Promoting gender equality

Women in Mozambique marching for their rights. (Photo: Ruben Covane)

Women in Mozambique marching for their rights. (Photo: Ruben Covane)

In 2008 25 civil society organisations and networks in 15 countries came together to form the Gender Links Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol Alliance, after adopting the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. 

Working with partners at local, national, regional and international level, the alliance aims to promote gender equality in and through the media, and in all areas of governance, develop policies and conduct effective campaigns for ending gender violence, HIV, as well as promoting economic and climate justice and LGBTI rights, and build the capacity of women and men to engage critically in democratic processes that advance equality and justice. 

The alliance uses several mechanisms to promote gender equality, including:  evidence gathered through conducting research to identify gender gaps, lobbying and advocacy using mainstream and new media, developing gender action plans in participative ways that bring together a broad cross-section of partners in learning that is applied and supported on-the-job, creating synergies across different sectors to sustain the momentum on closing the gender equality gap, monitoring and evaluating progress using appropriate regional and international instruments and learning, knowledge creation and innovation.  

The alliance works with civil society and government to track progress in implementation of the protocol targets. Since 2009 it has produced a barometer which benchmarks progress by SADC countries towards achieving each of the 28 targets of the SADC Gender Protocol by 2015. The figures speak for themselves. “Over the last three years, the alliance has documented 2 863 case studies of the SADC Gender Protocol@Work demonstrating how women have been empowered to claim their social, political and economic rights through this unique sub-regional instrument,” says Sifisosami Dube, manager of the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance & Partnerships Programme.  

Since the first 2009 barometer 11 countries have undertaken constitutional reviews of some kind that have a bearing on gender equality, she says. “Twelve countries (up from four in 2009) address the contradictions between the Constitution, laws and practices.”  

In 2014, the alliance mounted a campaign to update the protocol, whose 28 targets are aligned to the Millennium Development Goals expiring in 2015, to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Beijing +20 review and the African Agenda 2063.  

Denicah Makota, executive assistant at the Parliamentary consituency Information Centre in Zvimba, a district in Mashonaland in Zimbabwe, first heard about the SADC Gender Protocol in 2012, from the Zvimba Council Gender Focal person Fainesi Shamhu, who had just attended and participated in a National and Regional Gender Justice and Local Government Summit.

“I got a copy of the SADC protocol which I am now using to talk to the communities I work with,” says Makota.  “I believe the protocol has opened up our minds as women. There has been notable change to my life, this council and the community that I can bear testimony to. Due to gender links and gender mainstreaming initiatives, council has taken affirmative action steps to register houses/stands in both spouses’ names. The housing application forms are now sex disaggregated.”