SADC to review progress on regional gender development

SANF 21 no 34 – by Nyarai Kampilipili
Ministers responsible for gender and women affairs will this week meet to review progress on the implementation of regional programmes aimed at advancing gender equality and equity in southern Africa.

According to a draft agenda, the meeting to be held in a virtual format on 26 August will deliberate on a wide range of issues including the approval of the Draft Regional Gender Based Violence (GBV) Training Guidelines and progress towards the signing of the revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

The revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development provides for the empowerment of women, elimination of discrimination and attainment of gender equality and equity through enactment of gender-responsive legislation and implementation of policies, programmes and projects.

The protocol was revised to align with the provisions of other instruments such as those relating to the Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2063 and the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063.

Out of the 16 SADC Member States, only three — Malawi, Mauritius and South Africa — are yet to sign the agreement amending the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

However, Mauritius has indicated readiness to sign the agreement soon.

Mauritius had previously objected to the Protocol because of a clause on child marriage that conflicted with the country’s civil code which allowed children to marry below the age of 18 but above 16 with parental consent.

A new legislation which was finalized in December 2020 and is awaiting promulgation will repeal the Child Protection Act and replace it with a more comprehensive and modern legislative framework which addresses the shortcomings of the Child Protection Act that allowed marriage below the age of 18.

The new Children’s Bill of Mauritius states that “no religious marriage shall be celebrated unless the parties to the religious marriage are aged 18 or above.”

On the other hand, the Draft Regional GBV Training Guidelines aims to strengthen efforts for capacity building of frontline officers, especially law enforcement officers at national level to ensure effective and efficient prevention and provision of comprehensive GBV services.

The ministers meeting, which will be preceded by a meeting of senior officials responsible for gender and women affairs on 25 August, will further review progress on Member States’ participation on the Industrialization and Women’s Economic Empowerment project being implemented under the Regional Multi-Dimensional Women Economic Empowerment Programme and assess progress towards the participation of women in politics and decision-making positions.

Performance relating to women representation and participation in politics and decision-making continues to be mixed across the region with some Member States showing constant upward trends, while others are regressing.

For example, Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Seychelles have registered some improvements for women in cabinet of above 30 percent, while Zimbabwe has dropped from 30 percent to 23 percent.

Seychelles and South Africa are the only Member States that had reached parity in cabinet in 2019, but they have dropped to 38 percent and 48 percent respectively, thus, losing momentum on a critical milestone.

Zambia just held elections and will be announcing a new cabinet soon.

In this regard, and following elections held in the SADC region between 2018 and 2020, SADC will critically assess the challenges towards women participation in politics and decision-making positions through the 8th edition of the SADC Gender and Development Monitor (SGDM) which is set for launch in 2022.

The SGDM presents an account of progress made towards implementation of regional commitments to achieve gender equality and equity in line with the revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

The SADC ministers responsible for gender and women affairs meet annually to review the regional gender programme.

The meeting presents an opportunity for Member States to share progress on the implementation of gender commitments.

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