Impact of State of the Nation Address on Women, Youth, Children & People with Disability

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

22 February 2010
Chairperson: Ms B Thompson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee called for clarity on the budget that was provided for the Committee, and whether there were separate votes for the matters covered by the Committee’s work. This Committee was, strictly speaking, no longer dealing with youth as this did not fall under the Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities any longer, but under the National Youth Development Agency, under the office of the Presidency. It was agreed that there was a need to get clarity on the mandate, on whether the National Youth Development Agency would account to this Committee, and whether the name of the Committee must change.

The Parliamentary researchers then provided a detailed overview and analysis of the 2010 State of the Nation Address (SONA), comparing the main priorities also to those outlined for 2009. The key priorities for health were set out, and although the SONA was commended for its priorities for women, it was suggested that more comprehensive action was needed, and a broader focus. The hospital revitalisation programme had been reduced and this brought into question the commitment to improvement of services. Developments in regard to access to antiretroviral treatment were positive. The Committee would need to monitor the progress of the National Health Insurance from a gender perspective, and to monitor the position of women also in departmental budgets and service delivery targets.

In regard to youth, the Committee would need to monitor how many sustainable work opportunities there were for youth within the different programmes, and obtain more exact data on youth unemployment. The “brain drain”, particularly of healthcare workers, was important because of the knock-on effect on vulnerable groups, such as children. The Committee would need to look at how and where structures relating to youth were set up, higher education issues, including funding, school assessments and teaching, and challenges to basic education, which included also safe public transport, violence, poverty and teenage pregnancy, as well as the worrying fact that younger girls were engaging in sex, often with older men as part of a power dynamic, and that knowledge about HIV amongst the youth had declined. The Committee must also monitor Millennium Development Goals, and the effectiveness of national strategic plans in areas such as HIV and Aids, crime, prioritisation of target groups, and rural development, employment and education. The Researchers also pointed out the need to concentrate on provision of basic services. Other focus areas for the Committee were named as including community safety, including the Child Protection Units, the implementation of legislation, particularly that aimed at preventing violence, and counselling and other social services.

The Researchers expressed concern that there was so little mention in the SONA of people with disabilities, as well as shortage of data. There was a need to check whether transport was focusing sufficiently on access for those with disabilities. A major task was how to establish what Performance Monitoring Systems and improvements to healthcare would mean for persons with disabilities, and the need to extend the grants to cover children with disabilities. Although the policies were comprehensive, the reality was that after ten years of implementation there were still problems of access. The Committee would need to address matters such as negative attitudes by healthcare workers, provision of assistive devices, and consultation with the disabled community.

Members noted that the presentation had not made mention of employment, education and income for those with disabilities, nor of corruption. Members felt that the researchers had not provided sufficiently clear information on children, and some statistics were outdated. They suggested the need also to address issues of cervical cancer, sanitation, and definitions of “disability”, which failed to take into account those with medical conditions such as diabetes. Data needed to be properly disaggregated. Members asked about the progress since 2009. They discussed tenders in some depth. Members generally agreed that there was a dire need for the Committee to engage on youth matters. The Committee would receive further reports on the Child Justice Act, and on the appearance of the Commission for Gender Equality before SCOPA. It was agreed that the Department of Health would be invited to make a presentation on the new National Health Insurance Scheme and that the Committee would decide what other departments also to call in for briefings.

The Committee noted that the Committee itself had not been invited to a conference to mark the Fifteen Years of the Beijing Declaration, and the matter had been taken up with the Whip of the NCOP, who was raising the matter with the Minister. The Country’s Report was flawed and there was some uncertainty who was to present this report, which should ideally be discussed by this Committee.

Meeting report

State of the Nation Address 2010: Impact on the work of the Committee
Ms Crystal Levendale, Committee Researcher, presented an overview of the State of the Nation Address (SONA), focusing on the Committee’s theme for the year, which was Maternal and Women’s Health, Child Survival and Development. She gave a brief background to this address, comparing it to past addresses and broke down its effect and meaning for women.

Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Parliamentary Researcher, explained to the Committee what the focus should be in regard to Youth and SONA.

Ms T Matthews, Parliamentary Researcher An analysis was also presented by Researcher Ms Matthews on the effect of the SONA in relation to children.

Mr Gary Rhoda, Parliamentary Researcher, detailed what SONA meant for persons with disabilities.

The Chairperson noted that it was a pity that the researchers had not circulated a hard copy of their presentation prior to the meeting. She also expressed concern over the allocation given to the Ministry and the fact that it did not match the budget. She questioned whether it would not be beneficial to ask National Treasury to explain the issues.

Ms P Maduna (ANC) asked about the position of ‘youth’ within the Committee’s mandate

Ms S Rwexana (COPE) asked for clarity on the budget being provided for the Committee and expressed confusion at the fact that the Committee’s budget appeared under the Presidency.  She also asked whether there was one vote, or whether there was a separate vote for the Committee.

Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) stated that this Committee should no longer be dealing with ‘youth’, as it no longer fell under the Committee.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) asked for a proper explanation with regard to the position of ‘youth’, including an explanation of the Committee’s title.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee no longer fell under the Presidency and therefore had its own vote.

Ms Levendale highlighted that when the Committee was initially established, ‘youth’ was part of its mandate, since, on establishment of the Ministry, youth was to be included under this Ministry. This was later changed and it was decided that The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) would fall under the Presidency. The NYDA and the Ministry had indicated that the Committee’s duties were split between oversight in relation to the Ministry, and oversight of the NYDA within the Presidency. Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities continued to report to the Minister, whilst Youth, in terms of the NYDA, fell under the Presidency. The two were not being merged. The Committee would need to look at Vote 1 in terms of the NYDA and Vote 7 in terms of the Ministry.

Ms Rwexana suggested that the Committee get clarity from the Minister of Evaluation and Monitoring over the problematic connection to both the Presidency and the Ministry

The Chairperson agreed that the position of the Committee did not make sense and questioned why the NYDA would come and account to this Committee if it fell under the Presidency.

Ms H Malgas (ANC) argued that the name of the Committee set out its mandate, and suggested that the whip of the Committee should check whether the Committee’s name remained as initially formulated.

Mr D C Kekana suggested that it was a positive step to have two ministries focused on the youth, and that it was not unusual to have overlapping across other ministries.

Ms D Robinson (DA) questioned to whom the NYDA would be accountable if it was not to this Committee

The Chairperson agreed that clarity was needed and added that it was impossible for the Ministry to perform oversight over the NYDA.

Overview and Analysis of State of Nation Address
Ms Levendale presented an overview and analysis of the SONA. She highlighted the key priorities of 2009, and compared these to the key strategic priorities contained in the 2010 SONA, noting the focus on youth and youth development.

She reiterated that the Committee’s theme for the year was Maternal and Women’s Health, Child Survival and Development, and said that her analysis took this as its focal area. The key priorities in terms of health included an improvement of the healthcare system, improvement of the working conditions of health care workers, interventions to lower child mortality rates, an intensification of measures to reduce cases of HIV and TB infection, reduction of infant mortality through an immunisation programme, the reinstatement of health programmes in schools and preparation for the introduction of a national health insurance scheme. She commended the SONA for its priorities for women, but suggested that what was needed was more comprehensive action. She also suggested that the focus of women’s health on maternal mortality alone was problematic as it overlooked other areas, such as the mental health of women. The reduction of mortality rates was seen as important. She took issue with the hospital revitalisation programme which was introduced in 2003. This was meant to target 40 hospitals but this had been reduced to 27 in 2009 due to lack of infrastructural funding. This caused doubt over the actual commitment of government to the improvement of services. The need to upscale services in hospitals was highlighted. She suggested that the Committee needed to investigate where money was going in terms of improving services.

She noted with approval that HIV CD4 count requirement, before being able to access antiretroviral treatment, had been changed from 200 to 350. All HIV-positive women would also be able to access antiretroviral at 14 weeks of pregnancy. This was seen as a positive step for HIV-positive women in particular. The National Health Insurance Scheme was understood as very important to women as it would allow improved access to health care services. Access to basic infrastructure was also seen as central to the ongoing health of women and families. The President prioritised the provision of this in the SONA although it was uncertain how female-headed households or poor households would be prioritised under this provision. She suggested that the Committee would need to monitor the progress of the National Health Insurance scheme from a gender perspective. It would also need to track the progress made with regard to maternal mortality and the budgetary allocations with regard to maternal health. Briefing and progress reports were highlighted as necessary needs to be requested from all relevant departments dealing with the upgrading of health care facilities. She noted also a need to monitor departmental budgets to ensure that gender was a consideration in targeted expenditure. Due to the link between health statues and access to basic services it was crucial that the Committee also engage with the Department of Transport, Local Government and Human Settlements in terms of their prioritisation of women in service delivery targets

Ms Abrahams indicated that her analysis focused on youth and the link to the five priorities identified previously. Priorities mentioned for youth by the President included the creation of jobs and the stepping-up of structures such as the National Youth Development Agency. Employment was to be created through encouraging the private sector to employ inexperienced youth. It was put forward that there should also be more learnerships and an enhancement of the Expanded Public Works Programme. She informed the Committee that it would need to monitor how many sustainable work opportunities there were for youth within the different programmes. She also stressed that there was a need for more exact data on youth unemployment, showing where youth were currently unemployed and where the private sector was taking them in. She stressed that the Department of Health would need to brief the Committee on measures to address to “brain drain”, particularly of health care workers.

The Committee needed to establish where the structures pertaining to youth were set up. For example, this would include an analysis of where the NYDA was housed and how it was working to ensure they did not repeat the mistakes of the past, and whether it had delivered in terms of the budget and the goals. In terms of higher education, the President emphasised the difficulties youth were facing in accessing universities. She argued that there was a need to look at how able the country was to facilitate further education. Due to funding issues there was an emphasis on enhancing access to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. Basic education applied to those between 14 to 18 years of age, where the focus was attendance and punctuality. The pass rate needed to be increased and this could be aided though the implementation of quality assessments, starting at lower levels. In order to improve teacher effectiveness assistance could be offered by providing daily lessons. The overall goal should be to increase the number of grade 12 learners who could access university by 2014.

The challenges to basic education included safe public transport, violence in schools, poverty and teenage pregnancy. HIV/Aids was presented as a risk to youth not only as a separate population group, but also because they may live in communities or families with someone who has HIV. She stressed that it was necessary to look at teacher morale and the support mechanisms in place for teachers. In terms of sexual relations, onset of first sexual relations for boys was taking place at a later age, but the same was not true for girls. She suggested that it was often younger girls who were engaging in sexual relations with older men and that there was a power dynamic to this. Knowledge around HIV amongst the youth had also decreased. The Committee would need to question the effectiveness of programmes.

She noted that it was the Committee’s responsibility to monitor the Millennium Development Goals, particularly with regard to maternal health. The Committee would also need to question to what extent the National Strategic Plan around HIV and Aids was youth-sensitive. There was a lack of disaggregated data in terms of access to basic services, making oversight for the Committee very difficult. She stressed the link between access to basic services and health. The Committee would need to look at integrated development plans as a key tool to ascertain to what extent the target groups were being prioritised.

In terms of rural areas, youth were understood as moving, so it would be necessary to ask why they were moving. With regard to fighting crime, she noted that the key challenges for the Committee would be that youth were both perpetrators and victims of gender-based violence. She stated that there was an alarming number of awaiting-trial detainees, and that there was a clear lack of disaggregated data that could be used to monitor youth in conflict.

Ms T Matthews, Parliamentary Researcher, reiterated that the key priorities of the President were health, crime, land reform and rural development, and employment and education. Her focus would be on children, specifically with regards to health and issues around child protection. She restated Ms Levendale’s outline of the key priorities as they pertained to children and said that this included the reduction of infant mortality through an immunisation programme, the reinstatement of health programmes in schools and the implementation of all the priorities undertaken on World Aids Day. She stated that it was important to address the implementation of school health programmes as these had been implemented in the past, stressing the importance of the psycho-social services these programmes could provide. Schools could then become nodes of intervention for children who were particularly vulnerable. It would also be necessary to closely monitor the school immunisation programme. She noted the need for empirical research due to the lack of up to date information on children within the databases.

She highlighted that her analysis mentioned basic services, as had the other analyses, but her focus was specifically on water, particularly clean running water. It was indicated that children are particularly vulnerable to water born diseases. This was considered problematic when considering the number of houses in the country that continued to use the bucket system. The rolling out of toilets and water pipes needed to be monitored much more closely. Oversight was stressed as integral. She stated that the key priorities in terms of child protection included reduction in serious violent crime, ensuring that the justice system worked efficiently and the participation of communities in Community Safety Forums. The Committee would need to focus on ensuring that there were well-resourced forensic laboratory services in order to follow up on cases of violence. In terms of training, there was a dire need for well-equipped personnel, particularly those who had skills to counsel or refer children to the correct sources if they had experienced violence. She noted that the Committee would need to reconsider the reinstatement of the Child Protection Units, as they could seen as key to dealing with children and the issues that faced them. The brain drain of specialist doctors also affected children, who required special health services.

Mr Rhoda noted that the most recent SONA had only once mentioned people with disabilities. He suggested that this necessitated a deeper look into issues that affected people with disabilities. He also noted a lack of data. He suggested that the Committee’s programme would focus on health services and access to basic services. A key issue in the President’s SONA was the increase in social spending and the child support grant, which had been extended, although there was a problem in that the Care Dependency Grant had not been extended. Another key issue was the expansion of the road network. He noted that this related specifically to the Soccer World Cup. It would be necessary for the Committee to ask how access for person with disabilities to basic health care services could be increased, as these services did not come to them. Transport was seen as critical. In terms of service delivery there was a need to establish what Performance Monitoring System would mean for persons with disabilities particularly with regard to adequate housing in the case of mobility impairments. The Committee also needed to question what the improvement of the health care system meant, in light of the diverse array of disabilities. In terms of basic services, the question was one of access. He stressed the fact that the Care Dependency Grant did not cover children with disabilities, suggesting that this was a focus area for the Committee and that there was a need for the extension of the Care Dependency Grant.

He criticised that the Infrastructural Development Cluster seemed to be geared towards getting the country ready for the World Cup, rather than speaking to what its original purpose was, particularly with regard to people with disabilities. He found it commendable that the policy for improvement of Health Care Services and the Primary Health Care Package outlined how it planned to meet the needs of those with disabilities. However, he said it was problematic that the policy had been implemented ten years ago and yet there were still issues with regards to access to heath care facilities, specifically for children and those with mobility impairments. He suggested that an area critical for oversight by the Committee would be the Primary Health Care Package, which did not speak to specific assistive devices. Negative attitude on the part of healthcare workers was seen as of concern particularly in rural areas. He raised the progression of the National Health Insurance Plan, and suggested that the Committee look into how this affected people with disabilities and how they would be covered. He took issue with policies developed for people with disabilities without including them in the consultative process.

The Chairperson questioned whether the researchers had not overlooked fighting corruption in their presentation and asked whether that could be added in

Mr Kekana took issue with the fact that Mr Rhoda had suggested there was limited data available on disability. He also questioned the focus of the presentation, noting that he had made no mention of employment, education and income for people with disabilities. He asked what the Committee’s programmes were that focused on skilling youth to become qualified and create jobs.

Ms H Malgas suggested that the work of the researchers on children was vague and the statistics used, particularly for the MDGs, were outdated. She also asked about the lack of focus on cervical cancer. She also asked for clarity with regard to the bucket system and the areas being spoken about. She suggested that greater interaction was needed with the Departments of Social Development and Health in defining ‘disability’, as a number of people such as those with diabetes were left out of the system.

Ms Ramodibe agreed that the Department needed to provide information on what hospitals were receiving reduced allocations. She highlighted the importance of disaggregation of data particularly in presentations by departments. She noted that parents should take responsibility for and participate in their children’s education. She agreed with Ms Malgas with the issue of using the MDGs and current data.

Mr D Worth (DA) asked for clarity over the role of and possible reinstitution of Child Protection Units, and whether this was not already taking place.

The Chairperson enquired about progress since 2009, and whether there was a way of comparing this progress.  He suggested that there was a problem with regard to the youth’s understanding of empowerment, skills development and training, and on tenders. He expressed frustration with those winning tenders and simply outsourcing, arguing that this was not a form of empowerment, but exactly the opposite, particularly with regards to the youth. Those with skills should be receiving tenders and empowering others

Ms Ramodibe suggested that a possible solution would be to make it a condition that those who received tenders also transferred skills

Ms Rwexana noted that there was a gap in the discussion around economic empowerment of women.

Ms Robinson argued that receiving a tender was not empowerment but rather enrichment. She highlighted the central role of women in establishing the right values in society, particularly with regards to material gain.

Ms L Mabe (ANC) suggested that material gain was simply an inescapable negative effect of globalisation. The procurement of tenders was seen as sensitive, and she suggested that perhaps this meeting was not the place to discuss the matter, also that Members might not be well qualified to do so,  although she did feel that youth had a right to benefit from tenders. She noted that the mandate of this Committee cut across all departments. She highlighted the need to check that the SONA was in line with the various party manifestos. She proposed that perhaps it would be necessary to hold a study group to prioritise issue raised within the Committee. That exercise would also allow greater engagement with the departments. Time was needed in order to reflect on previous SONAs and the current one, especially with regards to achievements and challenges. Engagement also needed to take place on the budget. She proposed that the study group should prioritise which departments should come before the Committee.

The Chairperson stated that she believed the Committee was qualified to talk about tenders. She reiterated that tenders could not be seen as empowerment, but that this did not exclude youth from accessing them should they be skilled in a specific area related to that tender. She defended her position and noted that it would be impossible in her position as Chair to be opposed to youth being empowered.

Mr Kekana argued that Ms Mabe’s attitude on globalisation was unacceptable, highlighting that this Committee played as much of a role in globalisation as anyone else and that it was necessary for them to challenge what was wrong and embrace what was right. He agreed that the concerns of the youth should be put first, including the short cut attitude with regards to applying for tenders as opposed to going to school. Skills were seen as far more necessary than tender applications.

Ms Rwexana suggested that what was necessary in order to ensure the country was not crippled was to return to the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) document which clearly outlined the need to pair skilled and unskilled people for tenders. It was important to ensure that South Africa did not become like other African countries, but provided a better future for South African children.

Ms Mabe suggested that there was a dire need for the Committee to engage on youth matters. In order to do so, she suggested that departments willing to assist with youth development and moral regeneration should be invited to come and tell the Committee what they had done.

The Chairperson agreed, and questioned whether it would also not be possible to come up with views and proposals to put forward to the NYDA. She questioned whether the Department’s budget was so small because they were not expected to implement any programmes. She noted that if the Committee was to engage on a tough monitoring exercise the budget would not be sufficient

Ms Robinson asked if the Committee had been briefed on the Child Justice Act, as this was of  central importance to their work, particularly with regards to domestic violence.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee was aware that certain legislation needed to be looked into, even amended, but that the Committee was unable to attend to everything.

Ms Abrahams informed the Committee that the Act would come into operation on 1 April and that the Department of Justice had been late in putting it forward. She offered to get the minutes from the meeting and inform the Committee accordingly.

Mr Rhoda informed the Committee that the Commission for Gender Equality now fell under the Department for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities. He noted that for the past two years there had been no annual report provided by the CGE. Due to this, the CGE would be appearing before Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) the following day. He requested that Members of the Committee be present.

The Chairperson requested that Members of the Committee attend the meeting due to the fact that CGE had been given a far more substantial budget than the Department and yet had not accounted for it for two years

Ms Robinson requested that Mr Rhoda make a report from the meeting available to Members who were not able to attend

Ms Rwexana suggested inviting the Department of Health to present on the New National Health Insurance scheme as soon as possible, as this would ensure that women would be able to participate when the public hearings were held.

The Chairperson asked which departments should be brought before the Committee. The Departments of Health and Justice were mentioned. She stressed that the Committee would need to monitor the elements of the SONA that the researchers had mentioned.

Adoption of Minutes
The Committee adopted four sets of Minutes of previous meetings.

Committee’s Annual Report
The Chairperson read over the Committee’s Annual Report and members proposed some amendments to be made to it.

Other Committee business
Ms Abrahams informed the committee that the International Parliamentary Union document contained a resolution around youth participation and that the Committee would be required to look at this in the near future

The Chairperson mentioned the possibility of legislation on prostitution tabled soon

Ms Malgas noted that there would also be legislation on Human Trafficking tabled soon

The Chairperson suggested that there would be a possibility of the Committee being expected to participate on these.

Mr Rhoda questioned whether the Chairperson would like to raise the issue of The Fifteen Years of the Beijing Declaration at the United Nations

The Chairperson informed the Committee that a conference was to take place in New York, but that the Committee had not been invited to it. An invitation was directed to the Chairperson, which she did not think was suitable, as parliament should have been invited, and an invitation should thus have been directed to the Speaker, so a Parliamentary delegation could attend. The Committee was also excluded from the discussion around the report. She questioned how it was possible to take the Country’s Report to New York without showing it to the Committee and noted that this Report also contained serious flaws. She felt the Committee’s exclusion was problematic and expressed her confusion over who was presenting the report and to whom

Ms D Robinson suggested that the Committee had been sidelined and requested that her official concern be noted.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that prior to the meeting she had met with the Chief Whip of the NCOP and advised that the Committee was not invited. The Whip had been trying to get information on the standing of the Committee, and had attempted to contact the Minister, who was unavailable. She also enquired whether or not the Committee felt that it was an oversight that Parliament had not been invited. She was unsure if this was being corrected.

Ms Malgas highlighted that previously, at Beijing +10, the gender machinery and Parliament had attended, although they did so separately, meeting together later in a specific meeting. Certain provinces were also allowed to attend. She agreed that Parliament should be invited but remarked that this should not be seen as an oversight.

The Chairperson stated that an answer should be given by the end of the day.

Ms Ramodibe argued that in some past overseas trips women were spoken for but not represented. This needed to change. She suggested that one possibility would be to call a multi-party women’s caucus to create a voice.

The meeting was adjourned.


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