Time to go back to the streets

Time to go back to the streets

Date: July 29, 2010
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Sitting in my office in Johannesburg reading the daily paper newspaper published for the Beijing+15 Review at the Conference on the Status of Women in New York, I feel a sense of discomfort, a sense of a world going wrong.

First, I read the article Playing it safe or losing ground? where we find out that the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, is not present at the meeting. Second, the governments’ have agreed to come out with a Declaration after the Review, not an outcomes document.

The difference between the two is that the declaration will reaffirm country’s commitments to the Beijing Platform for Action while an outcomes document would have been an audit on how far countries’ have come and what needs to be done. How do we hold governments’ accountable if there is no audit of what has been achieved and more importantly what has not been achieved?

Cyber dialogues, online thematic chats, accompany the daily newspaper. One of the chat’s focused on “Governance: The best man for the job is woman”. One of the key statistics debated was that the global representation of women in Parliament has increased from 11% in 1995 (the inception of the Beijing Platform for Action) to 18% in 2010.

An increase of seven percent in 15 years must be acknowledged but is certainly no reason to celebrate. Similarly, preliminary reports from the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) suggest that the representation of women in the global media has gone up a whole three percent in the lasts five years, from 21% in 2005 to 24% in 2010. Indeed, women’s representation has increased a whopping seven percent from 17% in 1995 till now.

On another level I am struck by the irony of what the South African delegates to the CSW will be reporting. How far South Africa has come in the last five years? We have a polygamous president who has extramarital affairs from which he has children. Not a poster child for ABC (Abstain, be faithful and condomise) HIV and AIDS Campaign.

The President of South Africa is also one of the chief drivers of moral regeneration of South African society. He does not, however, lead by example.

The question for South Africa is not how far we have come as regards women’s rights BUT how far have we retrogressed? Should a President who does not respect women, women’s rights and have a clear and principled position on gender equality be a President?

Don’t be mistaken I am not in despair about what we have achieved. The gender equality journey is hard and every single gain must be acknowledged. I am thinking about what we need to do to right the world.

The policies, declarations, protocols, outcome documents and legislation are all crucial in this road we are traveling as gender activists. Lobbying governments, global bodies, regional and sub regional bodies to implement and make real the provisions of the all the instruments they signed is still critical.

My sense though is that we have to go back to the streets. The time for activism is nigh. We fight our battles in boardrooms and government corridors. The issue of the representation of women at all levels needs to be back on the public agenda.

We need to march on the streets, outside Parliaments and make our voices heard inside parliaments. New technologies give us the ability to garner support for gender campaigns across the globe. We need global campaigns to keep issues on the agenda all the time.

The time for activism is now! Aluta continua!

Kubi Rama is the Deputy Director of Gender Links. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service, produced during Beijing +15.



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