The two Committees, meeting jointly, were briefed by the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD) on the implications for that Department of the 2012 State of the Nation address. The DWCPD noted that there was a focus on employment and economic empowerment of women and disabled people, their education and health, rural development, and addressing of inequality, the need for peace and security and social cohesion. The DWCPD would be focusing on accelerating economic empowerment of women and disabled people, through a number of projects and partnerships with various government departments, particularly aimed at providing skills and job creation. These would be allied with infrastructure development and moving towards gender equality. In respect of children, The DWCPD had a flagship campaign of “Education for All Children” and aimed to make education universally accessible. Audits and collaboration with the Department of Basic Education would pave the way for this to be achieved, as well as isolating and treating the causes of exclusion and inequalities. It was also stressed that the DWCPD aimed to try to achieve mainstreaming of disabled children into schools by the 2013 academic year. It recognised the need for further education of women and people with disabilities, and special steps to achieve this would be taken. From the health perspective, the DWCPD aimed to ensure that all HIV-positive people were given access to Anti Retro Viral treatment, and would ensure that mainstreaming of disability considerations was included into National Health Insurance policies. Rural development would incorporate access to land by women and people with disabilities. Numerous policy imperatives by the Department would address inequalities, peace and security as well as social cohesion.
Members stressed that proper monitoring was necessary and that the DWCPD, and other departments, must be held accountable and reach the targets set. Members asked for details of exactly how the DWCPD aimed to reach out to women and the disabled, and make them aware of the opportunities that they could access, such as the Job Creation Fund. Members noted the lack of assistive devices and asked if the Department had the capacity to deal with this, and how it intended to do so. They noted the increasing problem of gender based violence, the need to reach women in rural areas, the need to accelerate empowerment, and called for details of the Department’s work and plans. Members noted that there were too few Sheltered Employment Factories, asked if there were plans to test children to isolate disability at an earlier age, what plans there were for women in traditional cultures, when the Gender Equality Bill would be presented to Parliament, and said that implementation of policies still seemed to be problematic. Members recognised that many of the tasks lay not only with the DWCPD, and stressed the need for good collaboration, particularly in regard to education, questioned the plans for rural areas excluded from the special schools audit, and asked what this audit hoped to achieve. The DWCPD noted that many questions would be answered during the presentation of the strategic and annual performance plans.
Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Presentation
Ms Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Director General, Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities outlined the matters in the 2012 State of the Nation Address that would be of particular relevance to this Department (the Department or DWCPD). She noted that the strategic, operational and annual plans would be presented in March.
She outlined some of the achievements that had been mentioned in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and some of the commitments made to ensure employment and economic empowerment. The DWCPD planned to focus on accelerating these aims. Some of the specific initiatives were the submission of a Portfolio of Priority Projects through the Second Phase of the Job Fund, and better tracking of beneficiation of women and the disabled through the preferential government procurement system. The DWCPD would partner with the Department of Public Service and Administration to strengthen the monitoring of the 2% disability employment target set by Cabinet. The DWCPD would continue to work with departments so as to allow for increased participation by women and disabled people, would try to enable small business development, would consult with stakeholders on the establishment of Women’s Empowerment Fund and a Disability Empowerment Fund, and facilitate skills development for women and disabled people. It would continue to work with the Departments of Labour and Social Development on the transformation and expansion of sheltered factories. It intended to ensure the meeting of targets for participation by women and people with disabilities in the construction phase. An infrastructure development programme would ensure that marginalised groups had equal access to education and health facilities. The DWCPD would also finalise the integration of gender and disability disaggregated data into the government monitoring system
Ms Mkhize said another main focus area would be “Education for All Children”, in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education, by monitoring universal access to education, especially amongst the disabled. The 2011/12 Special Schools Audit would outline major problem areas. An “Education for All” barometer would measure exclusion and inequalities and highlight areas of concern. Collaboration with the Department for Higher Education and Training should facilititate more access to higher education for women and students with disabilities.
The main area of health concern was with the HIV programmes, and the DWCPD planned to create access for all HIV positive people to anti Retro Viral treatment. Disability considerations needed to be included in the National Health Insurance. There was a plan in place to address the assistive devices backlog.
The DWCPD would continue to work with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to allow access to land by women and people with disabilities and would monitor inequality, as well as achieving mainstreaming by working with the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme.
DWCPD had a number of policies to address inequalities, peace and security and social cohesion. It aimed to finalise the numerous periodic country reports relevant to the United Nations Treaty monitoring bodies. They would also work closely with the Department of Arts and Culture as well as the Department of Traditional Affairs towards Gender Equality and against Gender-Based Violence
The role of both the Portfolio and Select Committees on Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities was important in the implementation, for they would hold sector departments accountable and ensure that they championed the rights of women, children and people with disabilities in all constituencies.
Mr G Mokgoro (ANC) questioned whether the Department was sensitising women to opportunities and making them aware of the Job Creation Fund, to help them set up businesses and alleviate poverty.
Ms Mkhize noted that there was not significant success in getting proposals through the Job Creation Fund and the DWCPD had asked the Development Bank of
Ms G Tseke (ANC) stated that the DWCPD could not be held accountable if there was no monitoring tool, such as one that would show why the 2% employment minimum target was not reached. She wondered how the DWCPD would ensure that monitoring tools were in place.
Mr Mzolisi Toni (ANC), Deputy Director General, DWCPD, explained that the Department of Public Service and Administration was also working towards achieving the 2% employment target and addressing lack of understanding by employers about employing the disabled – for instance, one excuse was that it was too expensive to employ them. The problem needed to be taken more seriously in the relevant departments and departments would have to give their commitment.
Ms Tseke asked how the Department would overcome the challenge of the shortage or lack of assisted devices, and whether it had the capacity to deal with it.
A Member asked how the Department aimed to deal with the increasing problem of gender-based violence.
Ms Mkhize said that it was true that gender-based crime statistics showed an increase. The DWCPD was coming up with interventions such as the National Council against Gender Violence.
A Member asked how the Department planned to reach women rural areas to encourage them to register for the Job Creation Fund. She also enquired how the Department planned to accelerate the empowering of women, and how women would benefit from the second phase.
A Member asked if monitoring and evaluation were achieved in 2011.
A Member asked what was being done to improve the lives of women and disabled people in the rural areas. In this regard it was pointed out that the Sheltered Employment Factories only served relatively few people.
Ms Mkhize stressed that there certainly were not enough Sheltered Employment Factories in the country, as there were presently only twelve. DWCPD was working with the Department of Labour, who hosted the factories, to employ more disabled people in these factories.
A Member asked if the DWCPD had considered testing children from birth to five years to isolate any problems that indicated disability.
Ms Mkhize responded that the testing of children for disabilities at a very young age lay in the hands of the Department of Health, who had programmes in place to accommodate prevention, and detection. However, DWCPD would advocate that the Department of Health should work towards early detection.
A Member asked if there were any plans for women in traditional cultures.
Ms Mkhize noted that the National Traditional Affairs Bill had taken areas of concern raised previously into consideration, and that there was still an opportunity to ensure that the Bill was gender responsive.
Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) asked when the Committees would be briefed on or shown the Gender Equality Bill, to which reference had been made.
Ms Mkhize said that consultations on policy for the Gender Equality Bill began last year and a draft bill would be made available on 1 March.
Ms Petersen-Maduna asked why there was no mention of
Mr D Kekana (ANC) stressed that implementation of policy seemed to be the real problem area. He stressed that skills should be taught at tertiary education level, to make women and people with disabilities competitive in the labour market.
Chairperson Ms D Ramodibe asked how best the Department could ensure accessibility for the disabled.
Ms Mkhize said it was recognised that the existing National Disability Policy needed to be updated and aligned to the Convention on Rights of Disabled Persons, and the DWCPD would be reviewing it and amending it as necessary, to answer concerns that had been raised.
A Member noted that the task at hand was huge - perhaps too big for this Department alone – and asked what monitoring tools, priority plans and time frames for implementation were in place.
Ms Mkhize stressed that the DWCPD could only achieve its goals if it worked with other departments, both national and provincial, and they reached decisions together. Director Generals had a certain degree of autonomy and, for instance, could work with the Premiers’ offices in tracking progress on special schools. She noted that provinces were invited to comment at a strategic planning level and thereby their plans should be aligned to the national strategy.
Chairperson Ramodibe agreed that it was necessary to work closely with the Department of Education to achieve ‘Education for All’.
Ms Mkhize said that the DWCPD was aware that many disabled children remained unschooled. The Department was ready to begin an exclusive implementation process in 2012 so that mainstreaming could be in place for the 2013 school year, to try to address this problem.
Chairperson Ramodibe wondered what it was hoped to achieve from the survey conducted in sample institutions.
A Member enquired whether anything would be done about the rural areas that had been excluded from the Special Schools Audit.
Ms Mkhize informed Members that the Special School Audit was being done with the Premiers’ Offices, instead of the Department of Basic Education, because they both had a role to co-ordinate and monitor. Coordination of other aspects such as provisions of teachers, and staffing support, would be done in the provinces.
Ms Mkhize reiterated that the Annual Performance Plan of the Department would be presented shortly, and this would outline the general approach, time frames, priorities and use of the allocated budget and resources, and would answer some of the questions not addressed directly. The mid-term report covering 2009 to 2011 would show that the Department had already done much of the work and monitoring to enable the mainstreaming of gender and children’s rights, as well as informing women what resources were available to them.
Mr Toni noted that the Department wanted to ensure holistic development of children. He added that it was very important to communicate with all women to empower them and strive for gender equality.
The meeting was adjourned.
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