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Seychelles signs the SADC Gender and Development Protocol
Upon being welcomed back as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), President James Michel signed the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development on August 17th 2008, at the 28th Heads of State and Government Summit which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Gender Protocol represents an important step in work towards the empowerment of women in southern Africa. It consolidates key commitments on gender equality and women's empowerment made in the 1997 SADC Declaration on Gender and Development and 1998 Addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women and Children into a legally binding document, with specific timeframes to accelerate implementation and delivery.

Key targets in the Protocol include ensuring that provisions for gender equality are contained in all constitutions and include affirmative action clauses; halving gender violence, abolishing the legal minority status of women, and achieving at least 50% representation of women in decision-making positions by 2015.

Other targets already achieved in Seychelles include HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and support; access to Post Exposure Prophylaxis in the event of sexual assault; gender equality in land ownership; women’s equal opportunities in trade and entrepreneurship, including equal access to state procurement.

Over 60 representatives of gender justice organisations forming the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance, including the local NGO GEM Plus, met parallel to the Summit under the banner “The Time is Now,” to conduct final lobbying efforts encouraging leaders to adopt the Gender Protocol, as well as develop strategies and action plans on how to take the Protocol forward.

Activists were disappointed that key provisions, which some countries including Seychelles already recognise within national legal frameworks, have been excluded from the final draft of the Protocol, such as marital rape, cohabitation and the rights of vulnerable groups.

Nevertheless, in his opening statement, Minister Pahad pointed out that the Gender Protocol represents a minimum set of standards, that if achieved, means that the region would have come a long way in ensuring an environment in which both genders can achieve their maximum potential.

The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development will now be transformed into national plans of action for implementation as SADC Member States begin the process of ratification.

Gender Secretariat, 02.09.08