One of SADC’s main objectives is to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development that will ensure poverty alleviation with the ultimate objective of its eradication,, enhance the standard of living and quality of life of the people of Southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration. It’s a well-known fact that women are the backbone of many African economies and also play key roles in the economies of each SADC Member State. Evidence has also revealed that women constitute more that 50% of the poor population in SADC and poverty can only be addressed through programmes which specifically target the majority of the poor.
Economic empowerment of women not only positively impacts their own life situations but is also central to mobilising their potential for sustainable development and poverty alleviation. Women spend a higher percentage of their income on feeding and educating their children, which is aimed at the wellbeing of their families. Economic independence of women is crucial as it counteracts exploitation, feminization of poverty, discrimination and disregards of their fundamental human right. Gender equality at the economic level therefore contributes directly to the reduction of poverty and overall development.
For a variety of reasons, inequalities exist between women and men throughout the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Women constitute the majority of the poor in the region for a number of reasons including high illiteracy rates, restrictive and discriminatory laws, and limited access to, and control over, productive resources.
By recognising and eliminating gender inequalities there is great potential for women to act as a powerful resource for development in the SADC region. Consistent with the SADC Gender Programme, SADC has developed a Women’s Economic Empowerment Framework as a step towards developing and implementing a regional women’s economic empowerment programme. In 2019 SADC adopted the Regional Multi-Dimensional Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme 2020-2030 (RMDWEEP) to promote women’s economic empowerment and gender-responsive development in order to contribute to social inclusion and justice in SADC. The RMDWEEP aims to coordinate, support implementation, monitor and evaluate regional commitments on women’s economic empowerment by SADC Member States.
Article 17 of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development deals specifically with economic empowerment, and requires that Member States to meet the following commitments:
- Undertake reforms to give men and women equal rights and opportunity to economic resources, and improved access to control and ownership over productive resources, land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance, and natural resources;
- Review their national trade and entrepreneurship policies, to make them gender responsive; and
- With regard to the affirmative action provisions in Article 5, develop strategies to ensure that women benefit equally from economic opportunities, including those created through public procurement processes.