Multi-Party Women's Caucus: Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Workshop / Training session

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

28 June 2011
Chairperson: Ms D Ramodibe (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Multi Party Womens Caucus held a workshop to discuss the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It was noted that South Africa was one of the 192 member states who had signed the Millennium Declaration in 2000, which led to the adoption of eight MDGs to be achieved by 2015. A United Nations presenter noted that these goals were not new in themselves, encompassing a statement of the basic human rights that should be accorded to all, but were placed in context and required committed effort to improving the lives of the poor. It was particularly noted that there was also a gender perspective, particularly to Goals 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6. It was noted that although South Africa could achieve some of the goals, the progress in achieving them across Africa was hindered by inadequate linkages between the MDG reporting and decision-making process, across all tiers of government, inadequate capacity for data generation, analysis and quality assurance, and lack of structured MDGs monitoring mechanisms. South Africa, in particular, had an enormous amount of data but little clarity on how this could be translated into effective planning and action, with much of the data being unreliable, and statistics sometimes available only up until 2007. The United Nations Development Programme urged South Africa to focus more on investing in quality of data, and better training of staff to understand the impact of the data they were recording. Society also needed to be sensitised to the need to try to achieve these goals, which could be helped by public hearings and greater awareness campaigns. Some of the improvements that South Africa had managed to achieve were lessened child mortality rates, better maternal health and greater access to clean water, but maternal mortality remained of huge concern, and Parliamentarians were urged to look critically at all statistics, to understand the wider implications and to find a better way to measure and monitor the success of the progress, regress or stagnation of gender equity, in particular, and the MDGs in general. They were also told that qualitative achievements were equally important as quantitative goals.

Questions by delegates noted the difficulty of making significant progress, firstly because the MPWC was not funded in the same way as a Parliamentary committee, and secondly because many Members had difficulty in attending training workshops and meetings consistently. It was agreed that a few committed members should draft a document setting out the way forward, focusing on what the Caucus needed to achieve, to bring all Members up to date, and that a budget committee of five members would be formed. This Caucus should also work more closely with the Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities. Three provinces were shortly to hold functions in which there would be engagement between public bodies and civil society.  

Meeting report

A short prayer was given by a Member of a Provincial Legislature (MPL).

Programme Director’s introduction
Ms E Coleman (ANC), Programme Director, welcomed and introduced the Ms N Mfeketo, Deputy Sepaker and National Executive Committee membe, as well as Ms B Dlulane (ANC), Chairperson of the Multi- Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC or the Caucus), and other Members, presenters and guests. She extended an apology from the Chief Whip of the NCOP, Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC), due to her illness.

Deputy Speaker’s introduction
Ms N Mfeketo (ANC), Deputy Speaker, provided an historical background of gender equity struggles in South Africa. She thanked the Caucus for prioritising women’s training. She stressed the importance of keeping abreast with the changing nature of gender-related issues, and noted that this would assist the legislature in combating gender inequality. The struggle for women’s rights, like the struggle against racial oppression, dated back to the 1950s. There had been significant progress in achieving gender equality in South Africa, through the integration of gender transformation into the democratic culture. The aim was to produce equal gender representation in decision-making positions at national level, and other sectors of society. Currently, there was 44% female representation in Parliament, 43% at Cabinet and 42% at local government. South Africa was one of 192 member states who had committed to the United Nations (UN) initiative to empower women and to achieve gender equity through realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Last year, during the Commission on the Status of Women, a document on Women’s Economic Empowerment was adopted, in recognition that investment in women and girls improved productivity and sustained economic growth. She likened the gender struggle as “a revolution within a revolution” and said that achieving gender equity was essential to achieving every other MDG. She hoped that this training session would enable Members to identify the main barometers of measuring progress, regress and stagnation of gender equity and the realisation of the MDGs.

Chairperson’s introduction
The Chairperson provided the context for the MPWC Training Workshop. The MPWC was not recognised as a Portfolio Committee, and was not given funding, and she thanked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for its financial assistance. She noted that in September 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Development Summit, South Africa joined 189 other countries in a commitment to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty, through attaining eight MDGs by 2015. MDGs encompassed the basic human rights of all persons across the world. This Women’s Caucus would view MDGs from a gender perspective.

Presentation 1: United Nations Development Programme
Mr Nii Moi Thompson, Senior Economist, United Nations Development Programme, apologised for the absence of Dr Agostinho Zacarias, who was attending a meeting in New York. He noted that South Africa, since signing the Millennium Declaration in 2000, had made progress. The Medium Term Strategic Framework of the South African government, together with the twelve national outcomes, positioned programmes and monitoring far better in the context of the MDGs. However, in several areas there were still regional, national and global challenges. He noted that the attainment of the MDGs was hindered by an insufficient coordination framework for the MDGs, inadequate capacity for data generation, analysis and quality assurance, and inadequate linkages between the MDGs reporting and decision- making process across tiers of government, with poor localisation of the MDGS in planning processes. The lack of MDG monitoring mechanisms was also a challenge. Mr Thompson stressed that more reporting was needed on the progress of the MDGs. The UNDP would continue to support South Africa and other states to achieve the MDGs, including their gender efforts.

Presentation 2: UNDP Regional Service Centre
Mr Osten Chulu, MDGs Poverty Policy Advisor, UNDP Regional Service Centre, outlined the resources on how to actively involve communities at provincial and local levels in meeting the MDGs (see attached “Toolkit for Localising MDGs” document). He reiterated that eight goals had been produced by the September 2000 Declaration, and although these goals were not new in themselves, they had been contextualised to modern needs, and primarily were aimed at those living on below R6 a day, to ensure that they were provided with basic human needs, such as education, public transport, health, shelter, trade, safety and food. He emphasised that all the MDGs were inter-dependent, and urged that they must be viewed both holistically, and from the gender perspective. Because of the cross-border nature of the MDGs, only quantitative variables had been considered, but he also said that it was necessary to consider quality, which was the ultimate determinant of success.

Mr Chulu said that South Africa faced a challenge in the lack of information allowing for informed decisions, and cited the problem that “a poverty rate of 60%” could mean national, regional, or local indicators, and also begged the question of what must be done to address this. He urged that South African statisticians must go back to basics and provide sufficient information with the data.

Mr Chulu also urged that a more positive attitude was needed. In general, Africa was falling behind in achievement of the MDGs.  In particular, he emphasised that Africa’s maternal mortality rate was unacceptably high. South Africa’s only real success was achieving access to clean water. He stressed that the MDGs were attainable, and that many of the problems were preventable. However, it would be a major challenge to sensitise society to owning the problems. Currently, those living on $1.25 per day were considered to be on the global poverty line, and the rise of the poverty line was not an indicator that poverty had been eradicated, as this would be judged by whether the quality of life had been improved. He challenged Members to find a measurable means to monitor the success of the Eradication of Extreme Poverty Goal (1).

Presentation 3:Statistical progress on each MDG
Mr Nigel Bragg, Statistician: National Strategies for Sustainable Development (NSSD), Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) presented the statistical progress on each MDG (please see “MDGs Country Report 2010” document attached).

Ms K Fihlani (ANC), MPWC Chairperson (Eastern Cape) asked about the functions of the Security Council, in relation to women. She stated that there had been more achievements obtained than were mentioned, and asked why those had not been recorded in the statistics. She also queried the reasons behind the maternity mortality rate.

Mr Chulu responded that women experienced particular abuse and violence in areas of conflict, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He said that the Security Council made provisions to protect women, but the challenge laid in the efficiency of law enforcement in those areas. Mr Chulu added that reports on the causes of maternal mortality were yet to be submitted.

Ms Z Ronto (ANC), NCOP MPL (Eastern Cape), questioned the relevance of the statistics presented, because they referred only to the period up to 2007.

Mr Bragg said that South Africa was the most developed of the developing countries, but the quality of its data was extremely poor. He said that most of the data was questionable and unreliable, which was why the published statistics were up to 2007. He acknowledged that the older the data was, the more questionable its relevance.

Ms Coleman said that she was under the impression that it was the responsibility of StatsSA to develop systems that would ensure good, updated data. She asked Mr Bragg for further comment.

Mr Bragg stated that the national statistics system was only put in place to address issues such as the unreliability of data and poor data capacity.

Ms Coleman said that the Departments of Health, Education, Social Development, and Office for Demographics should be assembling informative data, and urged that all departments and statistical institutions should work together to address the issue of poor data quality.

Ms P Mpushe (ANC), MPL (Eastern Cape), understood that the disaggregation of statistics was one of the greatest challenges faced by Parliament. She agreed with Mr Thompson that it was vital also to oversee the quality of the achievements, so as not to undermine the MDGs themselves.

Ms S Mtsweni (ANC), MPL (Mpumalanga) said that many major and wealthy states had only allocated 0.3% towards funding MDG-oriented projects of developing nations. She enquired about what would encourage an increase of their funding.

Mr Chulu said that there had been numerous declarations from Paris, Rome and Germany who had committed to fund the MDG-oriented projects of developing countries, but none of these had been fulfilled. Mr Chulu encouraged South Africa to get involved in emerging economies, such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) and similar wealth management forums, enabling South Africa to put pressure on these world players to follow through with their commitments.

Ms Mpushe believed that the Caucus would have to work with civil society. Active participation in activities with Cabinet would be more progressive, as currently decisions were being made from top downwards, and she was worried that Parliament could be seen as functioning as a “rubber stamp” of Cabinet.

Ms Mpushe also expressed her disappointment in the minimal progress made between 2000 and 2011, and was concerned that, if this continued, the MDGs would not be achieved by 2015. She was also dissatisfied that fewer MPs than expected were attending this workshop. She hoped that the pursuit for gender equity would be taken more seriously in future.

Ms Y Vukuza-Linda (COPE) reasoned that government and the NCOP needed to conscientise their staff on the value of data. It was necessary to develop high-quality skills in data-capturing and computer literacy, in order to produce high quality information. If the staff were trained on the purpose of their responsibilities, they would be less neglectful and forgetful, because they would appreciate the impact of the data they compiled on the planning and decision-making processes of the country. There was also a need to address the lack of proper data-capturing in rural areas, compounded by poor literacy and technical skills, lack of resources and poor infrastructure.

Ms Mpushe expressed her frustration in still not being able to measure the MPWC’s labour. She thought that the Training Workshop would provide more insight on improvements that had to be made to achieve the MDGs in 2015. The Women’s Caucus must come up with strategies to measure progress, regress or stagnation. In addition, she called for further insight into the causes of maternal mortality. She agreed with Mr Thompson that quantitative and qualitative discourse were equally important.

Ms Flora Maboa-Boltman, Chairperson: Working Group, South African Local Government Association, said that it was important to establish barometers for the realisation of the MDGs and ways to monitor progress, failing which these goals would not be attained by 2015. She suggested that a Discussion Document be drafted that could act as a monitoring tool. She noted that women could be empowered by training sessions and knowledge transfer, but that this did not necessarily result in concrete results if there was lack of implementation.

Presentation 4: The position of women (see  (Please refer to ‘MDGs and Gender: MDG Training Workshop for the Parliamentarian Women’s Caucus’)
Dr Auxilia Ponga, Gender Expert, UNDP, tabled a presentation (see attached document entitled “MDGs and Gender”) showing that more women than men lived below the poverty line. She argued that statistics were only one part of the bigger picture and it was necessary to analyse the underlying issues carefully and to think critically. She noted that it would be useful to invest in good leadership skills. She also noted that South Africa needed, urgently, to invest in quality data, because decisions were based on evidence. Achievements were sought in improved maternal health. However, the greatest concern still lay with the unacceptably high maternal mortality rate, which, she maintained, was only the tip of the iceberg. She urged Parliamentarians to get to the heart of the matter.

Ms N Ngcanga (ANC) MPL (Eastern Cape) said that she was interested in getting statistics to show female representation in positions of decision-making, not only in government, but throughout the private sector as well. She also noted that women in prison were completely unaccounted for, yet they were also victims of poverty.

Ms L Mnwayo (IFP) MPL (Mpumalanga) said that research should include variables of race and class, not only of gender.

Ms K Fihlani suggested that South Africa should be using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate with people and to build stronger statistics.

Presentation 5 (Please refer to’ Parliamentary Engagement with the MDGs’ document)
Mr D Jones, Policy Expert: MDGs, Parliament, tabled a presentation (see attached document entitled “Parliamentary Engagement with MDGs), that had been compiled to assist Parliamentarians to engage with the MDGs on a daily basis, instead of once every two to three years. Mr Jones said that the biggest challenge faced by Parliament was how to achieve tangible results from the training workshops. He suggested that Parliament, in order to assess how it was achieving its goals, should adopt and break the statistics down to a human rights approach. He agreed that Parliament had to delve deeper behind the statistics. He also suggested that a legal framework for the MDGs should be set up, to ensure that the MDGs became a reality. He agreed with previous presenters that the MDGs in themselves were not new, but stressed that implementation was a very important challenge. Provincial legislatures needed to hold the rest of government to account. Portfolio Committees could be used to ensure live debate about the MDGs. He also suggested that Parliament should create a formal MDG Committee to oversee the progress of the MDGs.

Ms Coleman said that the MPWC should talk more about the way to move forward.

The Chairperson suggested that the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities should be more involved in the activities of the MPWC. She agreed that there needed to be a way to implement legislation more efficiently and to conduct oversight over government spending and activities. Greater public participation, and the opinion of minority groups, would assist in realising the MDGs. The Chairperson suggested that the MPWC should be more concerned about the gender-based MDGs, which she isolated as Goals 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6. She further suggested that the MPWC should invite government officials, researchers and other individuals to submit case studies on the effects of the implementation of the MDGs, and that public hearings should be held to spread awareness of the MDGs.

Ms Coleman said that the document compiled by the UNDP, as presented by Mr Jones, should be distributed to the provinces and integrated into the existing working manual compiled by the Caucus.

Ms Fihlani reminded Members that the MPWC had already discussed the way forward in a previous MPWC meeting. She enquired as to when concrete action would be taken, when public hearings would be held, and in which provinces. She agreed that a working document should be compiled.

Ms J Fubbs (ANC) said that it was difficult for the MPWC to make significant progress, because it was not always possible for everybody to attend the training workshops and meetings, so that there was not always effective communication.  She suggested that a few committed people be asked to draft a document setting out the way forward, and this would assist those to prioritise the next MPWC meeting. Action and delegations would help in communication.

Ms Coleman followed up on this suggestion, saying that this document should also address how other departments would be involved in MPWC activities, and how Ministers would be informed about the progress of the MDGs. The MPWC had agreed to adopt Goals 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 as the key goals. She noted that every provincial legislature had received a report identifying the key issues on which provinces needed to engage civil society. Provincial legislatures would organise occasions on which there could be civil and public society engagement, and MPWC members should also attend as observers. Due to budgetary constraints, only three provinces had been chosen: the Eastern Cape (11–13 July 2011); KwaZulu Natal (15-17 July 2011) and Limpopo, who had not yet confirmed its dates. She suggested that MPWCs should be established at all local and provincial levels, where they had not already been established.

Ms Fihlani reported on progress, saying that in the Eastern Cape, a venue had been booked, and she invited all those close to Lusikisiki to attend. A Report of the Women’s Caucus Standing Committee would be made available to all at the registration table.
Ms Fubbs cautioned that the Caucus would need to adhere to its chosen path, and should focus on achieving the MDGs and on other items agreed upon.

Ms Coleman announced that the electronic copies of the documents handed out were available from the Secretariat, Mr K Kunene.

The Chairperson summarised that the MPWC had agreed that the Budget Committee would consist of five members, of whom three would be from the ANC and two from opposition parties. Invitations had been extended to nominate Members from COPE and the DA, and two more ANC members were needed.

Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) thanked the presenters.

The meeting was adjourned.

Share this page: