The SADC Gender Protocol has been a significant instrument in addressing gender equality gaps in different sectors in the Southern African Region.
With the initial targets having been set on a 2015 deadline, a review of the successes and failures is only necessary if the region is to plan efficiently for the next steps to be taken.They key focus of the SADC Gender Protocol includes Constitutional and legal Affairs, Governance, Education, Economy, Gender based violence, Health, HIV and AIDS, Peace building and Media.
A lot of work has been done in monitoring the implementation of the Protocol at both national and regional level using the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer. It can be noted that a lot of work still needs to be done in order to achieve gender parity in different countries including Zimbabwe.
During an review meeting organised by the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) in collaboration with Gender Links, SADC Gender Protocol Alliance and the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, representatives of various women’s groups discussed challenges and successes of previous years and agreed on key issues to work on, post 2015.
Virginia Muwanigwa, the Director of Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC) led the ‘Post 2015 SADC Gender Protocol Review’ during which she stated that they have been using a practical citizen score card in order to measure perceptions on the implementation of the Gender Protocol. The score card contained questions which people had to give responses to.
“ We asked respondents questions about certain issues in the protocol and whether they felt there has been progress. The perceptions of citizens on progress have been increasing especially in Zimbabwe”, Muwanigwa told those in attendance.
She also highlighted that the campaign against child marriages was one of the major successes especially after the ruling given by the Zimbabwe High court in this year which was against early marriages. However, the customary laws have not been amended to follow the legal age for marriage unlike in Malawi where the legal age for marriage is now legally set at 18 years.
Other successes in the SADC Region include an increase in the proportion of women in parliament to 27% from 25% a figure which is beyond the global average of 22%. In Zimbabwe, women currently occupy a third of seats in parliament, an increase which was made possible by the quota system which allowed some seats to be reserved for women. Although the increase reflects positively on the country’s image, it has been deemed inadequate.
In health, there has been a reduction on new HIV/AIDS infections which include mother to child infections. On the downside, gender based violence has been on the rise with women being the most victims.
In Zimbabwe, customary laws and practices hinder progress in the fight against gender based violence. According to Muwanigwa, customary laws in Zimbabwe have a bearing on how people behave towards each other as men and women.
Her argument was that, “In Zimbabwe, the written and unwritten customary laws determine behaviour and they have more primacy in our lives. We need to change some of the practices.”
Gender based violence in all its forms remains one of the main reasons women the SADC Region are failing to rise up and take responsibility.
Another major cause of concern has been that, there has not been any country in the SADC Region which has reached the 50- 50 parity of equal representation in key structures. Even though Zimbabwe has adopted a National Gender Policy which is in line with the SADC Gender Protocol, women still lag behind in occupying influential positions in politics and the private sector.
Patricia Made, a Communications Consultant argued that the media is also responsible for perpetuating negative stereotypes of women who aspire to become politicians.
‘’The media is lampooning and sexualising women in politics and this is hurting the representation of women in politics if they are being degraded. They do not quote women when they are saying things of substance,” she explained.
More work has to be done to strengthen advocacy by pressure groups to lobby for gender mainstreaming in all spaces. In addition, gender machinery should be strengthened so that there is progress in the implementation of the SADC gender protocol. There should be easy access to information so that people are knowledgeable of key thematic areas and the information should also be easy to comprehend.
In Zimbabwe, more should be done to allow women to gain the highest positions in politics. The economic environment should also be conducive for women to have access to opportunities and resources just like their male counterparts.
Summary of the ‘POST 2015 Framework’ in the country context
With the thematic areas in mind, the overview was concluded by setting targets on what the country needed to achieve post 2015.
The following critical emerging issues which need to be addressed in relation to the Zimbabwean context, were agreed on guiding points to a plan of action.
- The law on age of consent to marriage should be aligned with the constitution
- Provision of a specific gender based violence act in public spaces
- Enactment of a trafficking of persons act
- Advocacy on laws about non communicable diseases affecting women
- Harmonisation of service provision to ensure there a 50- 50 parity by the year 2030
- Financing for development in order to curb corruption
- Enactment of an ICT policy to address gender based violence using social media
- Explaining and communicating climate change issues to rural folks
- Enabling widows and widowers to have equal access to resources and property
Those in attendance of the review meeting were urged to take action to ensure that the critical areas were addressed in the policy making and advocacy processes. The review was attended by over 150 delegates including women’s rights and gender activists, government and civil society representatives.
Main Image: Pat Made (holding paper) making a point during the recently help SADC Gender Protocol Review meeting.
All images by Sharon Sigauke