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16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, 2007 - Index of articles
the teeth back in the Sadc gender protocol
Extracted from Pambazuka News Issue 330
the index of articles on 16 Days of Activism
Protocol on Gender and Development, due to have been adopted
by Heads of State at their meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, in August,
has been deferred until the next annual summit to be held in South
Africa in mid-2008. The latest draft of the Protocol has had huge
chunks removed and concrete commitments softened.
Rising to the
challenge, during 16 Days of Activism these activists will be picking
up the pace in a campaign to see that a draft Protocol on Gender
and Development has the needed commitment and detail necessary to
make it a meaningful document in promoting true equality.
SADC is arguably
one of the few regions that have done some groundbreaking policy
work to institutionalise gender equality. Aside from adoption of
a Declaration on Gender and Development in 1997 and an Addendum
to address violence against women and children in 1998, all 14 SADC
states have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms
of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
gender equality policy scenario in SADC should lay the basis for
a smooth transition from having non-binding SADC instruments to
achieve gender equality, such as the 1997 Declaration, to a legally
binding one, right? Wrong, as the most recent SADC Heads of State
The baby was
almost thrown out with the bath water, when the draft Protocol failed
to be adopted, despite having been approved by SADC Gender Ministers,
as well as Justice Ministers, the latter having reviewed it in an
extraordinary meeting just weeks prior to the August Summit.
of the proposed SADC Gender Protocol is to consolidate all the various
commitments made by SADC governments to achieve gender equality
and women's empowerment, in an "omnibus" document.
This document will legally bind member states, and provide a framework
with time bound targets, for assessing progress and evaluating their
If adopted it
will be the first document of its kind in any sub-region. Technically,
a lot of work went into the preparation of the pre-Summit draft,
including input by an intergovernmental and civil society Task Force
set up by the SADC Secretariat under the leadership of the SADC
Gender Unit, as well as portfolio SADC Ministers.
Members of the
Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance, a coalition of 16 organisations
working on women's empowerment at national and regional levels,
also made expert input into the drafts. Coordinated by Gender Links,
this Alliance includes a wide range of organisations from across
the region, such as the Botswana Congress of NGOs (BOCONGO), the
Federation of African Media Women (FAMW) - SADC, Gender and
Media Southern Africa Network (GEMSA), Malawi Council of Churches,
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), and Women in Law in Southern
What is worrying
is that the revised draft that came out of the Summit is substantially
different from the pre-Summit draft in many respects. Some of the
core issues that will, if effectively tackled, result in considerable
positive impact on (currently unequal) gender relations and women's
full equality have either been removed, or modified.
compromises the potential effectiveness of the proposed Protocol,
and, interestingly, even limiting the potential to achieve other
commitments already made by SADC governments. For example, the text
of the new draft creates loopholes to the adherence by governments
to time bound targets, in line with commitments already made in
global development blue prints such as the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs). Words like "ensure" are changed to "endeavour".
gaps in the new SADC Gender Protocol draft include excluding reference
to groups that suffer marginalisation or exclusion and limiting
constitutional review processes that will eradicate discrimination
and marginalisation of women. The new draft is missing entire sections
from areas such as health, HIV and AIDS, education and institutional
such as HIV and AIDS are cross-referenced with documents that are
either not legally binding such as the Maseru Declaration on HIV
and AIDS or do not take into consideration gender issues, such as
the SADC Protocol on Education and Training.
to ensuring that where there is a contradiction between customary
law and Constitutional provisions for gender equality the latter
takes precedence have been removed. This leaves wide open the dual
legal system that daily undermines the rights of women in the region,
especially poor women in rural areas.
for the next SADC Heads of State Summit, the Gender Protocol Alliance,
currently coordinated by Gender Links, is developing a position
paper motivating for a redrafting of the text of the Protocol in
order that it a meaningful document that is grounded in women's
rights, and in line also with already existing SADC gender equality
met in Johannesburg on 9 November 2007 to review the status of the
Gender Protocol adoption process. The meeting focused on action
that civil society can take to facilitate an essentially government
process that seems to have been drawn back sharply.
realise that the adoption of the Protocol requires greater political
engagement, particularly at national level, to influence the spheres
of power with responsibility for committing governments to act.
Further, engaging with different spheres of influence at national
and regional level is priority on the agenda, including Ministers
of Gender, Justice, and Foreign Affairs, parliamentarians, seniour
government officials, and other strategic activists.
At the core
of action by gender activists is also to mobilise from the grassroots,
so that there is popular support and a critical mass that recognises
the value of the Protocol and sees its adoption and implementation
as a critical factor in achieving equality and positive transformation
for all. Thus, engaging potentially powerful sectors such as faith
based organisations, local government actors, and others with their
fingers on the pulse of community action and change will make significant
inroads in ensuring multi-layered support.
The sum total
of these proposed actions should turn the tide towards adoption
of a SADC Gender Protocol that we can all identify and work with
to raise the bar in addressing women's rights in this region.
Once ending gender violence becomes a legal obligation, maybe then
our countries and communities will be safer places for everyone.
* Pamela Mhlanga
is the Deputy Director of Gender Links.
This article is part of a series produced by the Gender Links Opinion
and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender
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