Women’s power in peace and security processes in Southern Africa

SoME Gavobevis 2023

7 August 2012

In 2008, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) adopted a Gender and Development protocol, where detailed goals and indicators concerning women’s increased participation and leadership in developmental processes are present. The last article in the document, number 28, deals with women, peace and security as well as women’s leadership in democratic process; everything according to the standards of resolution 1325. An evaluation of this document’s impact was recently conducted, revealing an interesting picture of the status of women’s power in peace and security processes in Southern Africa.

Positive trend for women’s leadership

This year, in February, the first female president was elected in the region, Joyce Banda, Malawi. This historic decision has not only resulted in Banda ruling the state of Malawi, but it has also meant that she has received seats in several of SADC:s decision-making bodies. Banda’s presidential role has also created effects in South Africa, where Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma recently became the first woman in South Africa to become a chair member in African Union Commission. The decision of putting her in this position is important since she is a well-known lobbyist and advocate for women’s rights, which is expected to be one of her main causes in the Commission.

The Seychelles and south africa prominent

Women’s participation, power and leadership in peace and security processes are far lower than men when speaking both in numbers and per cent in the region. There are however countries which deviate in a positive manner. The most prominent countries in this group is the insular nation the Seychelles and South Africa, which stand for the highest representation rate of women in parliaments (38% and 32,5% respectively) and in defence (20% and 27% respectively). Yet, there are countries where women’s power and leadership are far from being on an acceptable level. The obvious examples in this category are Mozambique and Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the representation of women in both previous instances are less than 10%.

Which conclusions can be drawn?

Al in all, it seems that the power situation for Southern African women in peace and security processes has been changing for the better, showing that the Gender and Development protocol has been somewhat successful thus far. However, it is still evident that there are large obstacles for women to overcome in terms of achieving seats at higher decision-making levels. In South Africa, only 2% of all Major Generals are women and the average level of women in UN peace keeping operations is only 15% in the entire region. Implementing large, structural changes for women in Southern Africa is therefore a slow but steady process. The outcome of the SADC protocol in 2015 will therefore be a hint of how far one can push forward women’s power in peace and security processes over seven years, and what methods it take for women to claim their rightful place as decision makers in Southern Africa.

Julle Bergenholtz
Project Manager Information and Communication
Operation 1325

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