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 its amendments. 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. The SADC Heads of State and Governments further adopted the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development in 1997 and its Addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children in 1998. 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 and in 2009 the Ministers Responsible for Gender and Women’s Affairs also adopted the SADC Gender Workplace Policy.
The review of the operations of the SADC institutions based on the vision, mission, common agenda and principles of SADC culminated in the development of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP). The RISDP, and its subsequent revisions, guides Member States, SADC institutions, regional stakeholders and International Cooperating Partners in the process of deepening regional integration to turn SADC’s vision into a reality. In this fundamental document, gender has been defined as one of the “integration and development enablers” and a “cross-cutting intervention area”. This therefore requires that all Directorates and Units, and all Sectors in Member States must integrate gender issues into their business and institutional plans as an integral part of their work. The necessary skills are therefore required to identify and analyze gender issues within sectors and define mechanisms for integrating gender into the policies, plans, programmes and actions programmed for implementation. In view of the knowledge and application gap on gender mainstreaming that exists within SADC Structures and Institutions, the SADC Gender Unit has developed 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 SADC Secretariat;
- Build the capacity of the staff of the SADC Secretariat and 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.
In 2008, the SADC Gender Mainstreaming Resource Kit was adopted as a step-by-step sector specific guide or tool to assist in the region’s effort to standardize approaches towards gender mainstreaming with the ultimate aim of contributing to the achievement of gender equality. It guides the SADC Secretariat and Member States to address gender equality issues in a systematic way. experts and partners. In addition, Regional Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) Guidelines have been developed to facilitate the development of good public finance management practice that ensures that national budgets are practically addressing gender equality priorities and commitments.
Role of the Gender Unit in Mainstreaming of Gender
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 established to coordinate initiatives to mainstream gender perspectives and concerns in regional policies, plans and programmes of SADC. 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, enrol, engage and empower 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 SADC Protocol on Gender and Development defines gender mainstreaming as the “process of identifying gender gaps and making women’s, men’s, girls’ and boys’ concerns and experiences integral to the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all spheres so that they benefit equally”. The Protocol on Gender and Development considers gender issues as central to all areas of development and calls on SADC Member States to put in place policies, strategies and programmes for the establishment and strengthening of structures to enhance gender mainstreaming. The Protocol further supports gender mainstreaming by considering a wide range of platforms and topics that need to be addressed to better support gender equity and equality.