Southern Africa taking MDG-3 by the horns

Southern Africa taking MDG-3 by the horns

Date: September 27, 2010
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Malawi elected its first female vice president, South Africa women’s groups launched the Red Light Campaign to say no to human trafficking, and gender quotas in Lesotho have ensured it has the highest proportion of women in local government in all of southern Africa.

These are just a few of the many achievements made by women and men in southern Africa since the adoption of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development.

These examples of the Protocol at work highlight the importance of unpacking the broad Millennium Development Goals and transferring them into more specific instruments with a regional focus.

The SADC Protocol comprises 28 time-bound targets, as well as mechanisms for monitoring and tracking progress – including reporting by member states every two years.

“There is reason to celebrate,” said ‘Mathabiso Lepono, Lesotho’s minister of gender and youth, sports and recreation. “We are making significant progress in the areas of education where almost all SADC countries have now achieved universal primary education. In some countries there are even more women than men in tertiary education.”

Lepono also credited the Protocol for helping Lesotho achieve regional success at promoting women into decision-making positions and ensuring women are used as sources in the media. “We must not let that slide,” she said.

However, with only five years to go for governments to meet the Protocol’s 2015 targets, activists in the region recently gave a 54% progress rating, down a percentage point from a baseline study last year.

The 2010 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer, a tracking tool that is the annual flagship of the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance – a grouping of more than 40 NGOs that campaigned for the adoption of the Protocol in 2008 – was launched recently to assess the progress of the SADC Protocol.

Although governments filed their own reports to the SADC Secretariat for the first time this year, the Barometer is derived from country shadow reports that include a “citizen score card” and is the only overall regional analysis.

Country scores ranged from 79% in Namibia to 38% in Zimbabwe.

“While there are a few bright spots on the horizon, every indicator tells us that it is still a long walk to equality for women,” said Colleen Lowe Morna, executive director of Gender Links.

The Barometer raises a red flag against the fact that Mauritius and Botswana have not signed, and only Namibia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho have ratified the Protocol.

“We need to send out a strong message to our governments that we will not accept legal technicalities as an excuse for not delivering,” Lowe Morna said.

Gender Links coordinates the work of the Alliance, which has focal organisations in each country and seven theme clusters led by NGOs with expertise in constitutional and legal rights, governance, peace and conflict resolution, economic justice, gender violence, HIV and AIDS and media.

Compared to last year, the report finds that along with advances in education, there has been an increase in women’s participation in economic decision-making from 18-23%.

A new chapter on peace and conflict resolution compiled by the Institute of Security Studies that leads this sector bemoans the lack of gender disaggregated data in this area, and the glaring gender gaps in the military, police and prison services of the region where this information exists.

The application of the Protocol in Malawi has made concrete differences on the ground there, according to NGO Gender Coordination Network Chair Emma Kaliya. Citing her organisation as an example, Kaliya said the Protocol has been used to raise the number of women in parliament from 14 to 21% in the May 2009 election.

“I can say without a doubt that the Protocol is making a difference,” said Kaliya, who won the Drivers of Change award for the 50/50 Campaign.

Lowe Morna agreed, citing the regional increase of women in parliament from 13.6% in 2005 to 21.2% in 2009 as the result of the work of the 50/50 Campaign, which is guided by the Gender Protocol.

For more on the 2010 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer please click here.

Loveness Jambaya Nyakujarah is the Gender Links Alliance and Partnerships Manager. This story is a part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service and was originally published by IPS TerraViva with the support of Oxfam.



Download : Photo taken by Albert Ngosa.

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