Southern African News Features                                           SANF 10 No 22, May 2010
Progress 15 years after the World Women Conference in Beijing

The Commission on the Status of Women met in New York recently to review implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA).

The accountability process agreed at the Fourth World Women Conference in 1995 in China requires that Member States of the United Nations meet for review at five-year intervals with a view to fine tuning and remapping such progress in line with global and local situations.

The Africa regional review of Beijing +15 focused on progress in the 12 thematic areas, and was drawn from a survey conducted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa with responses from 41 of the 53 African countries.

The survey identified education as one of the successes in Africa, "largely attributable to the institution of free and compulsory primary basic education by many governments."

Governments have also "made attempts to eliminate barriers that hinder boys and girlsí access to education."

While there is impressive progress at primary level, the picture is more mixed at secondary and tertiary levels, where both males and females face obstacles in enrolment and retention, the report said.

Gender disparities in enrolment and literacy are narrowing, but more remains to be done. Illiteracy rates among women remain high in many countries, and disparities between men and women persist.

Among other areas reviewed were women and the economy, health, violence against women and governance.

The Africa report noted that one of the successes at sub-regional level in this period was the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, signed by Heads of State and Government in 2008, and now in the process of ratification and domestication.

The Protocol has so far been ratified by Namibia and Zimbabwe, and needs ratification by 10 Member States before it enters into force.

Among the key issues discussed at the March review in New York was the evolving status and role of national machineries for gender equality, as well as gender budgeting and mainstreaming.

The report on an interactive session said, "National mechanisms for gender equality continue to face constraints and challenges in the implementation of their mandates, including inadequate human and financial resources.

"In some cases, national mechanisms are marginalized within the Governmental structure and subject to frequent changes in organizational settings. Capacity for coordination, monitoring and accountability remain weak, and lack of political support also constrains their effectiveness."

The discussion noted that, "The availability of research, sex-disaggregated data and gender-sensitive indicators can greatly enhance targeted policy development and implementation, as well as effective monitoring and evaluation.

"National machineries should encourage collection of such data and information, and should work more closely with national statistical offices in the development of methodologies and to expand their role in ensuring the availability of data disaggregated by sex and other variables."

A paper delivered in New York by gender specialist Mary Rusimbi, who is Chairperson of the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme, said that "gender-responsive budgeting has increasingly been recognized as a significant tool for making gender mainstreaming happen at the level of (macro) economic policymaking.

"Gender-responsive budgeting is defined as an application of gender mainstreaming in the budgetary process. It means conducting a gender-based assessment of budgets, incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process and restructuring revenues and expenditures in order to promote gender equality."

Towards 50/50 by 2015
Relative to other regions, SADC has performed impressively since the 1995 Beijing Conference, with the successes being used as benchmarks and lessons for other regions.

However, a lot still needs to be done to translate the commitments into practice.

This was the conclusion of a review presented by the SADC Senior Programme Officer for Gender to the 2009 meeting of Ministers responsible for Gender and Women Affairs.

The review noted that the most recent development in this regard was the incorporation of the 50/50 target of women representation in politics and decision- making positions in the SADC gender protocol.

The SADC Regional Framework for Accelerating the Achievement of the 50 percent Target of Women Representation in Politics and Decision-making Positions at All Levels by 2015 has its slogan of - Towards 50/50 by 2015.

The status of women representation in politics and decision-making as presented at the 2009 Summit of Heads of State and Government shows that:

  • South Africa ranks highest in the region in representation of women in Parliament with 45 percent, and is third in the global ranking, surpassed only by Rwanda 56 percent and Sweden 47 percent.
  • Angola saw a great improvement in gender representation in Parliamentary elections in 2008 when the number of women increased to 81, almost 37 percent of the 220 seats in the National Assembly. Angola is now among the top three in the region, behind South Africa at 45 percent and Mozambique 37 percent, and ahead of Namibia 31 percent and Tanzania just over 30 percent.
  • At ministerial level, South Africa leads with 42 percent, while Lesotho and Angola have both achieved 32.2 percent. For deputy ministers, Lesotho has a women representation of 60 percent, South Africa 39 percent, and Malawi and Mozambique both 30 percent.
  • The SADC region has reached the third highest percentage of women in politics, at the Parliamentary level, with 20 percent, a figure surpassed only by the Nordic countries with 40.8 percent and the Americas at 21.4 percent.
  • SADCís average percentage of women in Parliament is higher than the world average of 18.5 percent, the Sub-Saharan average of 18.6 percent, Asia at 18.4 percent, the Pacific at 15.2 percent, and that of the Arab States (9.1 percent) which is the lowest.

SADC Member States with Domestic Violence legislation in place Legislation Year
BotswanaDomestic Violence Act 2007
MadagascarAn Act to Punish Violence Against Women 2000
MalawiPrevention of Domestic Violence Act 2006
MauritiusProtection from Domestic Violence Act 1991
MozambiqueLaw Against Domestic Violence 2009
NamibiaCombating of Domestic Violence Act 2003
South AfricaDomestic Violence Act 1998
ZimbabweThe Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence Act 2007
Source: A Fifteen Year Review of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in Africa +15 from 1995 - 2009, ECA Main Report, November 2009 Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region.

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