Source: Gender Links
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the global Sixteen Days of Activism on gender violence campaign, and 10 years of the annual commemoration in Southern Africa. Each year during Sixteen Days, we stop and ponder achievements and accomplishments, and assess how much further still to go.

As we observe a decade of Sixteen Days in this region and two decades in the world, it is especially important to question, all these years later, if the millions of dollars spent in cash and human time have resulted in significant reductions of the violence facing women and other marginalised groups because of their gender.

One significant achievement in this past decade is the adoption of The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, signed by most SADC leaders in August 2008 after a long-running multi-national campaign by the Gender Protocol Alliance, comprising gender activists from all corners of the region. The SADC Protocol harmonises existing international and regional instruments for achieving gender equality and sets 28 targets for doing so. Six of these targets concern halving gender violence by 2015.

Using the SADC Protocol as a measuring point, there are specific areas of progress. The Protocol requires signatories to enact and enforce legislation prohibiting all forms of gender based violence by 2015. Several governments have passed various laws to address GBV over the years. Only two SADC countries, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), still need to enact laws on domestic violence. Angola and Zambia are the most recent to do so, with Zambia launching a comprehensive GBV Act in August of this year. Several laws relating to sexual harassment exist throughout the region, although most of these are contained in labour related legislation.

Another accomplishment is the synergy developed between national governments and civil society organisations to provide specialised legal services, facilities, and places of shelter and safety for survivors of GBV. While many countries have legislation guaranteeing these services, lack of resources and capacity often constraint states from meeting the demand, meaning civil society organisations collaborate to help fill the gap.

When it comes to traditional norms, cultural and political practices, as well as the role of men, there has been a definite shift over the years. The spread of men's networks across the region shows the growing recognition that gender is everyone's issue. Many of these groups use the SADC Protocol to promote gender equality, and the Protocol Alliance is moving towards including a men's cluster in their existing network to promote better working hand-in-hand with men to halve GBV by 2015.

There has also been a significant evolution of awareness and sensitisation campaigns. Across the region Sixteen Days of Activism is observed at both local and national levels of government. These campaigns continue to grow in breadth and scope and enjoy the involvement of all sectors of society.

Moreover, some states, recognising that sixteen days a year is not enough, are implementing and supporting yearlong actions, often through National Action Plans (NAPs) on gender violence. Countries such as Lesotho and Seychelles have not only developed these plans, but have gone so far as to calculate the costs of implementation, allocate budgets and implement. Unfortunately, in others, such as Angola and Madagascar, these NAPS do not yet exist. Most SADC states are somewhere in the middle.

Indeed, member states have adopted laws, contributed to service provision for survivors of GBV, participated in and endorsed efforts to raise awareness on the issues, welcomed the input of civil society, faith communities and corporate entities and generally, through NAPs, made attempts to fulfil their regional and international obligations.

In spite of some progress however, the 2015 deadline demands us to ask whether this is sufficient. The answer may be that we are still too far away from the mark.

Take for instance NAPs. These very commendable plans for action won't see the light of day without necessary resources. This requires serious examination of the relationship between national plans for GBV and national budgets. In countries that can boast significant headway, it important to highlight these procedures as best practises to assist others follow suit.

As well, over the last few years, Southern Africa, as with other parts of our continent, has witnessed new phenomena of gender violations. Examples include violence against people based on sexual orientation, sexual violence during times of conflict and political instability, and most recently, violence linked to new social media. This begs the question of whether the Protocol sufficiently deals with GBV. The new recognition of the link between gender justice and climate change has even prompted the SADC Gender Alliance to begin advocating for an addendum to the Protocol to include gender and climate change.

And how will we know if we have halved GBV? Again, while states have successfully developed NAPs, no baselines studies sufficiently outline the prevalence and extent of GBV at local, national and regional levels. In order to have something to show for all the efforts of the last decade, governments, civil society, regional bodies and international institutions must all prioritise mobilisation of resources for developing a regional baseline against which to measure progress.

We are fast approaching 2015. It is only through a constant cycle of planning, implementation, and measuring to asses progress and devise new strategies, that, during Sixteen Days of Activism 2015, we will be able to boast to boast that yes, we did halve GBV.

To read more on the progress of SADC states in addressing GBV see Chapter 5 of the SADC Gender and Development Protocol available at

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