The just-ended SADC Gender Protocol Alliance summit has called on Botswana to put its signature on the Gender Protocol, which the country has refused to ink since its adoption in 2008.
Botswana and Mauritius are the only SADC member states that have not yet signed the protocol. Gender activists view the former’s compliance as critical now, more than ever as the country takes over the SADC chairmanship on Monday.
Botswana has said the Protocol, which has equity targets and policies, contains “steep financial implications” and has language that is too “instructive”.
Government has also said it is already ahead of the region on many of the Protocol targets such as the level of representation of women in leadership positions in the public service and corporate world.
Gender Links CEO, Colleen Lowe Morna said women’s political participation and representation remained “very disappointing” and hence the need for the country to sign.
“The level of representation of women in Parliament, however, is among the lowest in the region.
“There are positives that Botswana has achieved especially in the areas of health provisions, eradication of mother to child HIV/AIDS transmission and education,” she said.
“We need Botswana’s voice from inside to influence other countries positively, and the country stands to be influenced positively in areas of women’s political participation from those that are fairing well.”
She said once a signatory, Botswana could take a leaf from South Africa that has done quite well with regard to gender mainstreaming in the political sphere.
South Africa has 47 percent women’s representation in Parliament, while Botswana has a measly eight.
Chigedze Chinyepi, a local SADC Gender Protocol Alliance representative said it was critical for Botswana to sign so that the country’s voice features when the Protocol goes for review.
“You can’t be outside to influence change, you must be in.
Even now we urge our government to put its signature; its not late,” Chinyepi said.
The Gender Protocol Alliance’s closing communiqué called on SADC Heads of State to put their weight behind the upcoming review of the Protocol, especially the proposed monitoring, evaluation and results framework.
Lobbyists also expressed hope that the review process would pave the way for Botswana and Mauritius to sign the protocol.
An Alliance member, Sifiso Dube, said hope had been drawn from vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi’s remarks when opening the event earlier this week. “Opening the summit on Monday, Masisi fell short of promising that Botswana would sign if the review addressed the country’s key concern that the 2015 deadline was too tight and some provisions were too compelling,” she said.
Masisi further said as a founding member, Botswana was committed to the SADC principles as shown by its participation in the formulation of the Protocol.
“Allow me to state that during the formulation of the Protocol, Botswana indicated its reservations regarding unrealistic targets and time-frame. Some of the measures had serious resource implications that as a country, we could not guarantee,” Masisi said.