SARDC is made up of topical institutes that focus on relevant regional processes, including gender equality, and has a long track record of achievements in this regard (see Background) working with the SADC Gender Unit and others.bilogo

The Vision of the SARDC gender programme is a region where women are empowered and advanced, and structures are engendered to realize equality and equity of women and men.

When this was envisaged almost 20 years ago, it seemed unattainable and Beyond Inequalities an impossible target. But southern Africa is moving slowly and steadily towards that goal through strong and sustained collaboration between governments and non-state actors, although the progress varies from country to country and sector to sector.

Objective and Profile
Regional in focus and action-oriented, the BI Gender Institute aims to be a catalyst and service to the region’s governments, NGOs and agencies, parliaments, the media and the public in the  formulation of policy affecting women. The gender institute works with the SADC Gender Unit and a network of national partners in the 15 SADC member states.

Through the former Women in Development Southern Africa Awareness (WIDSAA) programme, now the BI Gender Institute, SARDC has significantly contributed to elevating information on gender and women’s empowerment to a strategic resource for gender and development processes at different levels, as well as expanding the knowledge base on the status of women in SADC. Some gender activists and other end users have viewed the nature and systematic flow of quality, current and timely information on various issues as a matter of course, and not as a sophisticated process inextricably linked to the quality of development or democracy outcomes; WIDSAA has sought to fill that gap.

Through investing time and energy in strategic networking, WIDSAA has been a point of influence in incorporating regional experience on issues of gender and women’s empowerment in national and regional developments, and provides a reliable bridge working with governments and a range of non-state actors. The partners meetings serve as a platform for sharing ideas and strategies across the region.

Charting trends and developments on gender across borders requires good synergies with strategic partners, and access to the kind of knowledge and information that aims to facilitate or stimulate debates and action.

SARDC strengths include sound analysis within a well-informed regional policy context, accessible presentation to reach a range of stakeholders, and targeted distribution through national and regional partners to reach a broad range of decision-makers.

Partners and Publications
The Women in Development Southern Africa Awareness (WIDSAA) programme has a long-established profile in participatory development, and has been involved in policy and publications development for the past 20 years, in partnership with the SADC Gender Unit and a network of national partners.

SADC Gender Monitor 2013, tracking progress on implementation of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in SADC Member States, published on behalf of the SADC Gender Unit since the Fourth World Women Conference in Beijing in 1995, with the first edition in 1999, and two more editions in 2001 and 2009. This is published in English, French and Portuguese in print and online editions, and contains baseline data for tracking specific clusters of the SADC Protocol. Therecent edition focuses on Women in Decision-Making, and reviews Constitutional developments as well as Cabinet, Parliament, Judiciary, Public Service, etc.

Beyond Inequalities is a series of books profiling the status of women in 12 SADC member states, co-published with national partners. These were first published 1996-1999, with updated edition published 2005-2008. The books on Mozambique and Angola are produced in English and Portuguese.

Beyond Inequalities: Women in Southern Africa is a regional overdue in one volume, first published 1999 in English, with a separate volume in Portuguese; and a Foreword by Hon. Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania, who was Secretary-General of the Fourth World Women Conference in Beijing. A second edition was published in 2008, with a Foreword by the Head of SADC Gender Unit, Magdeline Mathiba-Madibela. These publications are available in print and online.

Beijing +5, Beijng +10, Beijing +20. This is a series of information briefs and factsheets publishing in 2000 and 2005, indicating progress and challenges in the period shown since the Beijing conference in 1995. Beijing +20 is forthcoming for 2015.

Southern African News Features is a regional news service providing in-depth analysis of regional issues for the past 20 years. This continues to play a significant role in raising the profile of gender issues, achievements and challenges in southern Africa, reaching policy-makers and parliamentarians, as well as private sector and other non-state actors, and is widely reproduced by the media.

Older publications include A Guide to Gender Dimensions in SADC Constitutions, produced for the SADC Parliamentary Forum (2003), and Reporting Gender in Southern Africa: A Media Guide, produced with the Zambia Institute of Mass Communications (1999), and Gender Policies in Southern Africa and Beyond (1998).

The GAD Exchange is a newsletter produced for several years tracking the above processes, now out of print, but back issues will soon be available online.

There is also a regional Knowledge Resource Centre containing all of the information collected for these studies over the past 20 years, with bibliographic and contacts databases. It maintains databases of country profiles and a growing list of indicators for gender equality drawn from the clusters of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

SARDC established its gender programme, Women in Development Southern Africa Awareness (WIDSAA) in 1994 prior to the Fourth World Women Conference in Beijing the following year, to assemble data and track progress toward implementation of gender equality targets in southern Africa. The first phase of WIDSAA developed initial indicators on the status of women in southern Africa through baseline data collection presented in factsheets, articles and a periodical, The GAD Exchange; and established a network of national partners in 12 countries.

The second phase of WIDSAA established a partnership with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Unit including participation in development of the initial SADC Declaration on Gender and Development 1997 and its Addendum on Violence Against Women 1998; produced Beijing +5 factsheets tracking progress on the Beijing Platform for Action, and the first edition of the SADC Gender Monitor to review regional gender commitments, published 1999; and worked with national and regional partners to produce a series of books profiling the situation in 12 countries entitled Beyond Inequalities published 1997-2000 and a regional report, Beyond Inequalities: Women in Southern Africa, published in English and Portuguese, with a Foreword by the Secretary-General of the Beijing Conference, Gertrude Mongella from Tanzania. SARDC WIDSAA also worked with the nascent SADC Parliamentary Forum in this period on an integrated plan of activities including workshops, seminars and publications for Engendering SADC Parliaments.

WIDSAA 3 tracked progress towards Beijing targets through Beijing +10 factsheets, and two more editions of the SADC Gender Monitor were published, as well as updates of seven of the national profile books, published 2005 in print and digitally through SARDC’s Virtual Library for Southern Africa. Under WIDSAA 4, the regional report was updated and published as Beyond Inequalities: Women in Southern Africa 2008 with a Foreword by the Head of the SADC Gender Unit, Magdeline Mathiba-Madibela from Botswana. The SADC Gender Monitor was published most recently in 2009 and 2013, in collaboration with the SADC Gender Unit.

Under WIDSAA 3 and 4, SARDC worked with the SADC Gender Unit to contribute to the content of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which was signed by SADC Heads of State and Government in 2008 and entered into force in 2013 after 10 member states deposited instruments of ratification with the SADC Secretariat. The SADC Gender Monitor 2013 therefore established a monitoring tool for implementation of the SADC Protocol, with baseline data, giving first thematic priority to Women in Politics and Decision-making.

WIDSAA was initiated and supported by a number of agencies including primarily the Netherlands government DGIS, HIVOS and SwissAid, with contributions from SADC, UN Women and others. A HIVOS evaluation of WIDSAA 4 confirmed the many achievements (“WIDSAA is a success story!”) and encouraged strengthening of impact monitoring to deepen understanding of impact on the regional development agenda. The HIVOS evaluation encouraged review and renewal to remain current and continue a successful trajectory, and WIDSAA initiated this process at the 10th annual partners meeting, which reviewed achievements and challenges under able facilitation, and developed the WIDSAA Knowledge Network Action Plan, part of which was implemented in 2009-2011, and 2012-2013.

The remaining components of this Action Plan are the priorities for 2014-2016, including a partners meeting and strategic review, and a study of effective practices in the region, as well as the next edition of the SADC Gender Monitor 2015.