WINDHOEK - Namibia is leading the way with regard to women representation in local government from 42 percent to 48 percent in the last nine years, according to the newly launched SADC Gender Protocol Barometer.
Only five countries in SADC have exceeded 30 percent women in local government, namely Tanzania, Mozambique, Lesotho, South Africa and, of course, Namibia.
Seven SADC countries, namely Botswana, Zimbabwe, eSwatini, Malawi, Madagascar, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have less than 20 percent women in local government. DRC, with six percent, has the lowest representation of women in local government, according to the report. All SADC countries with elected local government failed to reach the 50 percent target, the report indicates, and only Namibia is close to reaching that set target.
Also, two countries held local government elections last year, namely eSwatini and Lesotho. But Lesotho regressed by nine percentage points from 49 percent to 40 percent.
Women constitute 12 percent of councilors in eSwatini urban councils. When this is combined with women in the rural councils, the proportion of women in local government in eSwatini is 14 percent down from 15 percent before the urban elections.
Meanwhile, the average representation of women in local government in Southern Africa has declined from 24 percent to 23 percent over the last ten years, information from the report shows.
This is largely due to the decline of the proportion of women in local government in Lesotho from 58 percent to 40 percent over this period.
In addition, information contained in the report that was launched on Monday evening shows that key gains have been made in Mauritius, from six percent to 27 percent, as a result of the adoption of a gender neutral quota in Mauritius and Namibia from 42 percent to 48 percent.
Speaking at the launch of the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer on Monday evening, the SADC Gender Links CEO, Colleen Lowe Morna, said the SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI) went down from 61 percent to 59 percent in this current year.
The Citizen Score Card also went down from 65 percent to 62 percent, said Morna.
“This is the tragedy of the work that we are doing. One step forward, two steps backwards,” said Morna. The SGDI is a mix of empirical data and gender attitude scores drawn from the Gender Progress Score (GPS), which is one of the monitoring and evaluation tools administered by Gender Links. The Citizen Score Card gives ordinary men and women the opportunity to hold their governments accountable.
“We need to ask ourselves what is happening – never before has there been so much talk about gender equality. We’re talking the talk but we’re not walking the walk,” said Morna.
She also explained the gender attitude survey, which was part of the data gathered. She highlighted that 55 percent of the SADC region said people should be treated the same whether they are women or men.
“So just remember 45 percent of the people in the region did not think that women and men should be treated the same. That’s a bit worrying,” she added. Further, she pointed out that 56 percent of people surveyed in SADC said a woman should obey her husband.
“So there’s a bit of schizophrenia at work – sometimes we talk the equality talk but then our attitudes and belief systems are clearly not there yet,” said Morna.
Officially launching the document, the Deputy Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Lucia Witbooi, said Namibia has seen an increase in women representation following the Swapo Party’s adoption of 50/50 gender representation. “We also call on other political parties to amend their constitutions so that if they get to parliament both genders are equally represented,” said Witbooi.