12 Aug 2011 - Story by Staff Reporter
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WINDHOEK â€" The governance cluster of the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance has called on SADC governments to redouble their efforts to attain the target of gender parity in all areas of decision-making by 2015.
The 50/50 gender representation by 2015 was set by SADC, as with all the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), such as the alleviation of extreme poverty.
In a communiquÃ© re-launching the 50/50 campaign following a meeting in Harare, non-governmental organisation (NGO) representatives from nine SADC countries noted that with only four years to go, the region is only half way from where it needs to be.
Many countries only have one more election to go before 2015, with a current average representation of women in parliament of only 25 percent.
Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU), the governance cluster leader, and Gender Links, coordinator of the alliance that campaigned for the adoption of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol, convened the meeting ahead of the SADC Heads of State Summit in Luanda on August 17, 2011.
Delegates noted that while the SADC regional average of 25 percent women in national parliaments exceeds the global average of 19 percent, this varies considerably between countries, under scoring a lack of political will.
With 18 percent women in parliament and elections due to take place within the next year, Zimbabwe is one such country.
Other countries with elections on the horizon are Zambia (15 percent women in parliament) in September and DRC (with 12 percent women in parliament) by November.
Local elections are taking place in Mauritius (7 percent women councillors) and Lesotho (58 percent women councillors) later this year.
Malawi, which currently has no elected local government, has indefinitely postponed elections due to be held this year.
Commenting ahead of the launch of the alliance's flagship 2011 Barometer at the SADC Heads of State Summit, the governance cluster said now is the time to "name and shame" governments that are not pulling their weight. The Barometer introduces the SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI), which among others, has a combined score for governments of women's representation in parliament, cabinet and local government.
This ranks countries in the region in the following order from highest to lowest with regard to gender and governance: South Africa (1), Lesotho (2), Angola (3), Mozambique (4), Tanzania (5), Namibia (6), Seychelles (7), Malawi (8), Swaziland (9), Zimbabwe (10), Botswana (11), Mauritius (12), Zambia (13), Madagascar (14) and DRC (15).
According to cluster leader and director of WIPSU, Fanny Chirisa, "Where there is a will there is away".
Chirisa said change has taken place very rapidly in some SADC countries, with some very close to achieving the 50/50.
"This tells us that the parity target can be achieved." For example, South Africa has 44% women in parliament and Lesotho has 58% women in local government," she added.
As leaders prepare to go to Angola for the summit, the governance cluster of the alliance has also called on countries that have not ratified the protocol to do so as a matter of urgency.
Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe have ratified the Protocol, while Madagascar Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia are yet to do so.
One more ratification or nine out of the 13 signatories are required for the protocol to go into force.
Delegates also urged Mauritius and Botswana, the only two countries that have not signed the protocol, to "put their money where their mouth is" and ratify the protocol.
Mauritius claims it cannot ratify the protocol because of the affirmative action clause.
"On the other hand, it is adopting legislation for local elections that amounts to affirmative action. This shows that where there is a will there is a way," the delegates noted.
The alliance, organised through 15 country networks and 10 theme clusters, is stepping up the drive for the implementation of the protocol through action plans at national level and regional campaigns that leverage efforts on the ground to ensure the 28 targets are attained.