50/50 gender balance needed in elections: Gender Links

WINDHOEK; Namibians should push for a 50/50 gender balance in parliament in the November 2014 elections to reach the 2015 target for the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

This was the call of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gender Links, Colleen Lowe Morna during the launch of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol 2014 Barometer here on Tuesday.

“With less than one year to go until the 2015 landmark year for the SADC region to have reached gender parity in all areas of decision-making, no country has reached that 50 per cent target of women’s representation in parliament, Cabinet or local government.

If not putting efforts now in place for the upcoming elections, Namibia would go backwards like South Africa, which showed a drop in women’s representation in parliament in the May 2014 elections,” she cautioned.

Gender Links co-ordinates the work of the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance, which produces a barometer each year since 2009 in assessing progress in the countdown to 2015.

SADC Heads of State and Government signed and adopted the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in August 2008.

The protocol clearly speaks to issues of constitutional and legal rights, governance, education and training, productive resources and employment, gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS and conflict resolution.

Globally, SADC countries rank between fifth and 127th in terms of women’s political representation. South Africa (10th) and Seychelles (fifth) are the only two SADC countries in the top 10 global ranking of women parliamentarians around the globe.

According to the barometer, women’s overall representation in parliament over the last six years hit its highest at 26 per cent in 2014.

Four SADC countries (Seychelles, South Africa, Mozambique and Angola) have close to 40 per cent women’s representation in parliament.

In Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi and Mauritius, women constitute less than 20 per cent of parliamentarians.

In Namibia, 24 per cent of legislators are women.

The barometer indicated that women’s representation in Cabinets in SADC dropped from 22 per cent to 21 per cent in 2014.

Five SADC countries have come close to over 30 per cent of women in local government.

These are Lesotho (49 per cent), Namibia (42 per cent), South Africa and Mozambique (both 38 per cent), and Tanzania (34 per cent).

Six countries have less than 20 per cent of women in local government, and these are Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland, Madagascar, Lesotho and Botswana.

“The key to change is political will. The fact that women are still under-represented in Cabinets (with some exception in South Africa) calls into question the political commitment of leaders.

This is one area where leaders can and must walk the talk in the countdown to 2015,” the barometer stated.

Gender Links is a non-Governmental organisation committed to a region in which women and men are able to participate equally in all aspects of public and private life in accordance with the provisions of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.