The Namibian (Windhoek)

Southern Africa: SADC Gender Protocol Comes Into Force

THE SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, aimed at promoting women's empowerment and eliminating gender-based discrimination through the achievement of gender equity, came into force at the annual meeting of gender ministers in Mozambique earlier this month.

This means that two-thirds of SADC member countries - including Namibia - have ratified the protocol.

The meeting of ministers stressed the importance of including the protocol in national laws for it to have any impact.

Gender equity targets set out by the protocol include the achievement of 50% representation by women and men in politics and decision-making by 2015, which is in line with a decision reached by SADC heads of state and the African Union.

The gender and women's affairs ministers at the Mozambique meeting also approved a proposal to develop an addendum to the protocol to accommodate gender and climate change. This is in response to an observation that women and children are more affected by climate change than men.

According to a SADC Gender Protocol 2012 Barometer that was released in December last year and written by Colleen Lowe Morna, Loveness Jambaya Nyakujarah and Lucia Makamure, Namibia has made "remarkable progress" towards meeting the 28 targets of the gender protocol.

According to this barometer, Namibia is the first SADC country to have developed, costed and aligned its gender action plan to the protocol and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

It has also reviewed its national gender policy.

But, said the writers of the barometer, huge challenges remain.

According to the SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI) introduced in 2011, Namibia at 75% scored one point below the index, and Namibian citizens scored an overall 60% down. Fifty-eight percent males rated the country lower than females.

The country is however rated as the fifth best-performing country in the region in the health, education, HIV and AIDS and media freedom sectors.

There are currently 42% women councillors at local authority level, and 25% women parliamentarians. Twenty percent of Cabinet members are women.

Namibia is also said to fail to address contradictions between formal and often discriminatory customary laws. Women were also found to be paid less than men in the informal sector, while Namibia has one of the lowest proportions of women employed in the formal sector in the region.

The high prevalence of gender-based violence is another stain on the country's gender equity rating.

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