Lusaka, 7 March 2021. Ahead of the International Women’s Day (IWD) commemoration on 8 March 2021, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) calls on national leaders and other stakeholders in the region to identify, highlight and address barriers preventing women from effectively participating in leadership.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID -19 World”. The theme is a recognition of the need for women and girls’ full and effective participation and leadership in shaping recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Thecommemoration of this day is therefore an opportunity to uplift and promote positive opinions about and from women.
PSAf notes with concern that women continue to be marginalised in leadership roles across all sectors. Despite official statistics showing that Southern Africa’s population is dominated by more
women than men, women representation in leadership in sectors such as politics, public administration, the private sector and non-profit organisations is still very low. In the few occasions that women make it into leadership positions, they face a lot of resistance from various systems and structures which are mostly rooted in the prevailing patriarchal mindsets.
PSAf regrets that apart from the challenges that women in Southern Africa are facing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, women still have to deal with sexual harassment in their workplaces, homes and communities. This does not only hinder women from getting to the top, but from accessing opportunities that can help them realise or demonstrate their worth. Sexual harassment is demonstrated in various negative ways including, sexist labelling of women aspiring for or holding leadership positions.
Despite the existence of various international, regional, and national commitments and instruments aimed at emancipating women of which many countries in Southern Africa are a party to, there is a myriad of harmful stereotypes that influence society to regard and treat women in ways that erode their dignity and confidence. We must collectively identify and address these.
As part of its efforts to address gender inequality in political leadership and decision making, PSAf in 2019 published a report on the Assessment of Political Party Systems and Structures that Marginalise Women. The report identified numerous systems and structures that hinder women from taking up leadership in political parties. Most of those systems and structures also affect women’s participation in leadership in other sectors.
PSAf is also partnering with organisations such as the Non-Governmental Gender Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) of Zambia in implementing interventions aimed atimproving women participation in governance process at community, district, national, regional, and international levels. We believe that uplifting the lives of women will also ensure positive changes for women through building their confidence to enable them to contribute positively to national building.
PSAf continues to advocate for laws and policies that favourwomen, such as laws to address child marriages and advance access to education for girls. PSAf also facilitates platforms for citizens to hold the state to account on international commitments and instruments that seek to empower women. These include the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA), and the Maputo Protocol, among other commitments.
Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa