SADC Women Honoured

Last week she won the judges’ special commendation at the conclusion of what is hoped to become an annual gathering here of gender justice advocates and government officeholders from throughout southern Africa.

Gender Links, a nongovernmental organization based in Johannesburg, planned the summit with the financial help of donors and partners. The group expected about 120 delegates but 273 showed up.

At the awards ceremony, Gender Links founder Colleen Lowe Morna introduced other Zimbabweans she called her “two mothers.” They represent different political parties but work together on women’s issues in their village. Neither had been out of the country before, and they secured their first passports to attend.

As other winners’ names were called out during the ceremony, participants hugged, chanted, high-fived and clapped. Winners danced up to the stage to receive their honors, some wrapped in their national flags. Morna encouraged everyone to dance after the last award was handed out, declaring, “You’re all winners.”

The three-day convention drew women and men who presented practical strategies and programmes that have improved women’s influence, safety, housing and education. Delegates came from 10 southern Africa countries, clad in everything from business suits to red conference T-shirts and jeans to native dress.

The Southern Africa Development Council has set a deadline of 2015 for all its member countries to “enact and enforce legislation prohibiting all forms of gender-based violence” and to provide legal, medical and counseling services to victims.

The matter is urgent. The worries of sex workers flooding South Africa during the World Cup, which starts on June 11, are rampant. Rape is common and many of the assailants are HIV-positive.WomensENews