Southern Africa has developed a regional framework that will serve as a guide on mainstreaming gender into the regional peace and security systems and processes.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat told the ongoing meeting of senior officials responsible for gender and women affairs in the region that the strategy will be launched at the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled for 17-18 August in Windhoek, Namibia.
The SADC Regional Strategy on Women, Peace and Security (2018-2022) aims to address challenges experienced by women and children by ensuring that they fully participate in peace and security activities, programmes and projects in the region.
The strategy was first presented to senior officials at their meeting in Ezulwini, the Kingdom of Eswatini in 2017 and was further presented to the Ministerial Council of the Organ for approval.
The development of the strategy involved various stakeholders who included gender and security experts from all the SADC member states.
The strategy and its accompanying action plan are to be implemented from 2018-2022 and member states have been urged to develop national action plans and mobilise resources to implement proposed activities at national level.
Southern Africa is making significant progress towards promoting gender equality and equity in the region. However, there is need to maintain the momentum and push forward the regional gender agenda, particularly in issues to do with peace and security.
This requires intensification of regional efforts to mainstream gender into peacebuilding and conflict resolution processes if sustainable peace is to be achieved.
Although progress is being made in the development of strategies that mainstream gender in peace and security matters, the number of women and children being affected by conflict remains high.
High ranking women numbers in the security sector in SADC Member States remain low.
For example, only three SADC member states have had women ministers of defence in the period 2009-2018. These are Botswana, Madagascar and South Africa.
South Africa remains the only country in SADC with a woman Minister of Defence who has held the position since 2012.
According to a 2015 UN Women report, women constitute fewer than 10 percent of peace negotiators globally, and only three percent of signatories to peace agreements.
In this regard, there is a need to include more women in peace processes so that their issues are mainstreamed into the negotiations.
Other key issues being discussed by the SADC senior officials responsible for gender and women affairs during the annual meeting include the need to expedite processes towards combating trafficking in persons; accelerating efforts towards achieving 50:50 representation in politics and decision-making and the need for member states that have not signed the Agreement Amending the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development to do so.
To date only Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe have signed the agreement amending the protocol while Namibia and South Africa have indicated that they will sign during the SADC Summit in Namibia.
The senior officials responsible for gender and women affairs meet prior to the annual meeting of SADC ministers responsible for gender and women affairs.
The ministers meeting will discuss the SADC regional gender programme and share progress towards the implementation of gender commitments made by the countries.
A total of 11 SADC member states – Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe – attended the meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.