A SNAPSHOT: “What is happening with women’s Participation and Public Administration”

October 11, 2017

Vimbai Chandaengerwa,

Hivos under the Women Empowered for Leadership program held a linking and learning event on the 6th and 7th of October 2017 at the Meikles Hotel in Harare. The Linking and Learning event brought together partners from the implementing countries; Jordan, Lebanon, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe under the theme “Women in Leadership: Working with political parties to promote Gender Equality”. The event was the first of an annual series that seeks to bring implementing and strategic partenrs together in an effort to learn best practises, innovative inteventions and areas of joint implementation. 

The 2-Day event kicked off with a Keynote speech from Emma Kaliya, a renowed Human Rights and Gender/Women Rights activist. Emma played a critical role in the 2009/2014 Election 50/50 Campaign in Malawi that earned her a Drivers of Change Award from Mail and Gurdian Newspaper and Southern Africa Trust in 2009. She has also been involved in Election observer missions in Malawi, Lesotho, Zambia and Ghana under the banner of MESN, SADC and African Union. Emma sits as Chairperson of NGO Gender Coordination Network in Malawi, SADC Gender Protocol Alliance and Femnet.


“In the SADC Region, we have a saying that goes like “What is not counted does not count” It is hard truth that today; many of the same barriers and constraints that were recognized twenty years ago by the Beijing signatories are still in force globally. There are bright highlights where progress has been made. But no country has achieved gender equality. Am sure, presentations from this conference will bear witness to that effect.


The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action established a visionary agenda and set of commitments for advancing the goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of all humanity. This vision remains pertinent today, as we convene here in Harare. Globally, there has been a push back on the rights of women with an increase in repressive laws that fail to recognize the progressive gains made by women


As I reflected on the content of my keynote address, I realized that such kinds of gatherings are most crucial points of reference as we consolidate the status for Gender Equality while looking back to 1997 when the SADC Heads of States and Governments adopted the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development that had a provision of 30% representation of Women in Politics and Decision Making positions . Together with our Governments, we successfully managed to campaign for the elevation of the Declaration to a  Protocol in a legal parlance from Nice to do to a Have to do  adopted in 2008 by HOS with 28 specific targets, one of them being the 50/50 target.  Fast forward to 2016, the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development has been reviewed and aligned to the SDGs, Beijing +20 and Agenda 2063. 


Ladies and Gentlemen, SADC is the only region in the world that has brought together all existing continental and international instruments for the promotion of gender equality into one legally binding Protocol with specific indicators to be achieved by 2030. The Protocol is also unique in the extent to which governments and civil society have worked together from the crafting of the instrument, to adoption, ratification and now implementation.


Gender Data in the SADC Region

Since 2009, the Alliance with the technical support of Gender links, in partnership with Member States, has produced an annual regional and 15 country Barometers, tracking progress towards the attainment of gender equality. The experience of the last eight years shows the enormous value and mobilising power of specific targets. Gains have been made in areas like education and women’s political representation. With an average of 27% women in parliament and 24% in local government, the SADC region comes third only to the Nordic countries and Americas with regard to women’s political representation. Seven SADC countries now have constitutional, legislated or voluntary quotas to advance gender parity. The average representation of women in these countries is 38%, compared to 17% in countries with no quota. 


Despite progress made Women’s equal representation and effective participation in leadership and decision-making remains below parity in most countries over the years. It is undisputable fact that “Special measures” and conducive electoral systems give the greatest assurance for increasing women’s representation from local to national levels of governance. Countries with a Proportional Representation (PR )or mixed system and quotas have higher percentages of women (36% at local and 42% at national) compared to 9% at local and 17% at national in the FPTP system (with no quota).


The average women’s representation in parliament in SADC remains at 27%; four percentage points higher than the global average of 23% and 3% ahead of the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 24%. Women’s representation in cabinet in the region is low at 23%. This is also true in local government (24%). Four countries held elections in SADC from August 2016 to June 2017 including South Africa (Local), Zambia (Tripartite), Seychelles (Parliament) and Lesotho (Parliament). Seychelles dropped in the global rankings of women in parliament from 4th in 2016 to 87th after the September 2016 elections that saw a change in political party leadership and formation of a coalition government. Six more countries are due to hold elections in 2017/2018: Angola (National), DRC, Madagascar, Swaziland and Zimbabwe (Tripartite), with Mozambique and Lesotho having Local Government Elections


SADC is more than three percentage points ahead of the 23.4% global average and Sub-Saharan Africa. SADC is well ahead of Asia, the Arab States and the Pacific. Asia experienced a three percentage point improvement while the Arab States and Pacific both dropped in their averages in the past two years. SADC’s ranking compared with the Americas dropped by one percentage point. As a region, SADC now ranks third in the world (after the Nordic countries and the Americas) with South Africa topping the list for Parliament at 42% and Lesotho 49% in Local Government and DRC at the lowest level of 8% and 6% respectively.


It is our desire that SADC emerges as a leader especially as far as gender equality and women’s empowerment are concerned. It is worth noting that  the gathering here for the next two days is therefore a crucial one as it will help in re-strategize and reprioritise towards a count down to 2030, in line with the global agenda in order to keep the momentum with Voice and control as key watchwords….”

Read full Speech here