The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region has the potential for successive political achievements and sustainability of democratic institutions. This year, 2005, is the deadline set by the SADC for achieving at least 30 per cent women in all areas of decision-making. Only three out of the 13 countries have so far adhered to the pledge made eight years ago to achieve a minimum of 30 per cent representation of women at all levels of decision making as prescribed in the 1997 SADC Declaration on Gender and Development. Preliminary results show that while there has been some progress, there is still considerable unevenness between countries, with women's representation in parliament ranging from 5.6 per cent in Mauritius to 36 per cent in Mozambique. South Africa leads the way in women's participation in cabinet, with 42 per cent women ministers, and now a woman deputy president, while Namibia has reached 45 per cent in local government only. President Mbeki of South Africa is commended by civil society and women groups for strengthening women's participation in the executive, and for unequivocally making good his word on South Africa's commitment to gender equality. Regional and international organisations have been conducting an audit performance against targets set in the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development.
At the SADC Summit held from August 16 - 18, 2005 which included for the first time a parallel civil society forum where the audit on gender was presented, a lot of pressure was placed on SADC Heads of State to fall in line with the African Union's (AU) position of equal representation of women at all levels of decision-making. Among proposed measures at the summit was the raising of the current SADC target of thirty per cent women in decision making by 2005 to 50 per cent by 2020 with different bench marks for each country, depending on their starting point. Other proposals include the setting up of a regional and independent SADC Commission on the Status of Women that would monitor performance and report annually on the progress of member states meeting targets set for gender parity. Amendments to existing constitutions of member states meeting should guarantee gender equality comparatively with recent liberal constitutions in South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia by 2010. Only Tanzania has in its consitution 20 per cent representation of women in decision making. Furthermore, the new measures would require the region to adopt a comprehensive legislation allocating budgets towards ending gender violence, which widens the gap in gender equality.
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