Source: Daily News
It has been an uphill battle for women and civil society organisations in their quest to have the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol on gender and development come to realisation.
The protocol on gender and development is a legal and binding instrument, which was adopted by SADC heads of state and governments in August 2008 with the exception of Botswana and Mauritius.
Out of the 13 member states that signed the protocol, 11 have already ratified it. Now, as the clock ticks towards the 35th SADC Summit billed for Gaborone in August, civil society is up in arms to ensure that the struggle continues by lobbying government to sign the protocol.
The organisations will hold a national summit called SADC Gender Protocol at Work scheduled for May 26-28 where they will showcase their gender work.
The activities will be followed by a series of dialogues with political leaders to educate them on the protocol as well as media briefings for them to appreciate the plight of the civil society on the signing of the protocol.
All these activities will be followed by the regional summit in August. The hope is to see Botswana signing the protocol, prior to the summit, according to Gender Links country manager, Ms Gomolemo Rasesigo.
Recently the civil society organisations engaged with the media to share their perspective of why Botswana should sign the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development as well as create awareness on the importance of this instrument in the advancement of the gender agenda in Botswana.
Gender activists and panelists were of the view that the reasons advanced by government for not signing the protocol were not valid because Botswana subscribes and has acceded to various international, continental and regional gender equality instruments such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Ms Elsie Alexander of Putting Women First Trust, said civil society and government have always had numerous meetings, dialogues, negotiations in order to have a common vision and common agenda in order to influence international agenda to an extent where the African and SADC women perspective is very visible.
"The momentum that drove us was the 1995 Beijing Conference that was significant and led to the historical step towards SADC Gender Protocol," she said.
Ms Alexander said after the Beijing Conference the civil society organisations ensured that consultations were done at community and district levels to ensure no one was left out with regards to gender mainstreaming.
She said even after the advocacy created by the Beijing Conference, governments including Botswana responded positively by bringing on board gender mainstreaming initiatives and even establishing institutional structures, hence Women's Affairs division was established and now Gender Affairs Department.
This, she said was a positive move in as far as gender mainstreaming was concerned. Panelists were of the view that signing the protocol will give the necessary political commitment to domesticate the targets of the protocol, enhance Botswana's democratic and human rights reputation, among others.
Meanwhile the director of Gender Affairs Department, Ms Thapelo Phuthego has emphasised Botswana's political will in addressing issues of gender and development.
In an interview, she noted that Botswana as a founding member of the SADC, participated in the formulation of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development until its conclusion.
However, she said during the formulation process, Botswana registered her concerns, of which some were incorporated in the protocol while others were rejected.
She said Botswana registered her reservations regarding the compelling and prescriptive language of the protocol and that she considered some of the time frames unrealistic and that some of the measures had serious resource implications that the government could not guarantee.
"Another major concern was that the protocol does not have provision for reservation as per the Treaty of the SADC, Article 8 (4) "Membership of SADC shall not be subject to any reservation," she said.
Ms Phuthego however, noted that the protocol is scheduled for review this year, eight years after its inception and that as such, Botswana remains hopeful that this would be a window through which SADC member states will consider her concerns. She further noted that although Botswana has not signed the protocol, she continues to be measured annually on its implementation through the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer.
In this regard, she said the SADC Gender Protocol 2013 Barometer places Botswana on the fifth on the annual tracking report of the country's performance against the 28 targets of the SADC Gender Protocol set for 2015 and has made a remarkable progress against the targets set for 2015.
"In the economy, although women are predominately found in the low paid and unstable informal sector, Botswana continues to have the highest proportion of women in economic decision-making positions within the public sector at about 43 per cent," she said.
Other key successes highlighted by the Barometer, she said include the striking down in 2013 of a discriminatory customary law that only allowed men to inherit the family home and higher proportion of women than men in tertiary institutions.
She said the country has conducted the Violence Against Women Baseline Study and has adopted a composite index to measure Gender Based Violence and that coverage of anti-retrovirals for preventing mother to-child transmission of HIV is higher than 80 per cent.
She further noted that Botswana as a member of the African Union and SADC, is also signatory to the continental and regional instruments including: Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights the Rights of Women in Africa (2003), Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (2004) and the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development (1997) and its Addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children (1998) respectively.
She said by signing these instruments, Botswana made binding international commitments to adhere to the standards laid down in these universal human rights documents.
"This is a clear demonstration that there is political commitment and will for the women's empowerment and development," she noted.
The objectives of the protocol are among others to provide for the empowerment of women, to eliminate discrimination and to achieve gender equality and equity through the development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects.
It also seeks to harmonise the various international, continental and regional gender equality instruments that SADC Member States have subscribed to such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).