Friday, March 01, 2013

Southern African Development Community Gender Protocol a Welcome Step

Sadc gender protocol a welcome step

Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00
Gender forum Fortious Nhambura
Zimbabwe Herald

Last month Sadc member-states ratified the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development.

The protocol seeks to promote the empowerment of women, eliminate discrimination and achieve gender equality by encouraging, harmonising development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies,programmes and projects in member countries.

According to a communiqué issued after the annual meeting of ministers responsible for Gender and Women Affairs in the region in Mozambique last month, 10 countries ratified the protocol making it possible for the instrument to take legal effect.

Ratification of the protocol denotes readiness by members of the regional bloc to begin implementation of the tenets of the instrument, which involve domestication of the regional policy into national legislation and policy. Sadc states that ratified the protocol include Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Malawi, Madagascar and Democratic Republic of the Congo are yet to ratify while Botswana and Mauritius are still to sign.

With the ratification complete what is now left is implementation by respective governments and that requires women and gender activists to be on the fore, demanding action.

This is indeed a milestone for the bloc whose women still lag behind their male counterparts.

The protocol is a monitoring tool to monitor and track implementation of the gender equality commitments by Sadc member states.

It will ensure that gender equality is reflected in all constitutions and to affirmative action clauses.

With the targets internationally gravitating towards equal or a 50 percent target representation of women in politics and decision making it is most welcome that the instrument has been ratified.

The protocol on Gender and Development provides for the empowerment of women, elimination of discrimination, and achievement of gender quality and equity through gender-responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects.

It is a consolidation of the various regional and international commitments to gender equality that strengthens capacity for effective reporting on progress, as well as providing an opportunity for member states to address new challenges something that has been lacking in the region.

Analysts say the protocol comes as blessing to Zimbabwe which is the process of completing its constitution making process, which is already aimed at increasing female participation to 50 percent.

They said the ratification means it is time for Southern Africa and indeed Zimbabwe, to move from being a region of commitments to one of action.

As former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki said, the protocol consolidates all the important Sadc policies and programmes dealing with gender equity and helps mobilise the region to advance the process of women’s emancipation through policies, laws, programmes and projects which all member states have to implement.

Now that the protocol has been ratified it means gender activists and women can now move to demand their full recognition and contribution in the socio-economic development of the region.

The protocol has articles that promote the constitutional and legal rights of women by ensuring that all government enshrine gender equality as well as give such provisions primacy over customary law.

It calls for the removal of all laws that are discriminatory to women while making it a requirement for equality in marriage and family rights.

It also guarantees rights to widows, elderly women, the girl child, women with disabilities and other socially excluded groups.

Once these laws are eliminated, it would mean more than half the population in the Sadc region cannot be harnessed in development efforts.

Important are articles 12-13 of the Sadc Gender Protocol which make it mandatory for Governments to ensure equal representation of women in all areas of decision-making, both public and private.

It mandates countries to ensure that this target be achieved through Constitutional and other legislative provisions, including affirmative action.

Article 14 speaks to the provision of equal access to quality education and training for females and males, as well as their retention at all levels of education.

An analysis of the education in the Zimbabwe has clearly shown that the number of females continues to dwindle as the level of education goes high.

By implementing the provisions of this protocol both sexes are equally represented and can thus compete fairly in economic terms.

Articles 20–25 of the protocol make provision for the implementation of a variety of strategies, including enacting, reviewing, reforming and enforcing laws, aimed at eliminating all forms of gender based violence and trafficking.

Article 26 of the same protocol provides for the adoption and implementation of policies and programmes that address the physical, mental, emotional and social well being of women with specific targets at reducing maternal mortality ratio by 75 percent by 2015; ensuring access to quality sexual and reproductive health services; and the provision of hygiene and sanitary facilities and nutritional needs of women, including women in prison.

Peace Building and Conflict Resolution is provided for in Article 28 with emphasis on the need for governments in the region to ensure equal representation of women in conflict resolution and peace building processes in line with other international instruments.

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