Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary (ES), Dr Stergomena Tax, believes women empowerment should not just be about appointing women to powerful positions, but about empowering the girl-child and appointing women on the basis of their performance and capabilities.
In an interview with The Telegraph last week, Dr Tax said women empowerment is about according women equal opportunities so that they compete on the same platform and as equals with their male counterparts.
“I don’t believe women should just line up for cushy positions in the name of women empowerment. As women we must earn those positions. We must compete and prove that we are equally able, if not better, than men,” she said.
She added that she was appointed not because she was a woman but because the heads of states recognized her capabilities and credentials.
Dr Tax’s sentiments come in the wake of increasing pressure from women empowerment protagonists, who are agitating for increased representation of women in councils and parliament among SADC countries.
The campaigns have reached a crescendo this year as a number of countries in the SADC region will be going for elections.
South Africa has already held elections, while Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia will also go for elections this year.
This year’s elections are significant because they come just one year before the 2015 deadline for all SADC countries to have attained the set target of 50 percent representation for women in parliament and decision making positions.
As the deadline draws nearer, gender protagonists have upped the pressure on SADC countries, calling for greater women representation in parliament and councils. Many African countries have been accused of disregarding the SADC protocol on gender, a legally binding instrument that aims to provide for women empowerment, eliminate discrimination and achieve gender equality through gender responsive legislation and policies. While she admits that there is still a long way to go, Dr Tax said she is happy that most of the countries are implementing the quota in one way or another.
“Most countries in the region have surpassed the 30 percent quota and are gunning for 50 percent. I am happy that SADC countries are implementing the protocol in their own various ways,” she said.
Botswana remains the only SADC member state that has not signed the SADC gender protocol. However, President Ian Khama believes the country has impressive representation of women in senior positions in the workplace.
In┬áhis state of the nation address last year, President Khama said the 2012 Grant Thornton Survey reported that 39 percent of all senior management positions in Botswana were held by women.
“We are developing a national policy on gender and a multi-sectoral national response to gender based violence. Botswana has emerged as a global leader in promoting gender equity,” he said.
He however admitted that Botswana still has to do more to foster greater women representation in parliament and councils.
At the SADC heads of states summit in 2013, where Dr Tax was sworn in as Executive Secretary, Malawian President Dr Joyce Banda said her appointment was a demonstration of the SADC’s commitment to gender equality and women empowerment.
“The appointment of Dr Tax as the first woman Executive Secretary of SADC, during my tenure as the first female chair of SADC, demonstrates the organization’s continued commitment to realizing gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment,” she said.
She urged Dr Tax to carry out her duties diligently, saying they must both work hard to so that they don’t disappoint their male counterparts who shown faith in them
“We have no choice but to succeed. I, being the first female Chair, and you, being the first female Executive Director, shall be expected to demonstrate our total commitment and determination to continue with the work of our brothers and take SADC to the next level,” she said.
Dr Banda added: “Failing to do so would be failing our brothers who have provided the space for us to participate in shaping our region’s destiny. More importantly we shall let down fellow women who are counting on our success, as well as the girls of our region who look upon us as their role models.”