country, depending on their starting point.
Although only three countries have achieved the existing SADC target, on average women comprise twenty percent of the region’s legislators: second only to the Scandinavian countries where the average is 38 percent. And where it took the Scandinavians sixty years to achieve this, SADC has shown that rapid change is possible.
The proposed Protocol seeks to use the positive experience of having a target in this area to set several more strategic benchmarks. These include requiring that all SADC countries amend their constitutions to include guarantees of gender equality (in line with the more recent constitutions in the region such as those in South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia) by 2010. They would also be required to specify that should there be a conflict between customary and state law, the Constitution will take precedence.
The new measures would also include a target of 2010 for all countries in the region to adopt comprehensive legislation and to make budgetary allocations for ending gender violence: one of the most glaring reflections of the gap that exists between gender equality on paper and in reality.
The proposed Protocol comes with an annual reporting framework and an independent SADC Commission on the Status of Women that would monitor performance.    
For more information on the campaign and to sign the petition go to www. or phone Colleen Lowe Morna on 27-(0) 82- 651 6995 or Janet Karim on 27 (0) 73 955 9218.
(Organisations involved in the audit of the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development commissioned by the SADC Parliamentary Forum and SADC Gender Unit are Gender Links, the Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Network, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) SAFAIDS, SARDC/WIDSAA, Women in Law and Development in Southern Africa (WILDAF), CREDO the Women in Politics Support Unit (WiPSU) and International IDEA).     

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