Source: All Africa                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Botswana remains committed to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development's spirit and will continue to implement its provisions for gender equality and women's empowerment, the director of gender affairs department, Ms Thapelo Phuthego, has said.

Ms Phuthego was officiating at a workshop organised by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) on September 23, following the just ended regional summit on the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in August 2015, to deliberate on the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development Review.

She added that the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs would also continue to engage with Civil Society Organisations (CSO) during the review of the Protocol that was adopted in August 17, 2008, this year (2015).The workshop themed: "SADC Protocol on Gender and Development Review themed: The Trade Union's Respective", was meant to bring Trade Unions, as major stakeholders, into the dialogue to share with them information about the Protocol, with the intent to play a critical role in its review, as a consolidated effort.

Although Botswana did not sign nor ratify the Protocol, Gender Affairs director said the country subscribed to the inherent principals of gender equality, as evidenced by its achievements and by participating in the formulation of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, until its conclusion.

Botswana, she said had its reservations regarding unrealistic targets and time-frame of the Protocol and the use of compelling mandatory language as well as lack of a reservation clause which could allow the country to sign and reserve provisions where it had issues during the formulation of the Protocol.

By signing the Protocol, which Mauritius also did not sign, member states agreed to all its 28 legally binding targets for achieving gender equality which expires in 2015, which is also the deadline for the eight targets of the Millennium Development Goals.

Therefore, as global and regional commitments and targets come to a close, Gender Affairs director said it was important that both government and CSO joined efforts in the review of the progress made in all commitments, including challenges that continued to hamper progress.

"It is also imperative that the CSO review their contribution in the implementation of the various commitments," she added.

She also expressed concern that as the 28 targets of the Protocol lapse in 2015 and have to be reviewed; Botswana could face challenges in reviewing the Protocol, as the SADC Treaty states that "if you are not a signatory, you cannot sign.

What are we reviewing if we have not signed? We need to enquire from the SADC Secretariat and seek guidance in this regard."

However, she said whilst reviewing the Protocol in their meeting, in May 2015 in Zimbabwe, SADC ministers responsible for gender said it should be aligned with Africa Agenda 2063, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Post 2015 Development Agenda.

Additionally, she said ministers also underscored that "the reviewed Protocol should set targets that are; specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound taking into consideration the economic landscape of the region.

"We therefore, believe that these initiatives will address some of Botswana's concerns, hence future developments thereafter," she added.

Giving Botswana Federation of Trade Unions' (BFTU) perspective on the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, BFTU Women Council chairperson, Ms Goitseone Sebego, said gender issues remained relevant both nationally, regionally and internationally.

For that reason, she said it was important that Trade Unions took part and engaged in every deliberation around the issue in order to remain abreast with the latest developments.

Botswana Federation of Trade Unions, Ms Sebego said viewed the Protocol as a tool that brought together the existing regional and international policies, as well as legal instruments and commitments to gender equality. Therefore, she said the Federation advocated for a trans formative goal on gender equality, built on premise of human right approach to development.

"We believe it's time for change and for all representatives to put more effort in reviewing their stand on the Protocol, so that in turn we too could be counted against the countries which have signed and are supportive through implementation, monitoring and education of the Protocol," she added.

The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development looks into integration and main streaming of gender issues into the SADC Programme of Action and Community Building initiatives which is important to the sustainable development of the SADC region.

The Protocol aims to provide for the empowerment of women, to eliminate discrimination and achieve gender equality by encouraging and harmonising the development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies and programmes and projects.

It is also a tool used to set realistic, measurable targets, time frames and indicators for achieving gender equality and equity and monitor and evaluate the progress made my Member States thereof.

To this regard the Protocol clearly speaks to issues of; constitutional and legal rights, governance, and education and training, productive resources and employment, gender based violence, HIV/Aids and Conflict Resolution.

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