Saturday, May 30, 2009

Comesa Committed to Gender Mainstreaming

Comesa committed to gender mainstreaming

By Dr Sindiso Ngwenya
Reprinted From the Zimbabwe Herald

IN line with Articles 154 and 155 of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Treaty, and in recognition of the fact that sustainable economic and social development of the region requires the effective participation of women, men and youth, the 7th Comesa Summit of the Heads of State and Government held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in May 2002 adopted the Comesa Gender Policy and the Addis Ababa Declaration on Gender.

The Comesa Gender Policy advocates equal and full participation of women in all aspects of Comesa activities and other operations taking place in the region.

The Gender Policy emphasises the principle of affirmative action across all spheres of Comesa policies, systems, structures, programmes and activities in order to redress existing gender imbalances.

Affirmative action will be employed to ensure that barriers that prevent women’s participation in core Comesa activities such as trade, the private sector, infrastructure development and science and technology, are addressed and removed.

Affirmative action will also be applied to ensure that policies, programmes, projects, administrative procedures and practices of the Comesa Secretariat, Comesa institutions, Comesa structures and their budgets are gender sensitive.

The Comesa Gender Policy will also facilitate the engendering of legislation in Member States in order to promote women’s access to and control over productive resources such as land, credit, technology and information.

Comesa will, through multifaceted campaigns, promote awareness of the need to change harmful and negative cultural practices that hinder women’s effective participation in regional programmes and activities.

In line with Article 143 of the Comesa Treaty, it will also endeavour to mainstream cross-cutting issues such as HIV and Aids, poverty, governance, environment, information, communication and technology, drug abuse and others into all its policies, programmes, structures and operations.

The full implementation of the Comesa Gender Policy will significantly contribute to the overall attainment of Comesa’s vision and strategy for the 21st Century, which is: integrating gender into the mainstream of the work of Comesa.

Other institutional frameworks that Comesa has put in place to promote equal participation of men and women and the youth are the Comesa Gender Mainstreaming Strategy and the Five-Year Comesa Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Action Plan.

These frameworks aim to institutionalise the integration of gender perspectives into the mainstream of all aspects of the work of Comesa in order to achieve its Vision for the 21st Century, where both sexes, male and female, have equal opportunities to fulfil their potential.

The Comesa Strategic Action Plan outlines six key strategic interventions.

These are:

--Strengthening the gender management systems at national and regional levels;

--promoting economic empowerment through trade and private sector participation;

--Strengthening FEMCOM for market access;

--Promoting gender equity and social development;

--Establishing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms; and

--Resource mobilisation.

The Comesa Secretariat has already started implementing these strategic interventions.

For instance, work is in progress to develop a gender mainstreaming toolkit.

The toolkit will serve as a guiding framework for gender mainstreaming in Comesa programmes.

Work is in progress to set up the FEMCOM Secretariat in Malawi, beginning with the appointment of an acting director.

Gender responsive monitoring and evaluation systems have been developed and sent out to national women/gender machineries in Comesa Member States to promote accountability with a gender perspective.

It is also Comesa’s initiative to harmonise national gender strategies with the Comesa Gender Mainstreaming Strategy and Policy to ensure that interventions on the economic empowerment and capacity building of women are adequately implemented at national level.

Notwithstanding these positive developments, a satisfactory implementation of the Comesa Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Action Plan requires adequate human and financial resources.

Currently, the division of gender and social affairs has two members of staff.

Its annual budget is the least endowed in the Comesa Secretariat.

Therefore, there was urgent need to for resource mobilisation, human and financial, for the Comesa Gender Agenda to realise its vision and strategy for the 21st Century.

--Dr Sindiso Ngwenya is the Secretary-General of Comesa

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