International Women’s Day – March 8, 2021
By Nyarai Kampilipili
As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, it is time to also reflect on the progress made by the global community to promote gender equality and parity.
While significant progress has been made to facilitate gender parity in political decision-making positions, there is still a lot more needed to attain the target of 50:50 representation.
Furthermore, the pace at which the progress is being made is worrisome.
For example, only three countries in the world have reached the 50:50 target. These are Rwanda at 61.3 percent, Cuba (53.4 percent) and the United Arab Emirates (50 percent).
The rest have not reached the target and as of January 2021, women only accounted for 25.5 percent of global parliamentary seats, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women make up 25 percent of the total parliamentary seats.
In the Southern African Development Community (SADC), progress towards the equal participation of women in decision-making positions, particularly in Parliament, has also been slow in some member states and significant in others.
During the period 1997-2005 when the target was 30 percent, only three countries Mozambique, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania had reached the target in parliament, at 34.8 percent, 32.8 percent and 30.4 percent, respectively.
In 2016, the target was revised to 50:50 by 2030 in line with other global targets and only South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique are closest to achieving the target, at 45.8 percent, 44.2 percent 42.4 percent, respectively.
In recent elections held in the region between 2019 and 2020, it is apparent that the majority of member states will not reach gender parity in political and decision-making positions by 2030 if the trajectory continues.
In a statement to commemorate International Women’s Day, the SADC Secretariat said there is need to continue promoting gender equality and parity to ensure sustainable development.
Bold decisive action across the SADC region is required to bring women into decision-making spaces in large numbers and as equal partners and beneficiaries so that we can achieve an equitable & inclusive region envisioned in the SADC Vision 2050.
SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said women are capable to play an active role in development.
I am confident that the region will have more female leaders, and more contributions to our development efforts by both girls and boys, women and men.
The existence and functioning of parliaments without a significant proportion of women contributes to less sustainable development globally and regionally.
Women offer different perspectives and interests in the decision-making process and have unique experiences which are often overlooked due to under-representation.
Available statistics clearly illustrate the limited representation and participation of women in structures of power and decision-making at all levels of society and that there can be no sustainable democracy without gender equality and empowerment of women.
If women continue to be marginalised in positions of decision-making, the world will continue to miss out on its development potentials.
Underrepresentation in decision-making continues to prevent women from developing and influencing gender-responsive solutions that contribute to sustainable development.
While raising numbers is a primary concern, it is equally important that once in leadership positions, women use their positions of influence to contribute substantively to the advancement of gender equality, a process that can help fast-track the attainment of the 50:50 target by 2030.
It is therefore important for SADC member states to develop and strengthen efforts towards gender equality and women empowerment.
The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development opens a unique possibility for member states to intensify measures for strategic implementation of the gender commitments in collaboration with all stakeholders from civil society, private sector, communities and other development partners.
Gender equality in politics is not only about the access of women to leadership positions, but also about equal opportunities in political competition.
For southern Africa to achieve gender equality in leadership, a level playing field for both men and women must be provided and member states should safeguard the achievements already made in gender parity and develop innovative measures to fast track equal representation.
Celebrated annually on March 8, International Women’s Day 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 this year’s commemoration is “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”.
The theme encourages women in leadership to play a role in shaping the pivotal decisions that progress the advancement of women and attainment of gender equality, particularly in a COVID-19 affected world. – sardc.net