Women conditions deteriorate in SADC countries

Windhoek- Namibia (PANA) -- When Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders met in Blantyre, Malawi, in 1997 they agreed on the promotion of gender equality as one of their "highest goals.
" One of the goals they set was to achieve a 30 percent women representation in political and decision- making structures by the year 2005.
They also pledged to reduce poverty among women by promoting their access to productive resources such as land, technology, credit, education and training.
The SADC heads of state also agreed to reform the laws and social practices that discriminate against women, who often have subordinate legal status.
They also agreed to take urgent steps to deal with increasing levels of violence against women and children.
However, four years down the line today, the position of women in the SADC region seems to have, in some cases, deteriorated.
While two or three countries have scored some progress, in others the status of women has worsened.
A human development report for the region released recently suggests that "women in this region share the largest burden of poverty.
" It also states that the region is far from its goals for giving women a fair share in political and decision-making areas.
The report, released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also categorises women as being the worst victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Focusing on the challenges and opportunities for regional integration in Southern Africa, the report uses a human development index to measure the quality of life in the countries of the SADC region.
The basis of the index is life expectancy, access to schooling and higher education, adult literacy and per capita shares of gross domestic product.
The average human development index for the SADC region is a score of 0.
536, about three quarters of the world average.
But when the index is adjusted for gender inequality, it drops further to 0.
The report states that women's earnings improved in a number of countries between 1995 and 1998, but in the region as a whole life expectancy, enrolment rations and literacy rates all dropped significantly.
The report indicates Mauritius as scoring the Highest in terms of gender related development index, followed by South Africa and Swaziland.
The report also uses a gender empowerment to test for women's share in economic and political participation and decision-making.
On this scale South Africa scores the highest mainly because of its 29.
8 percent of women who are in parliament.
Botswana and Lesotho come second while Malawi and Zambia score the lowest.
In terms of recent elections, there has been progress toward the goal of increasing women's representation in parliament, said the report.
In terms of their proportion women members of parliament in Mozambique has a representation of 28.
4 percent, Seychelles 24 percent, and South Africa 29.
8 per cent - ranking among the top 10 countries in the world.
But the report stresses that half of the SADC member states still have less than 15 percent of women in parliament, well short of the target.
The report observes that women still face difficulties when it comes to family law, in the sense that married women often do not have the same rights as their husbands over family property and decision-making, and in some countries, daughters do not have the same inheritance rights as sons.
Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa already have legislation that aims to curb domestic violence, while Botswana, Namibia and Zambia are working on similar laws.
US Professor of Africa-America Studies at Syracuse University and Chairperson of the Board of the Southern African Regional Institute for Policy Studies, Micere Mugo, contributes to the topic with a fierce denunciation of women's position in Southern Africa.
She observes that sub-Saharan Africa shows a steep deterioration in economic conditions with the region affected by growing indebtedness.
Mugo observes that regionally there is a proven association between increased indebtedness and deterioration in education for girls - especially in enrolment in secondary schools There is an increase in household inequality, most of it affecting poor women.
The report notes that 55 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS are women.
Women typically spend 70 per cent of their unpaid time caring for the family.
The US Professor advocates that women should make the year 2005 the deadline for honouring all the conventions, legislation and declarations on their empowerment.
With only three years to go before the year 2005, the report says, SADC African heads of state will have to work extra hard to ensure that the goals for women upliftment and empowerment are realised at even half way.

24 may 2001 20:21:00

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