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I am deeply gratified to be conveying this message of support on behalf of my sisters in the Regional Women's Parliamentary Caucus to this illustrious occasion - the SADC Parliamentary Forum's 40th Plenary Assembly. The Theme this year is: Statelessness in the SADC Region.

For us, this is an important theme as statelessness cannot be discussed without looking at its direct impact on women and girl-children. Gender discrimination, the subordination and marginalisation of women, and feminised poverty are some of the crucial factors in creating and perpetuating statelessness and non-recognition of citizenship rights. Many countries still do not have gender-neutral citizenship laws. In the worst cases, women lose their citizenship upon marriage to foreigners, and are unable to pass on their citizenship to their children. In Africa over 20 countries, including some SADC Member States, still deny women the right to pass on nationality to a foreign spouse.

Director of Ceremonies;

-His Excellency;

Delegates to the 40th Plenary Assembly Session and Invited Guests

Children born out of wedlock and to mothers who are refugees suffer the brunt of statelessness as they are refused natural citizenship in the country where they are born. By implication, such children do not have birth certificates, which in turn denies them access to health care, education and various other support services. As long as we, people in decision-making positions, and political parties continue to deny women access to political and decision-making positions, such problems will prevail. According to research findings, when women are in charge, there is great improvement in socio-economic conditions of the country. This transformation requires political will.

I appeal to the leaders here today to affirm women politically - let us give them their rightful places in the society. Fifty per cent gender equality, should be a reality. But the trends are not going in a positive direction. In the recent October 2016 Parliamentary Election in Seychelles - our beacon of hope in this Region - representation of women took a nose dive, falling from 44 to 21 percent. In South Africa's last General Elections, in 2014, women representation dropped from 43 to 41 percent.

Research has shown that these reductions in women representation in politics, is largely a result of unregulated gender quotas, SADC Member States, have no choice but to introduce regulation of gender quotas.

Director of Ceremonies

-His Excellency,

-Hon Members of Parliaments and Distinguished Delegates

On this occasion we are guests of Zimbabwe, a country that paved the way for all of us for introducing gender quotas in its newly amended constitution. We have evidence of its effectiveness as Zimbabwe presently, women representation is at 31.5 percent in the Upper House and 47.5 percent in the Senate. In 2018, we want to see a different picture here; let us work towards becoming the first SADC Member State to reach 50% of women representation, in both Houses. We can do it!!!

Let me extend our well wishes to the countries holding elections in 2017 and 2018, for example, Angola, hoping that it will improve its present women representation in parliament from 36.8 percent to 50 percent; Swaziland in 2018 also hoping that it will improve its women representation from 4% in the Lower House and 10% in the Upper House to 50%. Fifty-fifty is just a yardstick; if we can, let's go well above that. Rwanda has done it, it is standing at 64 percent presently.

Allow me to challenge all the Women's Parliamentary Caucuses, to work hard to ensure that each country achieves this 50 percent gender parity goal by 2030.

Director of Ceremonies

-His Excellency,

-Hon Members of Parliaments and Distinguished Delegates

On behalf of the Regional Women's Parliamentary Caucus I thank you for this opportunity and would like to end by reminding us all of our motto: 'Nothing about women in this Region without women.'

Thank you, Obrigato, Merci, Tatenda, Siyabonga,

SADC Women Parliament

SADC Women Parliament

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