Zimbabwe parliament sitting for new session in the aftermath of the July 31 harmonized elections., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Little joy for Sadc women
September 27, 2013
Opinion & Analysis
Southern Africa has experienced mixed performance in terms of facilitating gender parity in political decision-making positions, and a lot more needs to be done if the region is to attain the target of 50:50 representation by 2015.
According to the Sadc Gender Monitor 2013 released during the 33rd summit of the Southern African Development Community held in Malawi in August, performance in promoting participation of women in decision-making structures has been mixed across the region, with some countries doing well and others doing badly.
The publication shows that representation of women in the Lower House of Parliament ranges from more than 40 percent in Seychelles and South Africa to around 10 percent in Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It notes that a worrying development is that some countries that have held elections since 2009 have actually regressed in terms of representation of women in parliament.
“There is still a lot that needs to be done in terms of promoting the representation and participation of women in decision-making structures in the region, including the adoption of deliberate measures such as affirmative action,” said Magdeline Mathiba-Madibela, head of the Sadc Gender Unit.
According to the report, women are under-represented at all levels of decision-making in the public and private sectors — in cabinets, parliaments, local government leadership, central government, central committees of political parties, private sector boards and management, and non-government sectors, special public service committees and other institutions in Sadc member states.
Average representation of women in parliament was 25,8 percent as of mid-2013, marginally up from 20,6 percent in 2005 and 23 percent in 2011, but still short of the 50 percent target agreed under the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development signed in 2008.
With the 2015 deadline approaching for gender parity in decision-making structures, only five Sadc countries are significantly close to the target of parity in parliament, having gone above the 30 percent threshold set previously by regional leaders for representation of women.
These are Seychelles at 43,8 percent representation of women as of 2012, South Africa (42,3 percent), Mozambique (39,2 percent), Tanzania (36 percent) and Angola (34,1 percent).
Zimbabwe, which had elections in July 2013, now has 31,5 percent representation in the National Assembly. The majority of these countries are ranked among the top 20 in the world with the highest number of women in parliament.
According to the report, Seychelles is the second ranked country in Africa after Rwanda and fifth in the Inter-Parliamentary Union global rankings, followed by South Africa in eighth position.
In terms of representation of women in cabinet, only South Africa has surpassed the previous 30 percent target, but more women in the region now hold a wider range of ministerial portfolios such as foreign affairs, home affairs, defence, finance, education, health, and trade and industry.
The publication focuses on Part Three of the Protocol on Gender and Development that focuses on governance, and specifically on Article 12 on Representation and Article 13 on Participation.
A trend and situational analysis at regional and national levels as well as comparative analysis is used to locate the participation of women in national and local governance structures such as parliaments, cabinet, judiciary, the security sector and institutions of higher learning.
Gaps and opportunities are identified for the promotion of increased participation leading to equal representation of women in decision-making in both public and private sectors while lessons learned and effective practices are drawn from East and Southern Africa as well as from outside Africa.
Gender equality is firmly rooted in Sadc’s regional integration agenda and member states support the fundamental principle that both women and men must be equally engaged in decision-making at all levels and in all positions of leadership.
Most countries in the region now recognise that gender equality and the empowerment of women are crucial for the attainment of sustainable democracy. This is reflected in the constitutions of most Sadc countries that provide legal frameworks for non-discrimination on the basis of gender differences.
A few countries have also legislated affirmative action and quota systems that guarantee the participation and representation of women in political and other decision-making positions.
However, implementation of these measures remains a challenge. The report, jointly published by Sadc and the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre, cites several challenges faced by countries in terms of promoting gender parity.
The challenges range from patriarchy, cultural and social to economic and political factors that make it difficult for women to climb to the top echelons of political and decision-making positions at all levels.