Gender activists celebrate

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 02 May 2017   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho
Peggy Ramaphane Peggy Ramaphane

… As Govt ratifies the SADC Gender Protocol

In what is viewed by many as a long overdue move, Botswana has finally signed the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. What took government this long? In a press statement released by the government on Thursday, it 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. “It is important to indicate that whilst Botswana was not party to the Protocol, the Government remained committed to its ideals and purpose. In that regard Botswana has made substantial progress regarding gender equality and women empowerment. This resulted in the overall ranking of Botswana at 70% in terms of implementation of the Protocol which is above the regional average of 67%; placing the country at position seven (7) out of the 15 Member States (SADC Gender Protocol Barometer: 2015),” the statement read. According to the state, Signing of the Protocol solidifies Botswana’s commitment to promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women as aligned to the National Vision 2036, National Development Plan 11 and the National Policy on Gender and Development. “Signing of this key instrument should also challenge all sectors in Botswana to intensify their efforts towards achieving gender equity and gender equality.”

News of this undertaking has already sent gender activists and ordinary Batswana women on a fit of excitement and jubilation. Gender activists and other women celebrated this memorable event and had quite a mouthful to say about the nation’s long awaited move. Women Against Rape Director Peggie Ramaphane, like others, applauded government for what she says was a move in the right direction. Although at the time Ramaphane said the government is yet to communicate its decision to be signatory to the protocol, she expressed excitement nonetheless. According to Ramaphane, it has been such hard work for them as local gender activist in convincing the government to sign. “We have lobbied government for so long and even worked with them to iron out a few points that Botswana had queries with in the protocol,” she said. Ramaphane was part of the team which worked on the final revised draft which Botswana felt was aligned with the country’s interests and stance on the gender agenda. Botswana’s qualms, according to Ramaphane, was mainly based on the mandatory language that the protocol prescribed but with that rectified  it was a matter of putting ink to paper. “It was such a disgrace that despite hosting the SADC headquarters Botswana was the odd one out in so far as signing and ratifying an instrument intended to bring good in the region,” said Ramaphane. Going forward Ramaphane said they are hoping to see changes, especially with the 2019 General Elections slowly approaching. “We hope to see an increased representation of women in decision making positions, especially in politics. We expect to see more women in Parliament after the 2019 General Elections,” she said.

Gender Links Country Director Gomolemo Rasesigo also could not hide her excitement about this new development. According to Rasesigo, this has been a long time coming.  Though she said they had expected Botswana to be a signatory to the protocol at the SADC summit in Swaziland last year they were nonetheless happy it finally happened. “We are now looking forward to the actual ratification and cannot wait for its implementation because even though the government has signed, it would not be of much use if there is no action,” she said. Rasesigo, however, said as a gender movement they will take upon themselves to engage government on ways of sensitising and breaking down the contents of the protocol the ordinary Motswana. “Okay now am extremely excited. This goes out to all Gender activists who never stopped advocating for the signing. Thank you for the local councils for continuing to implement the protocol despite us not being signatory. Special thanks to the Alliance for never giving up,” one activist posted on Facebook. But just what was in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development that Botswana has shunned for so long and that Batswana have been all along missing much on. Below is a list of some of the prescriptions of the protocol (not the revised one):

Article 5
This part of the protocol states that states parties must put in place affirmative action measures with particular reference to women in order to eliminate all barriers which prevent them from participating meaningfully in all spheres of life and create a conducive environment for such participation.
Article 6
This part of the protocol addresses Domestic legislation. It prescribes that state parties shall review, amend and or repeal all laws that discriminate on the ground of sex or gender by 2015. It also outlines that  state parties shall enact and enforce legislative and other measures to ensure equal access to justice and protection before the law, abolish the minority status of women by 2015, eliminate  practices which are detrimental to the achievement of the rights of women by prohibiting such practices and attaching deterrent sanctions and eliminate gender based violence.
Article 8
This article states that parties shall enact and adopt appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that women and men enjoy equal rights in marriage and are regarded as equal partners in marriage. This part of the protocol also addresses marriage of children. It states that no persons under the age of 18 shall marry, unless otherwise specified by law, which takes into account the best interests and welfare of the child.
Article 10
This part of the protocol addresses the big ‘elephant in the room’. It is basically about widows and widowers rights. The article states that states parties shall enact and enforce legislation to ensure that widows are not subjected to inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment. It among others points out that a widow shall have the right to continue to live in the matrimonial house after her husband’s death and that a widow shall have the right to an equitable share in the inheritance of the property of her husband.
Article 12
This part of the protocol addresses representation of women in decision making positions in both the private and public sector.  It prescribes that states parties shall endeavor that by 2015; at least fifty percent of decision-making positions in the public and private sectors are held by women including the use of affirmative action measures as provided for in article 5. Part five of the protocol addresses productive resources and employment. 
Article 16
This article addresses the part about multiple roles played by women. It prescribes that state parties shall conduct time use studies by 2015 and adopt policy measures to ease the burden of the multiple roles played by women. Article 17, on the other hand, talks about economic empowerment. It states that state parties  shall by  2015 adopt policies  and enact  laws which ensure equal access  benefit and opportunities  for women and men in trade and entrepreneurship taking into account the contribution of women in the formal and informal sector.
Article 19 

Also carries more good news for women at a period where it is an open secret that women are often forced to work twice as much and good than their male counterparts in order to earn satisfactory remuneration.  This article states that states parties shall, by 2015, review, amend and enact laws and policies that ensure women and men have equal access to wage employment in all sectors of the economy. It among other calls for equal pay for equal work and equal remuneration for jobs of equal value for women and men, eradication of occupational segregation and all forms of employment  discrimination and also prescribes that states parties shall enact and enforce legislative measures prohibiting the dismissal or denial of recruitment on grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave.
Part nine is another interesting part of the protocol which addresses media, information and communication. In article 29, the protocol prescribes that state parties shall ensure that gender is mainstreamed in all information, communication and media policies, programmes, laws and training in accordance with the protocol on culture, information and sport and other regional  and international commitments by member states on issues relating  to media, information and communication. The article also encourages states parties to take measures to promote the equal representation of women in the ownership of, and decision making structures of the media.
Most of what is contained in the protocol has been carried forward in to the revised version, corrections have been mostly been made on the mandatory language to for example align it with African Union agenda and the Social Development Goals. Timelines and target lines have also been revised and changed and certain areas like gender and climate change have also been added.