By Thenjiwe Sisimayi from the Council of Ministers meeting of the Southern African Development Community.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Hon. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who chairs the regional Council of Ministers, told the Council meeting in Windhoek that significant progress has been made on gender equality in the region, but more needs to be done.
"I wish to stress that SADC has made great and recognisable strides to women empowerment in the region," Nandi-Ndaitwah said, noting that the representation of women in various positions of influence and decision-making has improved in most of the 16 Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The SADC Council of Ministers, which usually meets twice a year in February/March and August/September to review implementation of regional programmes, projects and activities and approve the budget for the SADC Secretariat, was preceded by meetings of senior officials representing the 16 member states.
However, during the meeting, Nandi-Ndaitwah said that more still needs to be done to achieve gender equality and equity in SADC to sustain and build on the progress made in empowering women.
Namibia leads the region with the highest number of women in the National Assembly at 45%.
The SADC Executive Secretary, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, supported this assessment.
"While we are making significant efforts in achieving gender equality and equity, more still needs to be done for us to realise our gender parity aspirations," Dr. Tax said.
She called on SADC Member States to strive to address the barriers that hinder the acceleration of gender equality in the region.
The meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers on 15 and 16 March came just a week after International Women's Day.
March has been designated Women's Month and includes commemoration of International Women's Day on 8 March, which provides an opportunity for the global community to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while taking note of the barriers that hinder the acceleration of gender equality.
The theme for the 2019 International Women's Day commemoration was "Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change".
This theme for the commemoration echoes the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held from 11-22 March at the United Nations headquarters in New York, United States.
The priority theme for the CSW63 is "Social Protection Systems, Access to Public Services and Sustainable Infrastructure for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls", while its review theme is "Women's Empowerment and the Link to Sustainable Development."
Southern African News Features are produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC). Website and Virtual Library for Southern Africa at www.sardc.net