With only four years to go, achieving the SADC gender protocol's goals by 2015 seems like a long shot. Now that the barometer has added an index measuring empirical data we have some hard numbers to go on, but these don't always speak to women's lived experiences. By THERESA MALLINSON.
The South African Development Community protocol on gender and development was adopted on 17 August 2008. It has been signed by 14 of the 15 SADC countries, with Mauritius being the exception. Eight of these countries have ratified the protocol, and one more country is needed to do so for it to come into force. South Africa is not one of them, but home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who delivered the keynote address at the launch of the SADC gender protocol barometer 2011 on Thursday evening, indicated this is in the works.
The protocol has 28 targets to meet before its deadline in 2015. These goals fall under several broad categories, including legal rights, governance, education, economic empowerment, gender-based violence, health, HIV/Aids, peace-building and media. Four years isn’t long, and achieving gender equality in Africa is still an uphill battle.
Colleen Lowe Morna, chief executive of NGO Gender Links, and editor-in-chief of the barometer, emphasised at her opening address that “if it’s not counted, it doesn’t count”. The barometer, which is now in its third year, is an attempt to measure the progress that has been made in achieving the protocol’s aims. Initially, this was done through the citizen score card (CSC) survey, which tests citizens’ perceptions of how governments are doing. In 2011 the SADC gender and development index has been added to the barometer to provide a more objective viewpoint. It is based on empirical data, as opposed to people’s ideas of what is happening.
Interestingly enough, when the overall results are compared, citizens consistently rated their governments lower than the scores they were given in the SGD index. In part this is owing to the fact that the CSC includes perceptions on gender violence, constitutional and legal rights, and peace and security – all components missing from the SGD index, which measures only 23 of the 28 targets. But it also highlights the discrepancy between the tale told by official data, and how women experience their daily lives.
South Africa came in second on both measurements, with our government scoring 79% on the SGD index that objectively measures achievements of the protocol’s targets, and 74% in the CSC of public perception. However, as Dlamini Zuma pointed out, when speaking about female representation in governance, “When we talk about women in decision-making, it’s not just about the numbers, it’s about making sure that the agenda of the country, [and] the agenda of government is sensitive to women’s development. If you have the numbers, but that is not done, then you might as well not have them.”
This change of mindset doesn’t lend itself so easily to goal-setting and measurement. Nevertheless, the data that have been captured is important in itself. “Without information, no matter how organised you are, you can’t go very far,” said Dlamini Zuma. “And I’m very excited about what Gender Links is doing, because it’s providing us with information we need to use, whether we go to SADC, or the UN, at least we have information.” DM
Photo: A woman carries a bucket of water on her head in Munsieville, an informal settlement outside Johannesburg, April 15, 2009. Picture taken April 15, 2009.
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