After months of trying to sit down with the ever busy, always flying from one Southern African Development Community (SADC) state to the other, we eventually managed to pin down Magdeline Mathiba –Madibela.
She is the Head of SADC Gender Unit- the woman who works around the clock to make sure that gender equality and women’s empowerment becomes a reality in Southern Africa.
As a wife and a mother of three, how does she manage to juggle the multiple roles in her demanding job.
We asked her how she has reached such heights of success in her career, managed to keep the balance of her hectic career with family responsibilities and more.
Read on to find out answers to these and more.
Q. How did you land on this top post?
It was in 2004 when I applied for the position. It is a regional post, so I had to compete with equally talented and experienced experts on gender equality across Southern Africa.
It was a challenge but I emerged the fairest (smile). It was a combination of preparation, experience, in-depth knowledge of the subject, God and of course a little bit of good luck.
I resumed working for SADC in January 2005.
Q. I am sure you were and still proud of yourself that you got the job hence the smile as I guess many people from all over SADC countries applied for the position.
(Laughs) Of course I was happy, like you say it was quite an achievement to be selected as the best candidate in such a highly competitive position.
Q. What does your job entail?
The SADC Gender Unit is responsible for coordinating, facilitating and monitoring the implementation of SADC gender commitments as outlined in various instruments such as the SADC Gender Policy and The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
So I am responsible for driving this regional mandate.
Q. What is one thing that you did when you joined SADC that you count as one of your main achievements?
Spearheading the development of the SADC Gender Policy, the signing and ratification of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
The latter is the highlight!
Q. Are we making progress in gender equality in SADC?
Progress in gender equality and women’s empowerment in Southern Africa is slow,inconsistent and patchy.
There are however significant successes that have to be celebrated in SADC member states in the areas such as education: Most member states have reached gender parity at primary education level, at secondary and tertiary level we are experiencing consistent improvement in equal opportunities of boys and girls.
At tertiary level, we are concerned that there are still very few girls /young women in Science and Technology and Mathematics as compared to boys.
On women in politics and decision making, we celebrate the successes in this area, especially the ascension of Her Excellency President Joyce Banda to Presidency in Malawi.
We also have Vice President in Zimbabwe and Deputy Prime Ministers in Zimbabwe and Mauritius.
There are also other SADC member states that have done very well in women’s representation in Parliament and Cabinet such as South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania and Lesotho.
Botswana is the lowest ranking on women’s representation in parliament and cabinet.
In terms of key challenges, violence against women is on the increase in Southern Africa.
Most member states still do not have sufficient programmes and services to address violence against women and children.
Another area that concerns SADC is the decline in women’s representation of women in positions of leadership as witnessed in the previous elections of some SADC member states such as Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Lesotho
Q. How do SADC member states with political challenges such as Zimbabwe deal with gender?
Zimbabwe has signed and ratified the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
Zimbabwe is progressively translating regional policies and decisions national programmes such as Gender Budgeting and the 50:50 Campaign.
It s is not surprising that the majority of women are represented in very high positions in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe just like all other member states has her own share of challenges to deal with gender inequalities.
Q. Botswana hasn’t signed the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and yet the SADC secretariat is here in Gaborone, what are you doing about it?
SADC member states that have not signed the SADC Protocol are only two: Botswana and Mauritius. Both are regarded very highly in terms of good governance, democracy and human rights.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment are Human Rights issues. I truly believe that Botswana will soon demonstrate solidarity with women of Botswana by signing and ratifying the protocol.
Q. And do you think it’s a matter of the powers that be not interested in women’s issues since the protocol is focusing more on their empowerment?
Botswana has reported that the protocol has financial implications, and also that the language in the protocol is mandatory with specific targets.
I have said, all protocols have financial implications for them to be implemented, all protocols are legally binding and targets are important for monitoring.
Unless the commitment to women’s empowerment is limited, I see no obstacles for Botswana to sign the protocol.
It’s a question of time.
Q. 16 days of activism against gender based violence are upon us, do you think efforts to stop the violence are bearing fruits or they are going to waste?
It’s such a pity that violence against women is not declining across the region, but the struggle continues.
More innovative measures and creative programmes as well as campaigns must be put in place to deal with this problem.
Male involvement is crucial too to address issues of self esteem, and egocentric concerns.
Q. What are some of the challenges that you come across in your endeavours to make sure that women are economically and politically empowered?
Implementation and execution of protocol and regional policies and other international gender instruments at national level remains a major concern.
This creates a glaring gap between policy and implementation.
At regional level that is the main issue for us.
Q. What do you love about your job or you love it because you are always travelling from one country to the other?
I love my job and enjoy what I do immensely! As they say if you don’t enjoy it don’t do it!!
What I enjoy the most about my job is the strategic positioning and leverage that I have to engage with gender experts and other stakeholders from all the 15 SADC member states and beyond.
I admire the commitment that implementers of regional policies strive to deliver to the women on the ground.
We meet often to discuss successes, challenges and review progress made at national level with a view to strategise for better results.
Q. Sure there is more that you love.
I also enjoy travelling and experiencing the beautiful cultures of our people in Southern Africa, the good traditional foods, the sisterhood and brotherhood that binds us together as a community.
For instance I was in Lusaka recently, the hospitality was awesome, the food was good. I ate ‘nsima’ (pap) ,cassava and kapenta (small fish) and more ..every day (laughs).
Q. And the money is good I guess?
(Laughs) Ah, are you asking me how much I earn…? What I can tell you is that SADC is a good employer.
I also enjoy meeting new people from all over the world as well as enjoying a few immunities here and there.
Q. Ok, enough of you and your job, time to get personal, the belief out there, is that gender activists are social failures especially where marriage is concerned, how are you managing?
(Silence, then shakes her head) That’s a very sad and unfortunate stereotype, I know most people think so but it’s just a perception, a wrong one for that matter.
Marriage is all about love and mutual respect. I have three beautiful girls Sebaga 11, Tuduetso,7 and Phatsimo 4.
Q. But how are you striking a balance between your career and life seeing that you travel a lot?
I have a very loving and supportive husband, a very strong support system around me including my family. When I am home, I invest quality time with my loved ones.
We eat, laugh and play together. Of course I wish I could spend more time with them but I guess everything happens for a reason, you win some, you lose some, you can’t have it all.
Q. You seem to work hard and sure you play hard, how do you spend your free time?
Free time is hard to come by but the little that I get is spent with my babies and my husband. We often plan to do something we can all enjoy, whether it is going to the movies, playing golf, or just staying home.
I also enjoy hosting our extended families as often as I can. It’s always a good excuse to see them, and for me family is key.
I enjoy the company of my dear friends too.
I also recharge my energy by going to church and worshipping.
Q. Festive season is upon us, any plans yet.
We have no major plans to travel this Christmas. I hope we will go up north to visit family and we hope to explore and tour Botswana around the Limpopo before festive season ends.
Q. Lastly, what is your dream?
I aspire to expand the horizon of my career beyond the SADC boarders and work internationally in future.
I also intend to get involved in business by exploring traditionally male dominated areas such as mining and construction.
Full names: Magdeline Nametso Mathiba Madibela
Born in : Lobatse ,Athlone Hospital
Home village: Mmathethe and married at Mokobeng
Car Driving: BMWX5
Favourite food: Green salad with boneless meat
Favourite drink(s): Tea and Water
Weakness: Shopping for shoes and bags
Motto: Your attitude determines your altitude
Role model: Her mother
Hates: Corruption and nepotism