Committee's revised strategic Plan 2011, National & Provincial Summit: Research Unit reports

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

12 April 2011
Chairperson: Ms D Ramodibe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Parliamentary Researcher on the National and Provincial Summit held from 28 to 31 March 2011. This reflected common challenges within the provinces, key considerations, and suggested actions that the Committee could take. The role of the Provincial legislatures and the Premier’s Office Special Programmes on women, children and persons with disabilities had been discussed. The delegates had shared knowledge about provincial structures dealing with matters related to women, children and persons with disabilities, and created an opportunity for provinces to work together. There were some inconsistencies both in the location of the offices dealing with women, children and disabilities at provincial level, and some had their own special programmes or units. The level of staff was also problematic, since many did not have decision-making powers, and there was lack of specialised skills and research. Gender was often dealt with separately, instead of being mainstreamed, and there was a general lack of understanding about mainstreaming and inconsistency on programmes attempting to deal with this. Provinces were also concerned about data discrepancies. Provincial legislatures could not hold people to account, and some did not have specific committees dealing with these issues. It was hoped that Chief Directorates could be appointed to deal with mainstreaming, and said that performance contracts should contain provisions around service delivery to women, children and persons with disabilities. At provincial level, there was also a need to ensure compliance with international obligations, and to consider the structural alignments between the three spheres. It was suggested that the Committee should engage with Premier’s Offices and provincial legislatures, hold regular engagements with the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities (DWCPD) around the structures, and do oversight.

The Committee Researchers then also took the Committee through the revised strategic plan of the Portfolio Committee, highlighting and explaining the main tasks, activities, and targets of the Committee for the 2011/12 financial year. They also highlighted the purpose and extent of the local study tours, suggested a number of options for the international study tour, and highlighted the mandate of the Committee in regard to legislation, public participation and international obligations. Finally, the researchers listed the matters that were still outstanding and needed to be addressed by the Committee. Members thought that there was a need to think about preventative measures, and stressed that in relation to Domestic Violence, there was a need to hold discussions on provision of housing so that women could move away from abusers. Members also agreed that the Committee should ask for a full debate in the House on the Report on the public hearings around the Domestic Violence Act. Members discussed the need to be more actively involved from the start of other legislation that had an effect on the vulnerable groups, and would engage with the Speaker and Chair of the House about the possibility of referring Bills to this Committee as well as the other portfolio committees, so that joint meetings could be held. The Committee would also call for status reports, particularly from the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development. Members noted the suggestion that the Committee should prepare a pamphlet explaining and stressing its role. Members suggested that the issues be prioritised in the strategic plan. Members also indicated that another important area was the link between substance abuse and crime, and the Committee should investigate other programmes around rehabilitation being ordered by the courts, rather than incarceration. It was indicated that many centres for the disabled were struggling with funding, and a Member suggested that the Committee should also take a proactive role in approaching National Treasury, and at lobbying. Transport was another sector where assistance was required for the disabled. Members noted that it was vital that monitoring be instituted for all programmes, and that civil society groups should be asked to report to the Committee about their experiences on the ground. It would be necessary also for the Committee to discuss the possible legalisation of sex work and to find better solutions for drug abuse. Members would finalise the strategic plan, now incorporating these further suggestions, at the next meeting.

Meeting report

Committee Researcher overview of National and Provincial Summit 28-31 March 2011
Ms Crystal Levendale, Parliamentary Researcher, tabled her report giving an overview of the Summit, and noted that this reflected the common challenges within the provinces, key considerations, and suggested actions that the Committee could take. The role of the Provincial legislatures and the Premier’s Office Special Programmes on women, children and persons with disabilities had been discussed. The delegates had shared knowledge about provincial structures dealing with matters related to women, children and persons with disabilities, and created an opportunity for provinces to work together.

Ms Levendale noted some common challenges and concerns. There were cultural inconsistencies across provinces because in some provinces, the offices dealing with women, children and people with disabilities were not located within the Office of the Premier, while those who were located within the Office of the Premier had their own special programmes offices or units. There were also limited human and financial resources, and the level of staff employed often did not have decision making authority.  Some offices were severely understaffed, and there was also a lack of specialised skills and research experience. Matters pertaining to children and persons with disability were often combined within a unit, and gender could be dealt with separately. In some cases, children’s issues were not included in specialised programmes within the Premier’s Office. There was also a lack of understanding and implementation of mainstreaming, which differed across provinces, and inconsistency into how that translated into specific programmes.

Provinces also expressed a concern with regard to a lack of disaggregated data in relation to women, children and persons with disabilities. There also seemed to be lack of ability of provincial legislatures to hold Heads of Department (HODs) to account for service delivery to women, children and persons with disability. Some provincial legislatures did not have specific committees that catered for the needs of women, children and persons with disabilities, and certain provinces even lacked the focal points for dealing specifically with these issues.

Ms Levendale noted that the provinces needed to consider motivations for the assignment of a Chief Directorate to mainstream issues effectively within provinces. It was also necessary for performance contracts of HODs to contain provisions that spoke to service delivery to women, children and persons with disabilities. This would ensure that the HOD was accountable to those sectors. There was a need for the establishment of a specific committee to deal with the specific sectors. That would assist in monitoring and evaluation of government service delivery. There was also a need to ensure compliance with international instruments and governmental obligations at provincial level. It was also important to note that, from a human rights perspective, there were certain implications in grouping together women, children and persons with disabilities as a vulnerable category. There was a need to consider the structural alignment between national, provincial and local governments. At a provincial level, all legislation, budgets, and policies should have a focus on women, children and persons with disabilities. The inclusion of women, children and persons with disabilities in all sectors, through public participation at a provincial level, was also necessary.

Ms Levendale suggested that the Summit had presented the Committee with an opportunity to reach an understanding on challenges, concerns and achievements of provinces. The Committee also learned about the best practices within provinces, and building of relationships. There was also a need for continued interaction with the Premier’s Offices and Provincial Legislatures, around special programmes. There should be regular engagement with the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities (the Department) in relation to structure, and Memorandums of Agreement with the provinces. The Committee should also embark on oversight visits to special programmes, and there should be an annual follow-up. Such an overview could be incorporated into the strategic plan of the Committee for the 2011/12 financial year.

 Mr D Kekana (ANC) noted that in the past the Committee had been informed that the budget of the Department was limited by the financial resources available, and the fact that the issues were cross-cutting. He asked if the Department’s strategic plan contained a structure or system that addressed those issues that cut across departments at a national, provincial and local government level.

The Chairperson noted that one of the resolutions emerging from the Workshop had been to meet with the President on a structure to be established. A report-back on this would be given.

Portfolio Committee’s Revised Strategic Plan 2011/12: Committee Researcher briefing
Ms Kashiefa Abrahams, Committee Researcher, Parliamentary Research Unit, stated that the revised strategic plan of the Portfolio Committee now included issues the Committee had discussed, and if there were other recommendations these could also be included. The strategic plan reflected the role of the Committee. One of the Committee’s main tasks was to process legislation, which included initiation, amendment and passing of legislation. The laws that would need to be considered by this Committee, although it did not necessarily bear the primary responsibility for processing them, included the Recognition of Muslim Marriages Bill, Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, the Protection from Harassment Bill, Domestic Violence Act, Traditional Courts Bill, Reform of Customary Law of Succession and Regulation of Related Matters Bill (B10-2008), Communal Land Rights Bill, Gender Equality Bill, and the Disability Bill.

She explained that this Committee would request briefings by the departments concerned, and be involved in committee deliberations. For instance, the Gender Equity Bill would require the Committee to look at issues of public hearings and advertisements, and to engage with civil society. It would be important for the Committee to formally write to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and request, in respect of each Bill that it was handling that also involved women, children or disability issues, a report on the current status, when it would be considered in the programme, and request the opportunity for the two committees to meet jointly. It was particularly important that this Committee be kept up to date on the Gender Equity Bill and Disability Bill.

Mr Kekana noted that it was important to have preventative measures, rather than reaching a cure. In domestic violence situations, women would often return to the abusing partner, often because she was dependent on that man for her keep. He asked if there was any other Bill that allowed women to get jobs, so that they could prevent the cycle of abuse and allow independence for women.

Ms D Robinson (DA) concurred with Mr Kekana. Whilst it was important to have safe houses for victims of abuse, safe houses could not provide the ultimate solution, so what Mr Kekana had raised was very important. She wanted to commend the researchers for their presentation, and said that she had been concerned that this Committee was not closely enough informed of and involved with legislation. It was important that the Committee should, in future, be more pro-active and more informed.

Ms P Duncan (DA) suggested that the operational plan should prioritise certain areas. She noted that following public hearings on the Domestic Violence Act, the report on the public hearings should be addressed.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Duncan for talking to the committee’s operational plan. She agreed that it would be important for this Committee to invite the Portfolio Committee on Justice, or its researchers, to come and make a presentation to move forward with the bills. The Gender Equity Bill was very important, although she thought that finalisation by December, as set out in the strategic plan, was too late and instead this Committee needed to pressurise the Department to bring that bill forward.

Ms Abrahams agreed with Mr Kekana’s comments on the need to find preventative measures. However, there were some structural challenges as bills would not necessarily come to this Committee, so that at a higher level in Parliament, probably including the Speaker and the House Chairs, there should be engagement to request that relevant bills should be referred to two committees. It was important that this Committee should emphasise the need for joint initiatives, because it would not have voting powers if requests were made after the bills were referred to one committee only.

Ms Abrahams said that one issue that emerged from the hearings on the Domestic Violence Act was that there were currently no provisions around housing. The recommendation was that the Act needed to be amended to look at secondary housing needs. She noted that this report had already been tabled in the House, but there should be an opportunity for this Committee to engage with the full House on issues related to the report, such as secondary abuse and prevention, and to discuss the roles of the Department of Human Settlements and the relevant portfolio committee around the shelter needs of women and children, in order that the recommendations could be properly directed.

Ms Abrahams said that there were two issues around prevention. Firstly, there should be a higher level of engagement with the Speaker or House Chair, as mentioned, where a bill would have implications for this Committee, and such a bill should be sent to both committees, who could then sit jointly from the outset.  Secondly, she agreed with Ms Duncan on the need to prioritise. There was a need for debate in the House on the Domestic Violence Act, and Members should look at what particular issues they wanted to tackle. There was no need for this Committee to wait for the Portfolio Committee on Justice to engage with issues, but it did need guidance on when debates would take place. It should also be noted that this Committee would want to make input, so that it would need to know, for instance, when the Muslim Marriages Bill would be discussed, so that it could be noted on the programme. It would also be a priority to confer with other committees on their programmes involving education and skills development, to allow for more collaborative work. This Committee should also have a pamphlet to explain the role of the Committee, the sectors in which it was involved and its activities so all Members would have an understanding of what it was doing. She asked members to indicate which other legislation, apart from the Domestic Violence Act, would need to be prioritised. 

Ms Abrahams noted that areas of oversight included gender parity in high schools and FET Colleges, the impact of gender based violence in relation to schools, HIV, and teenage pregnancy, the Girl Education Movement, attrition rates in high schools, access to quality education, both primary and secondary, inclusive education, Special Needs Schools, including issues around their infrastructure and access, Early Childhood Development (ECD), and funding. Other matters included the need for guidelines on sexual harassment and violence in public schools, discussions on poverty and no-fee schools, the Primary School Nutrition Programme (PSNP), Child Support Grants (CSG), and considerations on children in especially difficult circumstances, which would include those in the deep rural areas, those living on the street, and refugees. Other areas included transport, the MVA vaccination campaigns, the “Bridges to the Future” initiative, the question of youth who were out of school, the impact of drug abuse on youth, and the Kha Ri Gude mass literacy campaign. Then the priorities announced in the State of the Nation Address, around science, engineering, teaching, FET colleges, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), funding, and internships all also had an impact on the education of the youth.

She added that besides interrogating the strategic plans and annual reports of the Department the Committee also had to conduct site visits. More importantly, in each area of engagement, the Committee would need to consider the specific legal framework within which service delivery must be contextualised.  This would then include the Social Assistance Act, Children’s Act, Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act, National Youth Development Agency Act, Basic Conditions of Employment Act, South African Schools Act, Education Laws Amendment Act, Further Education and Training Colleges Act, and Commission for Gender Equality Act. In terms of targets and outputs, the Department would report quarterly to the committee in respect of every programme and budget

Ms Abrahams then raised the question of local study tours. There had been correlation of information from engagements over the past months. She suggested that if a Group A were to visit a province where the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) might have been running a programme on matric rewriting, it would be useful to visit the municipality where the rewriting was taking place, and opportunities available. In Group B was going to look at FET colleges, SETAs, universities and technikons, and their investigations should include whether the youths were able to access FET Colleges, whether the systems were working, which areas they were working well, and whether youth with disabilities were able to enter those FET colleges, or whether universities had a disability unit. The Committee would also be able to engage with students. It was also going also to confer with the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education before embarking on a site visit, to get joint understandings and joint visits that could identify the concerns of the students and identify the NYDA projects in that province. It was also important to link up with the Premier’s Offices in provinces, when visiting colleges, to see how the programmes there were implemented.  There was also a need to engage with the Provincial Legislature so that issues could be combined and grouped.

She suggested that the Committee should indicate from which one of the departments it wished to receive the briefings, how the study sectors and issues would be grouped for study tours, and whether there were recommendations on targets.

Ms Duncan asked if there was an Act or Bill around Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse. She was concerned about the disability sector’s economic empowerment, saying that the Committee needed to emphasise the need for disabled people to enter the market. During overseas study tours, the Committee needed to investigate the protective disability sector as well as the economically empowered disability sector, with entrepreneurs. She was also concerned about a report that noted that 70% of those in correctional service centres in South African prisons were youth, largely due to the link between their substance abuse and crime. It was very important for the Committee also to push for better ways of rehabilitating youth who were trapped in the cycle of drugs and crime.

Mr Kekana said he would support and prioritise human capital development. He stressed that it was very important that women were also empowered with skills and sustainable employment so they could be productive and contribute to the development of the country.

The Chairperson thanked members for their inputs. She concurred that people with disability should be considered not only in the social development context, but also in economic development terms. She noted that the Committee had seen a model in New York where youth convicted of crime while abusing drugs would be sent to rehabilitation instead of correctional sentences, and were obliged to report back to the judicial officer sending them to rehabilitation. She also thought that the Limpopo model of development of persons with disabilities should be followed, pointing out that this province exceeded its targets for employment and development of the disabled.

 Ms Robinson agreed with the Chairperson that the New York model was a good one. However, a similar programme was running in Delft, Cape Town, and she suggested that the Committee should investigate some of the success stories here, to verify whether the New York model was similar, and how this could be multiplied to more rehabilitation centres, with a focus on these rather than correctional centres. The Committee needed to see whether government was supporting and encouraging initiatives. Many of the workshops where persons with disabilities were trained were struggling for survival. Ms Duncan and Ms Robinson had been working on a project where young people who dropped out of society were relocated to farmland areas, in an attempt to move them away from their societal problems. Even these places, however, were struggling for funding, and there was heavy reliance on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society. She also added that government should do more in the transport sector, as it was very difficult for those with disabilities to get to work, and in most cases this was a function of the municipalities, who clearly had no funding. It was crucial that this Committee must lobby at the funding level.

Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) noted that there were no monitoring mechanisms when government initiated Maths Literacy Campaign programmes. It was crucial that there should be monitoring of all programmes.

The Chairperson noted that it was also very important to include civil society groups such as NGOs, who could report to the Committee about their first-hand experiences on the ground.

Ms Duncan stated that the Committee should emphasise funding, and should be willing to approach National Treasury, not only in relation to the Department, but also in relation to other departments who might be under-spending in areas. She thanked the Chairperson for her support in regard to the substance abuse and rehabilitation centres, but pointed out that the difficulties were compounded by the fact that drugs, as well as prostitution, were illegal and therefore difficult to regulate. She hoped that during the following years, the Committee would be able to make a substantial contribution to think seriously whether either to legalise prostitution or drug abuse, or to criminalise them and regulate them properly. They had a huge impact on young women’s and men’s social behaviour.

Ms Robinson wanted to follow up on the civil society report that the Chairperson mentioned. In some cases, civil society groups with a long history would be asked to present a report. It would be ideal if this Committee could check their credibility in addition to their longevity, as it was vital to request reports from a credible group whose work could be assured.

The Chairperson referred to Ms Duncan’s point on prostitution, and said that this country had not yet developed its position on sex workers. The Committee did need to begin discussing the issue.

Ms Abrahams stated that the issue was whether the position of prostitution and sex workers should be legislated. She suggested that the State Law Advisors should be asked to brief the Committee on the discussion paper that had been prepared on trafficking, and also ask civil society groups to speak to the implications.

She noted that the point about discussions with National Treasury would be added to the list of matters to be dealt with. In relation to the drug abuse issues, she had suggested that when the Committee did local oversight visits, whether to an FET College, municipality or province, Members should also be looking into what issues of drug abuse were found  in that particular province, how many rehabilitation centres there were, where they were located, how many youths had entered and left, and a breakdown of all figures. In addition, questions should be asked about the funding and the challenges, as also the extent to which drug abuse amongst learners led to violence in the school environment.

Ms Abrahams also suggested that, in pursuance of the link between crime, education and rehabilitation, government should be asked to make funds available for rehabilitation centres to employ professional people, like social workers and psychologists, to assist patients in the rehabilitation centres to receive all the professional help they needed to recover from their drug abuse.

Ms Abrahams noted that she would also include the issue raised around monitoring of the Maths Literacy Campaign for investigation together with the FET College issues, so that Members could check what was happening and who was monitoring.

Continuation of Researchers’ presentation on strategic plan
Ms Abrahams then noted that another task of the Committee was to facilitate public participation and involvement. The Committee had to provide a platform for public engagement and also get research and content information to guide the Committee’s work. Members had to determine the impact of legislation on the quality of life of women, children and persons with disabilities. The Committee also had to hold roundtable discussions with civil society regarding the Second and Third Country Reports for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and in this regard there was a need to invite relevant stakeholders, manage logistics, host the event, and compile a report. The Committee’s targets and outputs also included ensuring that public participation meetings were held, and public hearings were conducted. There should be public inputs. Recommendations, and tabling of reports.

The Committee also needed to facilitate co-operation in government. and that required it to engage with special programmes within the Premier’s Office and with Municipal Desk programmes for the disabled, children and gender. The targets included site visits to assess the structure and programmes, and hear briefings and reports from relevant stakeholders. The Committee should also facilitate international participation in the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) structures, and ratify international agreements. It also had to follow up on submission and recommendations of Country Reports, including those required under the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the African Youth Charter, and African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The Committee also needed to ratify international agreements, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development. The main targets and outputs for those activities were to sign and ratify treaties and covenants, to table reports in time, to report to treaty councils and committees. Training on reporting was provided by the UN. The Committee must then engage with Country Reports and follow up on recommendations. It should also see to assigning appropriate delegates to represent South Africa in respective relevant treaties.

Ms Abrahams then noted some options for the Committee’s international study tours. These included Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Zanzibar, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, United Kingdom, India, Malaysia, Canada, and Brazil.

Ms Abrahams concluded by highlighting the outstanding matters of oversight with which the Committee still had to deal. It must be briefed by the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities in relation to country reports and budgets. It required to be trained on the Domestic Violence Act, the Children’s Act, UNCRPD and UNCRC. There was also an outstanding workshop on the mandate, strategic and operational plans of the Department. It must decide on the destination for the international study tour. It also needed to hold a debate in the House on the Domestic Violence Act public hearings, to adopt oversight reports on visits to Limpopo and Western Cape, and to hold a meeting with the Multi-Party for Women Caucus, and the Select Committee on Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities. She asked for any additional matters to be indicated. She reiterated that it was also important to prepare a pamphlet on its role.

The Chairperson thought that the Committee should follow up on the suggestion of holding joint meetings with the relevant departments, and joint oversight visit.

The Chairperson added that the workshop on Gender Mainstreaming should also be listed as a priority, as its purpose was to empower women.

Ms Duncan noted that it was important to develop a good understanding of what mainstreaming of the sectors meant, in relation to issues involving women, children and persons with disabilities.

Ms Abrahams noted that to link what the Chairperson and Ms Duncan had said, it would be useful perhaps to hold a two day workshop to which experts on gender, children and persons with disabilities should be invited, so that two issues could be dealt with simultaneously, and oversight on understanding as well as monitoring and evaluation could be coupled.

The Chairperson wondered if it was wise to talk about other sectors also during a matter that was hosted by the Women’s Caucus on Gender Mainstreaming.

Mr Kekana asked if it was also possible to invite the mainstream churches to the workshop. They played a very important role in issues affecting women, children and persons with disabilities. They also formed an important pillar of society and moral fibre for the community.

The Chairperson responded that she would not object in her personal capacity, but she was not the organiser of the event, and the Committee had been invited by another group. This was an important issue that Mr Kekana had raised. Coincidentally, Limpopo was holding a programme on moral regeneration.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee would finalise its strategic plan and annual programme at the next meeting. She reiterated her thanks to the researchers for their work.

The meeting was adjourned.


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