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Best practice: Making every voice count for gender equality in Southern Africa

Project duration: 1 March 2013 – 25 July 2016

Budget: EUR 1.970.000

EU contribution: EUR 1.580.999 Euros (DCI, CSO-LA)

Countries of action: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Lead organisation: Gender Links


In 2008, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) adopted a Protocol on Gender and Development. The SADC Gender Protocol (SGP) is a unique sub-regional instrument that brought together African and global goals on gender equality with 28 targets to be achieved by 2015.

The project "Making every voice count for gender equality in Southern Africa" which started in 2013 was designed to contribute to the attainment of those 28 targets, through strengthening the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance Network (the Alliance) in holding governments to account and empowering citizens to claim their rights. The South African NGO Gender Links ensured the coordination of the Alliance Network and implemented this project which ended in July 2016.

The Alliance developed a Gender Barometer for the region, composed of two elements:

  1. the SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI) which measures how SADC governments are performing against the 28 targets of the SGP.
  2. the Citizen Score Card (CSC) which is based on the perceptions of women and men in the region on gender equality.

The two tools work in complementarity: while the SGDI is an empirical measure, the score card gauges perceptions. According to this Gender Barometer, the SADC region only achieved 69% of the 28 targets set for 2015.

Beyond 2015 and despite this partial accomplishment, the Alliance participated in aligning the SGP to the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The revised Protocol is a stronger regional gender equality instrument compared to the African Union and global instruments.

The Alliance also lobbied SADC governments to adopt and ratify the original Post-2015 Protocol. Working with UN Women, it even went beyond its initial objective by successfully campaigning for a standalone climate change target in the Post-2015 Protocol.

The network was successful in linking the local voices and concerns of citizens to the regional and global international policy debates. New relationships and multi-stakeholder dialogues were created and a new dynamic was triggered in the region. As such the Alliance’s work was recognized by the African Union as outstanding contribution to women’s rights in 2013. The Alliance was also awarded the Drivers of Change semi-finalist by the Southern Africa Trust (SAT) in 2015 and semi-finalist in the One Africa Award in 2015. Furthermore, the UN SDGs working group acknowledged the Alliance’s input on the Global SDGs consultations.

The final evaluation draws four main conclusions from the project:

  • The Protocol has provided a framework for citizens of the SADC region to hold their governments accountable and to demand gender equality in the region.
  • The Barometer has proven to be an effective tool used by women’s movements to demonstrate the agenda setting power of civil society and its critical watchdog function. Some see the Protocol as a mirror that reflects where they stand as government and to remedy the shortfalls. This is a major achievement of the Alliance network in putting gender on the governmental agenda.
  • The Alliance network has demonstrated that civil society can work with governments as partners despite the prevailing attitudes that CSOs are critics of governments. The Alliance has achieved more by working with governments, and offering technical expertise and solutions to social challenges, than it would have by directly opposing them.
  • Patriarchal attitudes remain the major stumbling block in achieving gender equality in the SADC region. The regional average score for women (55%) in the gender perceptions survey is a little higher than men (51%), which illustrates that gender inequality is so normalised that it often goes unnoticed, including by women who have been socialised to accept their inferior status.

Overall, apart from strengthening the capacities of the regional and national networks and contributing to exchange of knowledge and best practices on gender, this project allowed the Gender Protocol Alliance Network to overcome its traditional role of watchdog and to become a legitimate interlocutor of governments as regards gender public policies in the region. In that regard, this project generated best practices on how to interact with governments, while developing innovative tools such as the Gender Barometer. However, achieving 100% gender equality in the region by 2030 will require persistent efforts from members of the Alliance in lobbying governments to fulfil their commitments to gender equality.


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Daphné Barbotte
3 April 2017

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