Summit calls on SADC governments to increase women’s representation and end epidemic of gender violence

Date: March 29, 2011
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Johannesburg, South Africa: As several Southern African countries prepare for local and national elections, the second annual Gender Justice and Local Government Summit has called on governments to increase women’s representation and fight gender-based violence.

The Summit has brought together 265 representatives from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) including local government authorities, gender ministries, municipalities, civil society and journalists. The Summit also attracted many younger women and men, as well as mayors and deputy-mayors from throughout the region.

A special parallel session was devoted to the issue of care work, attracting members of parliament, caregivers and NGOs working in this sector.

Summit participants showcased local-level initiatives to fight gender-based violence at the same time decrying the lack of commitment on the part of SADC governments to fulfil obligations outlined in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

“The last century we fought slavery, colonialism and apartheid. Women’s rights are the cause for the current century. We cannot eliminate poverty if we do not have women’s equal representation and participation,” said Gender Links Chairperson Muna Ndulo.

During the four-day summit, convened by Gender Links, delegates noted that seven countries will be holding elections in 2011, meaning it will be an important year for ensuring SADC targets are met ahead of 2015. The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development urges governments to ensure gender parity in all areas of decision-making and to halve gender violence by 2015.

Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius and South Africa will have local elections and Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe are due to hold both local and national elections. South Africa’s elections are likely first up, scheduled to be held on 18 May.

However, during a vibrant session on gender and elections, participants expressed concern that the overall SADC political environment is not conducive to free and fair participation and to achieving gender equality.

Malawi was cited as a disturbing example of a SADC country that had previously posted progress but is now marred by political violence and attacks on women politicians. There is currently no elected local government in Malawi and no date has been fixed for 2011 local elections. Although 2009 elections in Malawi saw an increase from 14-21% in women’s representation in parliament, women politicians have since been attacked and sidelined.

Recent elections in Botswana and Namibia saw backward slides in women’s representation, and 2010 elections in Mauritius saw a paltry increase from 17.1% to 18.8%.

Delegates noted that in order to tackle the epidemic of gender-based violence in the region, women’s representation in local and national politics must increase. The Summit looked at research that had examined political discourse in South Africa which found that only 4% of political speeches mention GBV.

However, judges for the second annual Gender Justice and Local Government Awards were heartened by many innovative, diverse and groundbreaking local-level initiatives showcased over two days of deliberations.

These included a South African community-based group which brings together the private and public sector, religious groups and civil society, linking them with local families to provide peer support around issues of gender violence. In Zambia, a police victim support unit has been rolled out throughout the country in order to provide support to victims of gender violence. Another popular initiative focused on gender-based violence and the disabled. And in Mauritius an artist is using art as a way of raising awareness on violence in his country.

The Summit will close tomorrow with the presentation of awards in eight categories and a celebration for the Gender Links 10-year anniversary.

For more information please contact Mona Hakimi at  or on mobile +27 (0) 79 969 1954

0 thoughts on “Summit calls on SADC governments to increase women’s representation and end epidemic of gender violence”

Vimala Lallmohamud says:

I participated in the first summit in Joh
I was so happy. This year my colleage Mrs M.Ragoobursingh is actually there. I would like to draw your attention on women who are being exploited on the net. How the next summit can decrease that and what are the sanctions. Thanks.

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