SOUTHERN AFRICA: African Women Still Struggling for Equality

Tuesday, November 23, 2010
BuaNews Online
Southern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Despite the political will shown by leaders on the African continent, women in Africa faced serious challenges with regards to empowerment and parity.

This is according to Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who was speaking at the launch of the 2010 SADC Protocol on Gender and Development on Monday.

The Minister noted in some countries in the SADC region, women had minority status.

In these areas, women are not allowed to own property, are not entitled to inherit the estates of those who are deceased and experience a gender division of labour and endure a dominant patriarchal value system.

"The issues of peace building and conflict resolution as well as gender based violence, are particularly relevant this evening since it is now widely accepted that women face the brunt of conflict as well as socio-economic challenges," Dlamini Zuma said.

Progress made in the struggle for the liberation of women needed to be evaluated, she added.

"Social, cultural and religious practices, attitudes and mindsets continue to militate against the attainment of gender equality and equity which are central to democracy and development."

The United Nations Development Programme report for 2010, found that women have traditionally been disadvantaged in the political arena at all levels of government. While national parliamentary representation, which reflects women's visibility in political leadership and in society, has been increasing over time, the global average is still only 16 percent.

"This is certainly an indictment on the global leadership which has acceded to international conventions aimed at improving and uplifting the lives of women," she said.

The report also states that women's political participation is greater in Sub-Saharan Africa than in the Arab States, Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia, but empowerment is offset by disparities in education

"While some progress has been achieved in Sub-Saharan Africa, African countries still have a great deal of work to do to improve the lives of women," Dlamini Zuma pointed out.

She described the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development - which sets 28 substantive targets for achieving gender equality by 2015 - as a global first.

The 28 targets are divided thematic clusters such as constitutional and legal rights, governance, education and training, productive resources and employment, economic empowerment, gender based violence, health, HIV and AIDS, peace building and conflict resolution and media, information and communication.

"Although the region has created a legally enabling environment in terms of frameworks for women's participation in peace-making, peace-keeping and peace-building as well as for their protection and prevention from violence there is still a long way to go towards creating equitable participation of women in peace and security structures, protecting women during conflict and the prevention of gender based violence," Dlamini Zuma added.

The minister said it was important to acknowledge that the improvement of the lives women was about more than legal frameworks and protocols.

"In fact, history has shown that any society that has won the battle against any form of social oppression has done so through the mobilisation of the masses."

The onus was on women to ensure that they fight for and contribute towards their own emancipation. One way of doing this was by saying no to any form of oppression immediately upon its manifestation, she added.