A range of Declarations aimed at eliminating poverty and hunger, gender disparities as well as engendering human development programmes in southern Africa have been signed since the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women that was held in Beijing, China, in 1995.
Governments in southern Africa have been setting benchmarks and targets to mitigate gender disparities and enhance human development goals in line with the Declarations which include the:
At the national level, member states in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been intensifying efforts to implement their priority areas of concern identified as obstacles to the empowerment of women and addressing gender disparities.
- 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPFA);
- 1997 SADC Declaration on Gender and Development;
- 1998 Addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children;
- Millennium Declaration and Development Goals (MDGs); and
- New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
At the sub-regional level, the restructuring of SADC institutions, and the development of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) have provided a broader mandate for the regional body to ensure gender issues are addressed in all its policies, programmes, activities and functions. Targets set in the RISDP are very much in line with the aspirations of the
Millennium Declaration and Development Goals. The RISDP identifies gender mainstreaming, the promotion of women’s access to and ownership and control over productive resources, and the empowerment of women as crucial to sustainable development and catalytic in maximising its effective impact on regional integration and poverty eradication.
However, like in all sub-regions in Africa, human development in southern Africa is characterised with gender disparities in all areas including in the social, economic, political, and cultural spheres.
This background paper summarises the main issues around gender and poverty in southern Africa in the context of Human Development, Health, Education, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The paper concludes with key issues to facilitate discussion.
In summarising the main gender issues in southern Africa, the paper gives an overview of the sub-regional gender situational analysis in the mentioned areas of focus.
Most of the information in this paper is derived from publications and reports compiled through research initiated by the Women In Development Southern Africa Awareness (WIDSAA), the gender programme of the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), as well as from the Progress Report on the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action by the SADC Region submitted by SADC Secretariat at the Seventh African Regional Decade Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing + 10), Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, 6-15 October 2004.