March 8, 2019, is International Women’s Day and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) joins the rest of the world in commemorating the day under the theme; “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”.
This year’s theme recognises the role of innovation in advancing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. It is a call for everyone to do things differently if we are to achieve transformative and better development outcomes for women, girls, men and boys in our society.
The state of women participation in innovation and science globally and in the SADC region remain low. Women and girls globally, including in our region, continue to be less engaged and under-represented in technology and innovation, and this creates a missed opportunity in terms of their influence and ideas in transforming our society.
Through a number of instruments, SADC recognises Gender Equality and Development as an essential part of regional integration. SADC continues to advocate for the full engagement of women and girls in issues relating to innovation and technology and for the gender-responsive approach to innovation. This is in line with Article 14 of the Revised SADC Gender Protocol which calls upon “State Parties to take special measures to increase the number of girls taking up Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects and Information Communication Technology at the primary, secondary, tertiary and higher levels”. The approval of SADC Charter on Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (WISET) in 2017 was a significant step in ensuring women and girls’ participation in science and technology.
Achieving transformative change through innovation and technology, requires active participation of all members of society and the establishment of strategic partnerships between key sectors in our communities, without leaving behind women and girls. As we commemorate the International Women’s Day, we call upon SADC Member States to intensify efforts towards advancing gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls.
*Stergomena Lawrence Tax is the SADC Executive Secretary. This is her message on the occasion of International Women’s Day, 2019 (8 March)