Members of National Women's Parliamentary Caucuses from Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe with the Secretary General of the SADC Parliamentary Forum
29 February 2008
UNDEF is supporting a two year initiative carried out by the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum, which is a regional inter parliamentary body composed of the following parliaments from : Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Widening and addressing the challenge of women’s political participation and representation has become a priority for each country in the SADC region. While gender equality, political participation and representation of women have in general been accepted as applicable principles in the SADC region, their translation into practice remain wanting.
It is commonly considered that representation of women must reach 30% before they can be of significant impact. While the best reforming countries attained 36% in women’s parliamentarian participation, the lowest mark in the region is 10.7%. Countries with the highest levels of women’s representation are often those that have a proportional representation system or have legislated or provided quotas for women parliamentarian participation within their constitution.
The overall objective of this regional project, which focuses on countries in which elections are scheduled between 2007 and 2010, is twofold and consists in:
Started in April 2007, the project has implemented the many activities both at country and regional levels of the Regional Women's Parliamentary Caucus (RWPC) which is the operational body of the SADC PF.
Women Members of Parliament in Zambia
In Zambia, out of the 24 women parliamentarians only 5 were reelected at the elections of September 2006. In order to address the critical issue of the high turnover of elected women, the RWPC organized, in July 2007, a roundtable which focused on the need to equip female parliamentarians with enhanced tools and resources. This event provided a valuable opportunity to bring together women elected from diverse political parties and to enable them to exchange best practices and map out future steps, such as :
In Mauritius, the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus
has been established in the National Assembly of Mauritius, in July
2007, with the purpose of facilitating “peer cooperation”
and support between elected women across party lines and therefore to
accelerate the increase of the number of women parliamentarians.
In Swaziland, the SADC PF has conducted advocacy activities
targeting Government, traditional institutions and civil society organizations.
The Kingdom of Swaziland uses a non political party based system known
as Tinkhundla under which parliamentarians are directly nominated from
the community. Due to traditional biases in favor of male leadership,
women are easily sidelined from the electoral process as illustrated
by the following figures: out of 55 Tinkhundla constituencies, only
5 women were elected in the House of Assembly.
In Zimbabwe, SADC PF activities are highlighting how
women from Zimbabwe are still engaged politically despite the huge constraints
that they have been facing, to secure their democratic participation
At this early stage of implementation, the project has already contributed
significantly to address the issue of women’s political involvement.