NGOs demand that SADC leaders prove commitment to gender equality

Date: January 1, 1970
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NGOs meeting in Johannesburg have challenged leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to put their money where their mouths are by adopting a binding protocol for promoting gender equality at their August summit.

NGOs demand that SADC leaders prove commitment to gender equality    

30 January: NGOs meeting in Johannesburg have challenged leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to put their money where their mouths are by adopting a binding protocol for promoting gender equality at their August summit.  

In a statement following a three day strategy meeting, members of the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance[1] commended the recent move by senior officials responsible for gender to strengthen the draft SADC Protocol on Gender and Development that was watered down and then deferred at the 2007 Heads of State summit in Lusaka .  

The NGOs have, however, raised a number of key areas that they believe are crucial for achieving gender equality that are still missing from the current draft. The Alliance called on ’s President Thabo Mbeki, who will be hosting the 2008 summit and has a progressive track record on gender issues, to add his political weight to ensuring that these gaps are addressed.  

The draft Protocol is one of the most ambitious projects by governments of SADC to bring together all existing international and regional commitments for achieving gender equality and enhance these through measurable targets in all sectors.  

In the making since 2005, the Protocol has gone through seven different drafts, and faced major resistance ahead of the 2007 summit, with key sections removed or whittled down by senior officials from finance and trade-related ministries. Following the instruction from leaders that there be “further consultation” on the protocol, senior officials responsible for gender met in Livingstone in December to try to salvage what they could of the original draft, while taking note of concerns that it was too long and prescriptive.    

While the Lusaka draft reduced the targets to be met by 2015 from 24 to 14, the Livingstone draft has 19 targets. Sections on health, HIV and AIDS and the media that had been cross referenced with existing SADC Protocols that make little or no reference to gender have been reinstated, albeit in abbreviated form. The language is considerably strengthened, and key issues such as maternity and paternity leave reinstated.  

The Alliance agreed, however, that there are eight areas that have been dropped in the current draft of the Protocol around which lobbying efforts will be focused between now and the August summit in .  The key demands of the consortium are that:   

  • The Protocol state commitments using obligatory language like “ensure” instead of “endeavour”.  
  • The Protocol state explicitly that where there are contradictions between customary law and Constitutional provisions for gender equality the latter is given precedence.
  • The rights of socially excluded and vulnerable groups be recognised and protected.
  • Marital rape, which is recognised in the 1997 SADC Declaration on Gender and Development that preceded the Protocol, and is recognised in the laws of six SADC countries, should be reinstated in the definition of gender violence. This is all the more urgent in a region where an alarmingly high proportion of women newly infected with HIV are home makers whose partners have been unfaithful.
  • The recognition of the rights of cohabiting couples to prevent the denial and loss of property and other rights in the event of death or other circumstances that nullify the union. Cohabitation is a fact in SADC countries, and lack of rights in these unions is causing hardship, particularly for women and children.
  • Strengthening of the gender dimensions of HIV and AIDS, such as female controlled methods of contraception and sexual rights which, if fully promoted, can significantly contribute to halting and reversing the pandemic by 2015 in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
  • Strengthening of the provisions on education, which in the amended form have lost their specificity on early childhood development, career planning, vocational training and effective policies in addressing school girl pregnancies.
  • Reinstating of provisions in the otherwise strong section on women’s economic empowerment on access by women to government and other state controlled procurement opportunities.
  • The addition of specific targets for mainstreaming gender in the media, and media practise.

The Alliance roadmap involves intensive lobbying and advocacy in-country and at a regional level, including offering technical support where this may be required through to the August summit, where it plans to hold a parallel civil society forum and launch a high profile campaign for the adoption of a strong Gender Protocol.  

For more information contact Pamela Mhlanga, Gender Links, on               011 622 2877        or


 [1] The SADC Gender Protocol Alliance comprises the Botswana Council of NGOs (BOCONGO);  Federation of African Media Women (FAMW) – SADC; Gender Links (GL); Gender and Media Southern Africa Network (GEMSA); Justice and Peace (Lesotho); Malawi Council of Churches; Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA); NGO Gender Coordination Network Malawi; SAFAIDS; Society for Women and AIDS in Africa Zambia (SWAAZ); Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF); Women in Law in Southern Africa (WLSA); Women, Land and Water Rights Southern Africa (WLWRSA); Women in Politics Caucus Botswana; Women’s Leadership Centre Namibia; Young Women’s Christian Association Botswana (YWCA); Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre (ZWRCN). 


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