PATSON PHIRI, Lusaka
JANET Kabwe has no idea where to get her transport money for a bus fare to Chongwe. She has been frequenting town in search of a job but this time around she has a date with the human resource manager at Mika Convention Centre.
Before she got married to Kabwe Mukuka, Janet was on a payroll as distributor at British American Tobacco but soon after the honeymoon, her newfound lover demanded that she hands over her official car keys and a letter to her employers.
The letter must bear her names addressed to employers announcing her decision to resign her job.
Unfortunately, the husband collapsed and died in August 2010 leaving her with a two-month-old baby girl to nurse.
Janet had fallen prey to incessant demands that she must stay home to allow Mukuka raise money for home necessities.
In her understanding, the husband had made a decision that her role was limited to looking after their home in Lusaka’s Roma suburb area and nurse their new baby girl. That was then.
She now curses that decision but it’s rather late. Her baby is no longer at school and she puts up in the rambling Garden township. Having two meals in a day is a privilege. The tomatoes she sells have recently faced untold competition. She and her child are barely surviving.
Janet is a victim of a gender-based faulty decision deeply engraved in an old school of thought that places a woman home and the husband at work to raise money.
It is a sort of thought shared by a typical African girl-for-home society. But there is now growing hope for women in that state of environment as governments in the region are increasingly speaking the gender language.
This problem appears to be firming on the radar of many countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that are now turning to the forward-looking Gender Protocol and other continental documents that speak to affirmative action for women.
One such document is the Revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development which 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.
The protocol was revised last year so that its objectives are aligned to various global targets and emerging issues.
Some of these global targets are contained in the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
SDG 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.
These 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 exploiting, among others.
The review also took into account issues of 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.
SDG 5 includes 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, and the outcome documents of their review conferences.
It has taken on board long-standing proposals for the formation of a committee to undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.
The revised protocol also captures emerging issues such as climate change and child marriages. Child marriages are one of the contributing factors to the slow progress in the reduction of maternal mortality, but the definition of a child by age remains controversial.
The revised protocol that was approved by the 36th SADC Summit held in Swaziland in August 2016 sought to align the protocol with provisions of other instruments such as those relating to sustainable management of the environment, and the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap.
Until recently, Botswana had not signed the SADC protocol on gender while the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mauritius signed but have not ratified the regional legislation. That history is becoming ancient as the number of countries signing up for gender-focused laws gains momentum.
Only last week, Botswana announced that it is ready to sign a regional protocol that advances gender equality and equity. This signals another important step towards the empowerment of women and sustainable development in southern Africa.
Botswana is one of the two member states of the SADC that have not appended their signature to the Protocol on Gender and Development, but the government released a statement on April 27 stating that it has decided to sign the instrument, which was recently revised post-2015.
“The Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, which is responsible for, amongst others, promotion of gender equality and women empowerment, wishes to inform citizens of Botswana and the public at large that the Government of Botswana has taken a decision to sign the Revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development,” reads part of the statement.
Botswana said the “decision to sign comes after the review of the Protocol as per Article 38 of the Protocol and Article 22 of the SADC Treaty, which sets the procedure for review.”
“The Revised Protocol’s targets are more realistic thereby taking into consideration Botswana’s concerns. Furthermore, the Protocol has been harmonised with other SADC instruments to optimise resources and avoid duplication,” the statement further reads in part.
Botswana said while the country was “not party to the Protocol, the Government remained committed to its ideals and purpose”.
The announcement by Botswana to sign a regional protocol means that Mauritius is the only SADC member state that is yet to sign the protocol.
The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development entered into force in 2013 following the ratification of the instrument by the requisite two-thirds of Member States.
A total of 11 SADC Member States – Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – ratified it.
The DRC and Madagascar signed the protocol but are yet to ratify it.
The process of approval of a regional legal instrument requires, first, signing, and then ratification, a process that differs from country to country.
A protocol “enters into force” following ratification by two-thirds of SADC member states or at least 10 countries. This advances the regional law from being a stated intention to actual application.
Gender equality is firmly rooted in SADC’s regional integration agenda and member states support the fundamental principle that both women and men must be equally engaged in decision-making at all levels and in all positions of leadership.