SADC Summit: Many challenges ahead for gender equality

Date: January 1, 1970
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19 August: The Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance today welcomed the decision by leaders at the just-ended SADC summit to endorse the African Union position on gender parity in all areas of decision-making.
But the alliance expressed disappointment at the failure by Heads of State to seize the first opportunity open to them following this decision to “walk the talk” by appointing a woman to one of the two top positions in the SADC secretariat despite competent women having applied.
The final communiqué is also silent on the recommendation made by the Council of Ministers that the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development be elevated to a Protocol for Accelerating Gender Equality.  
Vowing to continue the campaign for a binding sub-regional instrument on gender equality, the Alliance, that comprises ten NGOs from around the region, said the outcome of the summit underscores the fact that while “many milestones have been achieved, the struggle for gender equality is still far from over.”
In a statement, the Alliance noted that the endorsement of the AU position that failed to receive the support of leaders at their summit last year means that the target of thirty percent women in decision-making contained in the SADC Declaration has now been raised to fifty percent, but no timeframe has been set for achieving this.
The Alliance, whose slogan is “50/50 by 2020”, said it would continue to lobby for incremental targets and action plans to be developed by each country, with an ultimate target of the fifty percent being achieved by 2020.
While the Alliance congratulated the new executive secretary Tomas Salmao of Mozambique and his deputy Joao Caholo of Angola on their appointment, it expressed disappointment that the regional body had failed to lead by example in ensuring gender balance within its own top decision-making structures. Only one out of the seven senior management positions in SADC is held by a woman. 
The Alliance also stressed that achieving gender equality extends beyond getting women into positions of power. Many more targets are required for ensuring that gender equality is achieved in the economic, social, constitutional and legal spheres as well. This underscores the recommendation made by the Council of Ministers that leaders adopt the principle of a comprehensive Protocol for Accelerating Gender Equality that would bring together all existing international and regional targets and commitments, and enhance these where gaps have been identified. 
 “We are encouraged by the statement by the spokesperson of the new Chair of SADC, President Festus Mogae, that this is something on which more time and consultation is required, but that can still be considered,” said Alliance spokesperson Colleen Lowe Morna, also executive director of Gender Links. “We are also heartened by the statement made by President Mogae as he took over the Chair that during his tenure Declarations will not be allowed to gather dust and that SADC will become a more results-oriented institution.”
Pledging to continue to engage with SADC leaders as well as raise public awareness and support for a SADC Protocol on Advancing Gender Equality, with the aim of this being adopted at the 2006 summit, the Alliance commended the media, especially in Botswana, for the coverage and prominence given to issues of gender equality during the Summit.  
For more information contact Colleen Lowe Morna on; or 27- (0) 82-651-6995).       
(The Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance comprises: Gender Links, the Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Network, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), SAFAIDS, Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), Women in Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), CREDO, the Women in Politics Support Unit (WiPSU), Women in Politics Caucus, Botswana and the Women Land and Water Rights, Southern Africa.)  

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