Women’s Day: Countdown to 2015 with the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer

Date: August 9, 2013
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Johannesburg 9 August: The clock is ticking louder and louder in the count down to 2015, the deadline for achieving the targets of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, according to highlights of this year’s Barometer, released on Women’s Day in South Africa.

The Barometer will be formally launched by HE Joyce Banda, President of Malawi on 15 August, the eve of the Southern African Development Community Heads of State Summit. The Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance that campaigned for this unique sub-regional instrument with 28 time-bound targets shared a preview of the report with former South African deputy president and head of UNWOMEN designate Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at a round table meeting yesterday.

“Even though we have made great strides in the emancipation of women, gender justice and the struggles of women remain challenging, from gender based violence, high poverty amongst women, exclusion of women in significant positions, the burden of disease and more. Our work is not yet done,À she is quoted as saying in the Barometer.

“We need to work just as hard to mobilise key institutions in society: our churches, schools, sporting bodies, who must continue the struggles. We also need to broaden the base as many more people are needed for us to overcome the complex battles we face. As foot soldiers in this struggle we need to continue to lead from the front, back and sideways.

“As people of SADC let us use the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development to entrench and advance the women’s cause in our countries. The Protocol must be a living document in all our countries: we must take it to the people.À

Overall, the Southern African Gender and Development Index (SGDI) remained stagnant at 66%. But the big news this year is that women and men in Southern Africa gave their governments a score of 66% – nine percentage points up from last year À“ using the Citizen Score Card (CSC) that went out to 8860 citizens: 4787 women and 4073 men (a sample four times bigger than last year). Unlike the SGDI, the CSC is based on perceptions, and captures nuances that are not incorporated in the empirical data. The Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance (SGPA) À“ 15 country networks and eight theme groups that campaigned for the protocol, its ratification, and now its implementation   – is taking its campaign to greater heights in the countdown to 2015. The main message to leaders is not only that time is running out, but also that there are new priorities and concerns on the agenda.

The 2013 Barometer carries good news on HIV for the first time. AIDS related deaths in the region have reduced by 32% since 2001 due to the expansion of antiretroviral therapy. In seven SADC countries, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission is higher than 80%. Although gender disparities continue to be a major driver of the pandemic, there is some evidence of changes in sexual behaviour patterns leading to a reduction in HIV and AIDS.    

One of the major Alliance successes over the last year has been getting gender onto the agenda of constitutional reviews in ten countries, notably Mauritius, Zimbabwe and Zambia. As witnessed over the past year, this is beginning to yield benefits. In Mauritius, the Constitutional amendment paved the way for a quota in local government that led to a fourfold increase in women at the local level in the December 2012 elections. The new Zimbabwe Constitution does away with claw- back clauses and guarantees women 22% of the seats in the national assembly. News just out shows that the proportion of women in the Zimbabwe just-ended elections rose from 18% to 30%. But the conduct of the elections themselves is in dispute.  

With few exceptions, the last set of elections in the SADC region have been disappointing: the decrease in women’s representation both at national and local level in Angola and Swaziland last year; persistent low levels of women’s representation in the DRC, and the marginal increase in women’s representation in the Lesotho national elections in May 2012 serve as a reminder of the fragile gains made by women in the political sphere.  

With ten elections in the region between August 2013 and December 2015 (including in Malawi) the Alliance is targeting the 2013 Heads of State Summit to make a significant push on this front, under the leadership of the NGO Gender Coordination Network À“ NGO GCN À“ the Alliance focal network in Malawi.

Over the years the Alliance has been tracking knowledge of the SADC Gender Protocol and attitudes towards gender. This year, the Barometer draws on the Gender Progress Score (GPS) online tool developed by Gender Links for scoring responses to the 20 question attitude survey,  from zero (regressive) to 100 (very progressive). Across the region almost 50  000 citizens used this tool, and registered an overall score of 65% with significant country variations. Knowledge of the SADC Gender Protocol (based on five simple questions) stood at 53%. This reflects the need for continuing mobilising, public awareness and behavior change.

The shockingly high levels of gender violence revealed by recent prevalence surveys (from 25% in Mauritius to nearly 80% in four districts of Zambia) shows that one in three if not more women have experienced some form of gender violence over their lifetime, often multiple times, and multiple forms of violence.  

Women still lack access to economic decision- making (26%), land, credit and other means of production. They constitute the majority of the poor; the unemployed; the dispossessed and those who work in the informal sector. Women’s lack of “voiceÀ reflects in the media, where the proportion of women sources has risen only marginally from 17% in 2003 to 22% in a self- monitoring exercise covering 76 media houses in the region.

Since November 2011, the Alliance has been driving a campaign for an Addendum to the SADC Gender Protocol on gender and climate change. At a meeting held in Maputo in February 2013 against the backdrop of floods in Mauritius claiming several lives, gender ministers accepted the principle of the Addendum. Since then the tussle has been over whether to mainstream gender in the forthcoming SADC Protocol on Climate Change, or argue for an addendum to the SGP. The Alliance is arguing for both.

At its annual meeting in Johannesburg from  6-10 August  the Alliance, whose slogan is 2015, yes we must! vowed to strengthen its structures through launching country Barometers and identifying champions for the 28 targets at national, provincial and district level. To read more about the barometer,  click here. To order a copy of the barometer click here. To read about the South Africa Women Demand Action now,  click here. For more information, contact Katherine Robinson on  27 (0) 76  227 6517.

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