Briefing on UN Commission on the Status of Women Report for 2012; Report-back on Conference of State Parties in New York on UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

Women in The Presidency

13 November 2012
Chairperson: Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) and Ms B Mabe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with representatives of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, as well as members of the delegation who attended the Conference of State Parties held in New York, for their report-back on the conference.

The Department said that civil society representatives could not be included in the delegation as a result of financial constraints, while technical support had been provided by 15 senior managers from participating departments. An additional seven support staff had provided accommodation support to the disabled members of the delegation. Of the 34-member delegation, seven had had their expenses paid by the Department.

Main discussion areas of the conference focussed on the progress to date of member states, information, communication and accessibility technology and issues of women and children with disabilities.  General observations made by the Department included the agenda having been too tight and thereby not allowing sufficient time for substantive debate and interaction, and that people with disabilities had represented themselves, and there had been increased participation of children with disabilities.   

Member states were asked to provide greater access to education for children with disabilities, provide support to families of children with disabilities, develop measures to protect such children during armed conflicts and/or natural disasters, and to establish accessible child-friendly justice systems that were responsive to the needs of such children.

Outcomes around information communication technology included member states needing to facilitate the review of intellectual property legislation both locally and internationally, issue assistive technology licensing so as to reduce monopolies and invest in innovation and product development research.

Member states were asked to enhance the participation of women with disabilities in the Commission on the Status of Women, incorporate the issues of these women within the UN Women at country level, actively promote and protect the rights of women and girls with disabilities, recognise domestic violence as a cause of disability, as well as ensure measures were in place which would allow for such women to exercise their reproductive rights.

The Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities had raised concerns around the lack of compliance by member states in submitting country reports timeously, the lack of implementation of recommendations made by member states, the sending of junior officials to appear before the committee and the inaccessible nature of the Geneva offices.

With regard to committee elections, South Africa had submitted Ms Sebenzile Matsebula as one of the candidates, but as it had started its campaign late, South Africa did not make it on to the committee.   This was ascribed largely to the lack of organisation by African countries.   In future, they would need to become more organised and more united as a continent.    

Members asked whether South Africa’s late start to its campaign was as a result of a lack of resources, whether there were any timeframes attached to the listed outcomes, how the South African Human Rights Commission could assist the Department in future, whether those who had paid their own costs had disclosed where they had sourced these funds from, and what progress had been made since the previous conference.   They also asked whether there were ways of breaking the monopoly enjoyed by the companies which produced devices for people with disabilities.   The Chairperson asked how the Department would ensure the Country Report was not postponed again, and how it would be made available to civil society timeously.


Meeting report

Presentation by the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities
Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister, Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities said that financial constraints had prevented the Department from mobilising sufficient financial support to include any civil society representatives in the delegation. Technical support had been provided by 15 senior managers from participating departments, while an additional seven support staff had provided accommodation support to the disabled members of the delegation. Of the 34-member delegation, seven had had their expenses paid by the Department.

Main discussion areas of the conference had focussed on the progress to date of member states, information, communication and accessibility technology, and issues of women and children with disabilities.

General observations made by the Department included the agenda having been too tight and thereby not allowing sufficient time for substantive debate and interaction, the high quality of discussion papers presented, that people with disabilities represented themselves and the increased participation of children with disabilities.   

Member states were asked to provide greater access to education for children with disabilities, provide support to families of children with disabilities, develop measures to protect such children during armed conflicts and/or natural disasters, and establish accessible child-friendly justice systems that were responsive to the needs of such children.

Regarding outcomes around information communication technology, member states were urged to facilitate the review of intellectual property legislation both locally and internationally, issue assistive technology licensing so as to reduce monopolies, invest in innovation and product development research as well as promote open-sourced software.

Member states were asked to enhance the participation of women with disabilities in the Commission on the Status of Women, incorporate the issues of these women within the UN Women at country level, actively promote and protect the rights of women and girls with disabilities, recognise domestic violence as a cause of disability, as well as ensure measures were in place which would allow for such women to exercise their reproductive rights.

The Human Rights Council should also develop advocacy and mainstreaming knowledge-based training tools and toolkits and ensure the effective participation of organisations representing people with disabilities as monitoring and evaluation implementation agents.

The Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities had raised concerns around the lack of compliance by member states in submitting country reports timeously, the lack of implementation of recommendations made by member states, the sending of junior officials to appear before the committee and the inaccessible nature of the Geneva offices.

With regard to committee elections, South Africa had submitted Ms Sebenzile Matsebula as one of the candidates, but as it had started its campaign late, South Africa did not make it on to the committee.     

Ms Pemmy Majodina, Eastern Cape MEC for Social Development, Women, Children and People with Disabilities, concurred with the report and added that a South African candidate not being elected to the committee was largely due to the lack of organisation by African countries.   In future, they would need to become more organised and more united as a continent.  Employment equity also needed greater work, both nationally and internationally. 

Mr Joe Malatji, Commissioner, South African Human Rights Commission, added that accessibility and technology were issues that needed greater work. The Commission concurred with the report, though there had been issues it wished to have raised. These issues included the need for people with disabilities to enjoy greater participation in matters which affected their lives, the need for greater representation of both children and people in rural areas, the establishment of an independent monitoring body, the need to ensure children with disabilities were afforded access to education, as well as a need to address the violence perpetrated against women with disabilities.

Discussion
The Chairperson said that accessibility and information technology were important issues which needed to be looked into. The Department’s involving of other relevant departments was welcomed, as this was an effective way of addressing challenge areas.

The Co-Chairperson added that the speedy response of the Department in compiling the report was commendable, and appreciated by the Committee. The Committee would look at tabling the report as a statement.

Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) asked whether South Africa’s late start to its campaign was as a result of a lack of resources.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu answered that this was mainly due to a lack of resources. The Department was, however, working on addressing this.

Ms L van de Merwe (IFP) asked whether there were any timeframes attached to the listed outcomes. Would these be shared with other departments, and how were these departments to be brought on board?  What progress had been made around sign language?  How would the Commission assist the Department in future?

Ms Bogopane-Zulu answered that all the outcomes listed had timeframes attached, and these would be shared with other relevant departments. Challenges around sign language were largely as a result of challenges within the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB).  It was engaging with the Department of Arts and Culture to have these issues addressed.

Mr Malatji added that the Commission enjoyed a sound relationship with the Department.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked whether those who paid their own costs had disclosed where they had sourced these funds from.  What were the criteria set for delegates and should these delegates not be more ‘hand-on’ when it came to their on-the-ground work?  What progress had been made since the previous conference?  Why was there a need for political figures to attend?

Ms Bogopane-Zulu answered that those delegation members who were not paid for by the Department had had their expenses paid for by the respective provinces.

Ms Majodina added that the delegation was based largely around a pre-arranged itinerary and that each member had been delegated a particular responsibility.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu continued that reference here was made to political principals, such as members of the Executive, so as to ensure that those who attended had some decision-making powers.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) asked how a greater distribution of technology to Third World countries could be ensured.  Were there possible ways of breaking the monopoly enjoyed by companies producing devices for people with disabilities? There should be a broadening of the future delegation.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu answered that this would be an honour for the Department, though the delegation should not be too broad, as there were limited spaces available.  The Department also had to be guided by the agenda that was set.  

As devices for the disabled were designed in certain countries, the intellectual property rights of these countries applied here.   Furthermore, licences for distributing agents were decided by the relevant companies. The Department would ask the Department of Trade and Industry to engage with these countries, with a view to offering South Africans a greater range of products.  South Africa would also need to look into whether its intellectual property rights laws were compatible with that of other countries, and also the possibility of developing its own devices locally.

The Chairperson asked how the Department hoped to ensure the Country Report was not postponed again.  How would it ensure that the Report was made available to civil society timeously?

Ms Bogopane-Zulu answered that the Report was initially postponed due to the realisation that certain aspects needed to be included. The Department had held consultative forums with people with disabilities in connection with the Report.

The meeting was adjourned.



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