SADC Gender and Development Protocol: An Evaluation of Equality, Empowerment and Gender Based Violence in South Africa (2008-2012)

Article excerpt

Southern Africa is likely to confront a myriad of challenges as it attempts to address effectively the needs and aspirations of its hundred million people, 40 per cent of whom live in extreme poverty with per capita incomes ranging from $256 per annum in Zimbabwe to $5099 in Mauritius. The greatest challenge of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) continues to be the need to build a life for its people free from poverty, diseases, human rights abuses, gender inequality and environmental degradation. Gender activists played a lead role in influencing the development and adoption, on the 17 August 2008, of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. In 2005, they undertook comprehensive regional research on sector-specific gender equality issues and gaps. Following the adoption of the SADC Gender and Development Protocol, gender activists came together between 2005 and 2008 to form cross-border and national alliances to undertake a campaign to influence the content of the Protocol, as well as lobby for its adoption. The adoption of the Gender and Development Protocol is one of the fastest in SADC Protocol history. This paper is an evaluation of the SADC Gender and Development Protocol, focusing on gender equality, women's empowerment and the reduction of gender based violence in South Africa. The protocol has a direct bearing on all its signatories in both the "developed" and "developing" countries within the SADC region.

Overview of women in the Southern Africa

The status of women is closely linked to the political context within any country in the world. In Southern Africa, this context includes colonisation, decolonisation, the shift from one party to multiparty politics, liberation struggles from white minority rule and occupation to black majority, as well as the ideological inclination of dominant parties. The reality is that patriarchy and democracy are still comfortable bedfellows (Ndulo, 2009). Patriarchy is not an ideological construct. It is a violent system as experienced vividly in the mindboggling number of women and children who are marginalized in our society. It is a system that entrenches economic inequality, as supported by statistics showing that the féminisation of poverty continues, particularly in rural areas, working class communities and among the unemployed (Ndulo, 2009).

On the health front, the HIV/ AIDS pandemic has become one of the major obstacles to sustainable development. This include erosion of productivity in the work place, food insecurity and the livelihood asset base, decreased access to education and other productive assets thereby intensifying poverty. Women constitute the majority of those infected and affected by the virus, and those whose time and effort are now called on with no compensation and remuneration to care for those living with HIV/AIDS (WHO, 2009).

Like masculinities, femininities are not monolithic so we cannot speak of a position of women in pre-capitalist African societies given the historical and socio-cultural differences that characterise the vast geographical space Africa occupies. However, as Coqueiy-Vidrovich (1994) argues, there are certain main tendencies, mediated by regional differences, which are discernible and common about women's places in pre-capitalist African societies. These prevalent commonalities will be explored at the social, economic and political levels of pre-capitalist African societies. African women have a long histoiy of consciousness and public participation that predate colonialism and nationalism (resistance) politics in the continent. Contraiy to Eurocentric and materialist histoiy on African women (see van Allen, 1976; Wright, 1981), the authority and power of women in most precolonial societies were particularly evident in both the socio-economic and political spheres. Unfortunately, these have been largely neglected and obscured by analysis which emphasised domesticity and the unwaged role of women as primary producers and as subordinates to men in agriculture-based economies (Guy, 1987, Walker, 1990). …