The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Protocol@Work summit came to a colourful and pleasant close last night with the awarding of the best practices that demonstrate commitment to advancing gender equality across the SADC region.
Dr Andrew Nikiindo, Vice Rector at the Polytechnic of Namibia called winners and participants at the gala dinner to reflect on the journey they travelled to reach the regional summit stage. He urged all participants to carry on their fight for a gender balanced society with more zeal.
"Today is an important day for you because you have been part of an important journey, these awards show the important role that you have played and are still expected to play," stressed Nikiindo.
Speaking at the same event, Professor Muna Ndulo, Chairperson of the Gender Links Board called upon the general community to actively play its part in eradicating all forms of violence against women.
Ndulo added that culture should not be used as an excuse for gender discrimination. He explained that culture is not static and changes with time and society is supposed to accept the changes that come.
It was all song and dance as the winners of all the categories were called up to the stage to collect their awards at the end of the gala dinner. A total of 24 winners and 18 runners-up received certificates of recognition handed by Honourable Minister for Gender in Mauritius, Mireille Martin and the Honourable Minister for Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Chief Thesele Maseribane.
The elated winners, when reached to comment on the summit and being eventual winners were full of nothing but praises for Gender Links and the participants they competed with.
"I am so proud of everyone, winners or not. Everyone who came to present here is a driver of change and has contributed immensely to this summit. Everyone is a winner. I am overwhelmed at the honour of winning because competition was stiff and I did not think I would make it, but I am glad I did," said Glen Mhango from Polokwane who won in the leadership category.
The winner in the television category, Gilbert Macuacua, said he was equally surprised to emerge as the winner because every presentation was great. He said it feels good to be a winner and that he wants to continue empowering and assist in the fight for gender equality post-summit.
Even those who did not win still found a reason to celebrate. Patience Magagula from Swaziland who presented in the media content category said the whole experience was amazing and she feels great despite not winning anything.
"Being present at this summit is an empowering experience. The work I did back in Swaziland is going to help a lot of people who are survivors of gender based violence (GBV) and I am honoured to have been awarded the opportunity to share the case study with representatives from 13 SADC countries," Magagula said.
Bennedict Bennett, the country Board member for Swaziland, said the summit has achieved its goals and he could not be happier. He said the summit managed to bring together over 400 delegates, gender activists, and drivers of change, media, government and faith-based organisations from the Southern African region to showcase best practices, which has proven that Gender Links is indeed on the right track.
Zinhle Mkhari is a student at the University of Swaziland and Mulemwa Thomas Mulemwa is a student at the University of Dar es Salaam. This article is part of the GL News Service special coverage of the SADC Gender Protocol Summit underway at Kopanong Hotel and Conference Centre in Johanesburg, South Africa, offering fresh views on everday news.