BENEDICT TEMBO, Ezulwini, SWAZILAND
TH E United Nations Womenâ€™s global HeForShe campaign has gained momentum in southern Africa. This follows the signing up, as gender champions, by two senior members of the Southern African Development Community- Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) last Thursday in Ezulwini, Swaziland during the Regional Womenâ€™s Parliamentary Caucus on the sidelines of the 39th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC PF.
The two are vice-president Joseph Njobvuyalema and secretary-general Esau Chiviya. So far, the HeForShe movement has been launched in various African countries, with President Lungu and Malawi President being some of the heads of States and government from the SADC region who have signed up as champions.
HeForShe is a solidarity movement which encourages men and boys across the world to speak up and act against the inequalities faced by women and girls.
The campaign builds upon the existing work of like-minded women and men who support gender equality, and unites these efforts towards a global goal.
Dr Chiviya said the sign-up event came about following an agreement between UN Women and SADC-PF secretariat to partner together in areas of mutual concern to enhance our development efforts.
â€œThis memorandum of understanding (MoU) which was signed in December 2015 provides a framework of collaboration in order to enhance SADC-PFâ€™s initiatives on promoting gender equality and womenâ€™s empowerment in political and socioeconomic sectors in the SADC countries,â€ Dr Chiviya said.
He said at SADC level, is on track on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
â€œIt is heartening to see the increase in female representation in decision-making bodies such as the SADC Parliamentary Forum. Our task is to make the planet 50/50 by 2030 dream come true,â€ he said.
Dr Chiviya said having transitioned from the Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, with a stand-alone goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls – and over 40 gender-related targets across all the other goals , the SADC-PF is optimistic that with parliamentariansâ€™ support, there will be substantive progress.
He explained that if any development process is to be effective and sustainable, it has to be owned by national stakeholders, and urged all countries within our region and beyond to integrate the SDGs, especially goal 5, into national and regional development plans.
Dr Chiviya said recognising that the equal representation of women and men in political decision-making processes is a democratic imperative, the SADC Parliamentary Forum launched the Regional Womenâ€™s Parliamentary Caucus.
The RWPC provides an established institutional mechanism to monitor political commitments by member states, to promote the participation and representation of women in positions of power and decision-making.
To this end, the RWPC has adopted strategies, which include persuasive advocacy and lobbying approaches, to impact on electoral processes, political party practices and cultures in order to enhance representation of women in parliaments.
The RWPC continues to lobby for the achievement of the 50 percent benchmark of women in political decision-making in accordance with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
â€œAs the SADC-PF moves toward its ultimate goal of being transformed into the regionâ€™s parliament, it is expected that member parliaments and parliamentarians will play their part to see that the processes and commitments are kept on track.
As stated in our current strategic plan, SADC-PF will continue to strive to ensure greater awareness of the policies and practices to advance gender equality and equity and the inclusion and empowerment of vulnerable, minority and special groups in the business of parliament,â€ Dr Chiviya said.
Anne Githuku-Shongwe, Un Women Representative For South Africa Multi-Country Office, said that when they launched the campaign, they aspired to reach 100,000 men through HeforShe. In the first three days of the campaign, they reached 100,000 men and boys.
â€œMore inspiring than that number was the fact that these 100,000 individuals were from across the entire world – in those three days, at least one man in every single country but two (North Korea and Madagascar) had pledged to be a HeforShe, standing up for gender equality,â€ Ms Githuku-Shongwe said.
She added: â€œWe then moved our target to 1 billion. Currently, we have 915,000 men and women signed up to the HeForShe movement.â€
Through the adoption of this campaign by SADC-PF, the UN Women hope that they can jointly generate awareness that educates men and boys – both regionally and nationally.
They also hope to build advocacy around the existing strategies and work done both regionally and at the national level on gender equality and womenâ€™s empowerment; support action to harness the enthusiasm and momentum at the grass-roots level across the world and translate it into real progress.
Mr Njobvuyalema said within the SADC region, they continue to promote accountability to the Maputo protocol of the African Union and are leveraging on the AU declaration for 2016 as the Year of Human Rights, with particular focus on the rights of women.
He said the recently approved SDGs, especially Goal 5 on â€œAchieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girlsâ€, and the other gender-related targets, have opened up new opportunities to reconnect, recommit, and mobilise political will and public support for womenâ€™s economic empowerment.
â€œThe SDGs give us an opportune space and time to influence the governance processes so that gender equality is integrated meaningfully in our policies and their implementation. We need to leverage on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to change the game for gender equality, womenâ€™s empowerment and womenâ€™s rights. At SADC level with support from UN Women, we are finalising the review of the SADC-PF protocol in line with the SDGs,â€ Mr Njobvuyalema said.
He said the SADC PF will also be working with governments in the region to promote accountability to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60) Resolution on HIV, women and girls.
BENEDICT TEMBO, Ezulwini, SWAZILAND