By Lahja Nashuuta
Windhoek - Namibia and Seychelles are the latest countries to sign the Revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. The two-member states appended their signatures during the just-ended 38th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit that was held in Windhoek.
The Revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development provides for the empowerment of women, elimination of discrimination, and the promotion of gender equality and equity through gender-responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects.
They approved the revision and sought to align it with provisions of other instruments relating to sustainable management of the environment as well as the SADC industrialisation management of the environment. The protocol came into force in 2013 following the ratification of the instrument by the requisite two-thirds of member states.
The protocol was then revised in 2016 to align objectives to various global targets and emerging issues such as United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa and the African Union Agenda 2063.
President of Namibia, Hage Geingob and Seychelles President Danny Faure signed and acceded to SADC Protocol on Gender, bringing the number of countries that have signed the amendment to 12. Colleen Lowe Morna, Executive Director at Gender Links, said the last two countries’ signatures to the updated post-2015 SADC Gender Protocol was the only barrier for it to come into force.
According to Article 22 (11) of the SADC Treaty and Article 38 (3) of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, an amendment to a protocol after it has entered into force shall be adopted by a decision of three quarters of member states who are party to the protocol.
Other member states that have signed the agreement are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kingdom of eSwatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe while Malawi and South Africa are yet to sign the amendment.
The remaining two member states, the Union of Comoros and Mauritius, cannot sign the amendment as they are not parties to the protocol. Comoros is a new member of SADC after it was formally admitted into SADC by the 38th SADC Summit held on 17-18 August and cannot sign the amendment as it is not yet party to the protocol. Mauritius is not party to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development because it is not in line with the civil code of the country, which allows children to marry below the age 18, but above 16, with parental consent.
Some of these global targets are contained in the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the African Union Agenda 2063, and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
SDG Goal 5, for example, deals with the Promotion of Gender Equality and Empowerment of all Women and Girls, and sets nine targets to be met by the global community by 2030.
The targets include ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls; elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual exploitation; elimination of all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation; and ensuring the full and effective participation of women and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.
Other SDG Goal 5 targets include universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action.
In addition, the revised protocol captures emerging issues such as climate change and child marriages.