Southern Africa: Wanted – gender equality in grand industrialisation plans

Failure to prioritise gender equality in Southern Africa threatens to hamper the attainment of the ambitious yet progressive SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap prioritised by Heads of State at their recent 35th Summit in Botswana.

The bold commitments made by Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to accelerate industrialisation through transformation of natural endowment and improved human capital will not be possible without a deliberate focus on 51% of the region’s population – women.

2015 marks the target year of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. It brings with it much expectation of the achievement of the 28 targets on gender equality in the sub- region: not least, the eight targets relevant to economic justice and empowerment.

The SADC Industrialisation Strategy exists alongside the revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RIDSP) (2015 – 2020). Both prioritise industrialisation as a key pillar of regional integration. Together, these two strategies must lead to economic and technological transformation within the region, foster competitiveness, bolster regional integration and ultimately ensure development and economic prosperity for the sub-region.

The objectives of the industrialisation strategy and roadmap include enhancing productive capacities, stimulating value chains, promoting technological advancement, facilitating favourable business environment and promoting the use and growth of ICTs – all of which have a significant bearing and reliance on gender equality.

The culmination of the SADC Gender Protocol and the commitment to fast track the Industrialisation Strategy, come at a time when the world’s attention is focused on the new generation of development goals or Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the same time, there are global and continental efforts to further reinforce a robust gender justice agenda through the Beijing plus Twenty Review and Africa’s Agenda 2063 for the continent’s development. The African Union declared 2015 as “the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063” thus foregrounding gender equality at the front end of the 50 year development plan.

The 2015 SADC Gender Barometer (the Barometer) found that several factors continue to hinder women from accessing credit and productive resources, thus presenting significant hindrances to benefiting from the region’s natural endowment. Women’s lack of access to productive resources perpetuates the feminisation of poverty and impedes the region’s development. Across SADC, women face limitations in acquiring credit and productive resources because of laws that recognise women as dependents of their husbands or fathers. Thus, credit or ownership is solely obtained through a husband or male relative.

Data on land ownership is scant but demonstrates a range from 11% in the Seychelles to 25% in both the DRC and Tanzania. A large percentage of women live in the rural areas where land ownership is communal or belongs to the government. While accelerating industrialisation of SADC economies, regional leaders must urgently address such long standing issues.

Beneficiaries of the resource rich SADC region tend to be men. Again, there is limited data on the numbers of women participating in the extractive industries and the nature of roles they play. Women in SADC countries participate in artisanal mining activities to earn an income. They face barriers to entry through the enormous capital costs of formal mining. The dangerous terrain and informal unregulated nature of artisanal mining presents women with the risk of physical harm and exposes them to various forms of gender based violence.

Anecdotal evidence reveals that women suffer threats to their profits and loss of their inputs in resource-rich areas.

Despite efforts in some countries to ensure women can access the extractive industries, the Barometer found that women in Angola and South Africa still face difficulties in participating in the sector. Studies in DRC and Tanzania have also emphasised the difficulty in establishing the numbers of women participating in these sectors.

Moreover, women continue to dominate in the lower paid areas of the labour force in areas such as domestic work, teaching, nursing, secretarial and clerical posts. Men occupy posts in sectors such as engineering, construction and decision making positions despite the 2014 SADC Protocol on Employment and Labour that commits to “promote gender equality in the employment sector, in particular equal treatment and opportunities for men and women” and importantly highlights gender sensitive training and skills development programmes.

Consistently dismal showings in areas such as women’s economic decision-making, access to finance, reliable data on women’s land and property ownership and the gender wage gap do not bode well for an inclusive industrialisation agenda.

As the SADC Gender Protocol is reviewed and aligned to the Post-2015 Agenda, the only way to ensure that women get their rightful slice of the industrialisation pie is to expand the economic justice targets of the Protocol and develop indicators for these. Gender Ministers have called for a strong Monitoring, Evaluation and Results Framework. The Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance put it more simply: Action and results – the time is now!

(Shuvai Nyoni is author of the Economic Justice Chapter of the 2015 Barometer. This article is part of the Gender Links New Service).

Post published in: Africa News

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