By Petronella Sibeene
After three days of intense discussions and perfecting the draft document of the SADC protocol on Gender and Development, ministers responsible for gender/women’s affairs in the region are confident that the draft document will be ready for adoption at the next Heads of State and Government Summit calendared for August in South Africa.
“We look forward to August 2008 in South Africa when the fruits of our labour will be presented to our Heads of State and Government. We have done all our work well and we shall celebrate our achievement,” said the Chair, Zambian Minister of Gender Patricia Mulasikwanda.
Once adopted, the protocol will allow gender parity in all areas of decision-making.
SADC ministers responsible for Gender and Women Affairs met in the capital from April 28 to 30 to prepare the way forward for the adoption of the SADC draft protocol on Gender and Development.
This comes almost three years after heads of state at the Lusaka summit declined to sign the document and instead referred it back for in-depth and thorough consultations with all stakeholders in the 14 member states.
“We have re-examined the document, redrafted it and we plan to take a final look at it before we present it (to the heads of state). We want a protocol that we will all be proud of,” added Mulasikwanda.
Before the document is presented at the next summit, it will be prepared for ministers of justice for direction on how it can be adopted by member states.
The draft protocol is the result of a process that started in 2005, with the audit of SADC’s Declaration on Gender and Development and its addendum on Preventing and Eradicating Gender-Based Violence.
During the official opening of the conference, President Hifikepunye Pohamba in a statement read on his behalf by Minister of Environment and Tourism Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, said although progress has been made in sensitizing the masses on gender issues, there is a great need for a legal binding instrument.
Once in place, such an instrument will acce-lerate the process of gender mainstreaming in the region to the benefit of all people, Pohamba added.
He said that consultation on the draft document was necessary to ensure a wider ownership of the protocol and smooth implementation once it becomes operational.
The protocol is expected to address emerging gender issues and concerns such as human trafficking, gender-based violence, equal allocation of resources and a region without gender imbalances, President Pohamba said.
The protocol calls for strategies that will ensure 50 percent women representation in politics and decision-making positions.
During its 2004 elections, Namibia failed to attain a 30 percent target women representation.
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