By Wallace Mawire
The Barometer has been produced for the last eleven years by the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance, a network of Women’s Rights Organisations that campaigned for the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in 2008, its updating and alignment to the Sustainable Development Goals in 2016.
In keeping with global and regional trends, reflected in the #MeToo, #TimesUp, #TotalShutdown and related campaigns, the 2019 Barometer departs with past tradition in focusing specifically on Sexual Reproductive Health and Right (SRHR).
The 2019 #VoiceandChoice Barometer is the first civil society shadow report on the recently adopted SADC SRHR strategy. It measures 100 indicators in seven thematic areas including Sexual and Reproductive Health; adolescent SRHR; safe abortion; GBV; HIV and AIDS; harmful practices and sexual diversity. The State of Women report details progress made against the provisions of the SADC Gender Protocol using two important yardsticks, the empirical SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI) and Citizen Score Card (CSC) to measure progress made towards Gender Equality in the region.
The key findings of the two reports include:
- With an SGDI score of 60%, just one percentage point higher than last year, the region needs to up its game if it is to achieve gender equality by 2030. Seychelles has the highest SGDI score and South Africa the third highest SGDI score in the region.
- The CSC which measures citizen’s opinions and perceptions on government effort on addressing gender equality has increased from 62% in 2018 to 66% in 2019 for the region, showing that citizens are slightly more buoyant than what the actual figures show regarding the progress on gender equality.
- The SADC Gender Progress score which measures gender attitudes has increased to from 53% in 2017 to 60% in 2019. Seychelles and Malawi (66%) have the highest GPS. 49% of respondents said that people should be treated the same whether they are women or men, yet 46% agreed or strongly agreed that a woman should obey her husband.
- SRHR is now firmly on the Southern African agenda but gaps remain in data collection, legislation, policy, and service delivery for women and girls. The region has made significant strides with the adoption of the Mahe Declaration on SRHR (2016) and the SADC SRHR Strategy (2018) with an accompanying score card. Using the SRHR indicators in the SADC strategy for which data could be gathered, South Africa leads the way, with progressive laws and policies on abortion and sexual diversity, but still many challenges with implementation.
- Only two SADC countries, Seychelles and Mauritius, meet the global target of less than 70 deaths per 100 000 live births for pregnant women and girls. The maternal mortality rate is ten times more in the DRC.
- Adolescent fertility ratios in the region range from 27 per 1000 women in Mauritius to 152 per 1000 women in Angola.
- Only six SADC countries (DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia) have stand-alone Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (ASRHR) policies or strategies. Only five countries (Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania) in SADC do not require parental consent for adolescents to access SRHR services.
- The age of access to contraceptives in SADC ranges from 12 in five countries to 18 in one.
- Only South Africa and Mozambique have legislation that allows abortion on demand in the first trimester. Abortion is available under certain circumstances in all SADC countries, with varying degrees of restriction.
- Women, and especially young women, comprise the highest proportion of those living with HIV and AIDS, except for the islands (Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles) where intravenous drug needles are the main means of transmission.
- Only six countries have valid National Action Plans (NAPs) on GBV, 10 have expired NAPS and only three have fully costed NAPs. South Africa broke new ground with a presidential summit on GBV in 2018, and is establishing a multi sector forum to tackle GBV head on.
- While all SADC countries meet the requirement of the minimum age of 18 for marriage for men, only three countries (Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa) stipulate 18 as the minimum age of marriage for women and men with no exceptions, i.e. are compliant with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. In eight SADC countries (Angola, DRC, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) over one third of all young women are married by the age of 18.
- Homosexuality is now legal in one third of Southern African countries including South Africa, Seychelles, Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho, Madagascar and DRC. However, only South Africa allows for same sex marriages and civil unions.