The first ever Southern Africa Gender Justice and Local Government Summit, which will be held on the 8th of March in South Africa, is expected to popularize the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and push towards attaining the set target of halving gender violence by 2015.
To achieve this, the summit organizers have decided to target representatives from the Ministry of Local Government, particularly gender focal point persons, councilors and officials from local authorities, who have distinguished themselves as offering good practice models across Southern Africa.
“We have extended invitations to local Non-Government Organizations to seize the opportunity and come up with presentations that are relevant to their mandates so as to influence the policy direction of the summit,” said Keabonye Ntsabane, Coordinator of Gender Links Botswana.
Some of the organizations that are expected to form part of the Botswana delegation at the summit include Childline, Lifeline and Emang Basadi. The Department of Women Affairs will also be instrumental in facilitating the effective participation of other equally critical stakeholders in the gender discourse.
Central to the objectives of the summit is the need to build and attain appropriate capacity for women and men to engage critically in democratic processes that advance equality and justice.
“The summit will also empower participants with the right knowledge and skills on how to conduct effective campaigns for ending gender violence, HIV-AIDS, and to promote gender equality in and through the media as well as in all areas of governance,” added Ntsabane.
The summit will also give awards to outstanding contributors who are committed to the cause of striving for a society that is free from gender violence. The awards will be divided into categories, namely prevention, innovative communication strategies; specific gender based violence campaigns, institutional good practices as well as response. Three more prizes will be awarded to individuals who show particular innovation and dedication to ending gender based violence at local level. However, In the case of Botswana, there might be a problem determining who has excelled in the fight against gender based violence on account of the absence of clear instruments for measuring the effectiveness of efforts in that direction. To date Botswana has refused to ratify the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which is viewed as a tool for holding states accountable for their own policy interventions and responses.
Ntsabane pointed out that the 8th of March, was particularly identified for the summit because it is international women’s day.
“We hope this will serve to highlight the plight of women as they are by and large the most victims of gender based violence,” said Ntsabane.
Submissions for consideration for the awards can be made on or before the 5th of February. Verification will be on 7th -12th February while short listing will be on the 15th February. The awards will be presented at the summit on March 8th in South Africa.