The centrality of gender mainstreaming as a development strategy was acknowledged right from the creation of SADC as articulated in the Declaration and Treaty of SADC of 1992 and as revised in 2004. The undertaking to respect the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law as well as equity, balance and mutual benefit is explicit in Article 4. A critical step was undertaken to specifically address issues of gender inequality in 1996 through the establishment of the Gender Unit, and further by SADC Heads of State and Governments adopting the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development and its Addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children In 1997 and 1998 respectively. SADC has committed “to place gender firmly on the agenda of the SADC Programme of Action and Community Building Initiative. In 1997, the SADC Council of Ministers adopted the SADC Gender Policy. Ministers Responsible for Gender and Women’s Affairs also adopted the SADC Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit (2009) and the SADC Gender Workplace Policy.
The review of the operations of the SADC institutions based on the vision, mission, common agenda and principles of the Community culminated in the development of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP). The Plan guides Member States, SADC Institutions, regional stakeholders and International Cooperating partners in the process of deepening integration to turn the Community’s Vision into a reality for a period of ” 15 years. In this fundamental document, gender has been defined as one of the “integration and development enablers” and a “cross-sectoral intervention area”.
This definition therefore requires that all Directorates and Units, and all Sectors in Member States must integrate gender issues into their business plans as an integral part of their work. It also presumes that the actors in question have the necessary skills to analyze their sector of intervention so as to identify the gender issues therein and define mechanisms for integrating them into the policies, plans, programmes and actions programmed for implementation. In view of the knowledge and application gap that exists in effectively mainstreaming gender in SADC Structures and Institutions, the SADC Gender Unit has developed e a Gender Mainstreaming Programme. The principle objectives of the gender-mainstreaming programme in SADC are to:
- put in place the necessary institutional mechanisms, operational guidelines and to promote a culture that will facilitate gender mainstreaming in the Secretariat;
- build the capacity of the staff of the Secretariat and SADC Member States to systematically develop, implement and sustain gender mainstreamed plans, strategies and programmes on an ongoing basis;
- ensure that the necessary human and financial resources for gender mainstreaming are mobilized for training; capacity building and programme implementation; and
- ensure that the commitments of the integration and development objectives to gender equality and women’s empowerment are effectively implemented at the Member State level.
Role of the Gender Unit in Mainstreaming
The SADC Gender Unit was established in June 1996 following the decision by SADC Heads of States or Government to establish a coordinating mechanism for gender equality and women’s empowerment at regional level. The Unit was also required to coordinate initiatives to mainstream gender perspectives and concerns in their policies, plans and programmes of community building. In view of this , the Gender Unit facilitates gender mainstreaming in all SADC institutions through the following activities:
- Working to support all the structures and institutions to mainstream gender in their policies, programmes and activities;
- Building capacity on gender analysis to facilitate planning for programmes and projects;
- Sensitise, enroll, engage and empower our stakeholders to understand, appreciate and make the case for gender concerns, and priorities; and
- Developing and providing the technical guidance in accelerating and strengthening gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment programmes.
The overall strategies for SADC Member States on Gender and Development as stipulated by the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) are as follows:
- Accelerate the development of explicit gender policies and establish and strengthen national gender coordination machineries; harmonise them at regional level, and develop a regional gender policy;
- Ratify international instruments on gender equality, incorporate their provisions into national laws through constitutional and legislative reforms, and set up appropriate enforcement mechanisms and institutions to deliver necessary services;
- Mainstream gender into all sectoral policies, programmes and activities at national and regional level through gender responsive planning, policy development and implementation, gender capacity building and training, and the collection of gender disaggregated data;
- Adopt women's economic empowerment policies and strategies in order to address the inequalities in access to, and control of resources; develop specific programmes and put in place gender-responsive budgeting initiatives;
- Adopt deliberate and positive measures such as affirmative action, with a view to accelerating gender equality in political and decision- making positions;
- Implement gender capacity building and training programmes at national and regional levels, and disseminate best practices to ensure wide spread diffusion; and
- Eradicate and reduce all forms of violence against women and children.
The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development further supports gender mainstreaming by considering a wide range of platforms and topics that need to change to better support gender equity and equality. F From Article 4 on Constitutional Rights to Article 31 on Media, the Protocol on Gender and Development considers gender issues as central to all areas of development.