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Assessment of the women's movement in southern Africa
Women in Development Southern Africa Awareness (WIDSAA)
Extracted from Gender and Development Exchange Quarterly Newsletter Issue 40 (October-December 2006)
January 2007

A critical assessment of the women's movement conducted in 13 SADC countries has revealed that the movement has been losing its vibrancy since 1995.

At a roundtable meeting on "Reinvigorating and Sustaining the Women's Movement in Southern Africa", participants committed to embark on strategies to rekindle the movement.

The strategies include broadening the constituency of the women's movement at the national and regional levels, enhancing the visibility of the movement and its successes, as well as reviewing the potential of establishing a regional women's fund.

More than 100 delegates from the southern African region, representing organisations and institutions that work on gender justice and the empowerment of women, met from 9 - 11 October 2006 in Johannesburg, South Africa to review the status of the movement and address challenges contributing to its weakening.

The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), in partnership with the SADC Parliamentary Forum, the Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Trust (WLSA), the Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS), and the Women's Network Programme of the Open Society Institute convened the two-day round table meeting.

Reduced donor support towards organisations working on women's rights and empowerment issues was cited as one of the challenges contributing to the weakening of the movement's vibrancy.

The majority of the respondents interviewed during a research conducted in 2005 cited resource mobilisation as the biggest challenge to the vibrancy and sustenance of the women's movement and programmes towards the promotion of gender justice and women's empowerment.

TheConsultancies cove red Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

TheThe loss of vibrancy also arises partly from the movement's pre-1995 success in working with governments to ratify and agree to international conventions and declarations, and adopting policies for women's advancement and equal rights.

The most of the respondents indicated that their organisations are receiving less funding than five years ago, and that it is more difficult to raise funds now for programmes than it was 10 years ago.

The Since the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China, southern Africa has moved faster than any other region in establishing progressive policy frameworks and mechanisms to promote gender justice, equity and the advancement of women.

The frameworks include the 1997 SADC Declaration on Gender and Development, and Addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children in 1998, and the establishing of gender machineries at the regional and national levels. The region is currently moving towards the adoption of a Protocol on Gender and Development.

The meeting noted that while the region must celebrate the successes on the establishment of positive gender policy frameworks, the women's movement must not relax as there are still many challenges in ensuring that the commitments enshrined in the good policy frameworks are realised.

The vibrancy of the Women's movement was assessed according to the following criteria.

Women's movement - The women's movement is defined as a movement to secure legal, economic, and social equality for women.

Conceptual paper on the women's movement in Southern Africa by Professor Rudo Gaidzanwa, OSISA, 2006

  • Ability to push forward with the women's rights agenda . The effectiveness of strategies in realising the women's rights agenda and in playing a spearheading, challenging and watchdog/monitoring role.
  • Level of feminist orientation. The extent of recognition and action on issues of gender discrimination, and structural gender inequality.
  • Organisational appropriateness. Reflecting women's aspirations, the representativeness of organisations, their level of internal democratic management and their degree of autonomy from other organisations.

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