JOHANNESBURG - The Sadc gender protocol summit opened here yesterday, with women saying the long fought for 50:50 gender campaign is still not within grasp.
The summit, which is being hosted by Gender Links and Southern Africa Protocol Alliance and has attracted over 350 delegates from Sadc member States, and is calling on governments to honour their commitment towards 50:50 gender representation.
Southern Africa has experienced mixed performance in terms of facilitating gender parity in political decision-making positions, and a lot more needs to be done if the region is to attain the target of 50:50 representation by 2015.
So far, none of the Sadc member states has managed to reach the 50:50 target.
Performance in promoting participation of women in decision-making structures has been mixed across the region, with some countries doing well and others doing badly.
Running under the theme, “50/50 and demanding a strong post-2015 agenda”, the event comes 15 months before the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) deadline.
Zimbabwe in it’s last election managed to record an increase from 18 percent to 34 percent women representation in Parliament.
In Senate, women account for 48 percent but there was a drop in the figures for local government to 16,7 percent from 19 percent in the previous election.
Tsitsi Mhlanga of Women in Politics Support Unit (Wipsu) attributes the positive development to the new Zimbabwe Constitution which promotes gender equity.
There are eight more elections in Sadc before the 2015 deadline.
In South Africa, which recently held elections, only two women are Premiers.
Mfanozelwe Shozi from the commission on gender equality in South Africa said the ministry of women affairs had been incorporated in the president’s office but there was need to have legislation which pushes for gender equity.
Emma Kaliya of Malawi NGO Gender Coordination Network said: “I’m sad to hear that South Africa is striding back from 50 percent.
“In Malawi we lost the position of president and in parliament we are sliding again.”
Kaliya, who is chairperson of the Alliance which worked to ensure the protocol was developed, could not hide her disappointment with the results of the elections recently held in Malawi.
“Is the Sadc region serious about this 50/50?” she queried.
Colleen Lowe, Gender Links chief executive officer, said there was need to reward member states who have made positive strides towards achieving gender equality.
At least 20 high-level delegates including Mireille Martin, minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare; and Chief Thesele John Maseribane, Lesotho’s minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, also attended the opening ceremony.
The summit noted the increase in the number of women appointed as deputy ministers although the number of women in public office had dropped.
Martin said: “Mauritius has made huge strides in women elected in local government because of gender neutral provisions in the local government Act.”