The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD) briefed Members on the draft National Plan of Action for Children 2012 -2017 (NPAC) and the Report of the National Women’s Conference, August 2011. Due to the Department’s unreadiness, its Report on Rural Women was rescheduled for 31 January 2013.
The Department was developing the Draft National Plan of Action for Children 2012 -2017 (NPAC) with a focus on 'The Child', and, in collaboration with structures and institutions such as The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRDP), the South African Constitution, the National Development Plan: Vision 2030 as well as existing Government plans and policies, outcomes and goals such as child participation, child survival, child protection and child development were achieved.
There were five sub-themes of the NPAC: child survival, child development, protection and care for children, standard of living of children in South Africa, and child participation. The Cabinet oversaw the translation of NPAC into Sectoral Policies and Programmes, in alignment with the National Planning Commission and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation. The final NPAC document would be circulated to Heads of Department for endorsement and it would also be released as a public document after its approval by Cabinet.
Members were concerned that many disabled children were still not going to school, and that the plan did not seem to tackle the high rates of drug use among children in South Africa. Another main concern was child development, the establishment of play parks and recreational centres, and the provision of quality information about children’s rights and responsibilities, especially to rural communities. Other concerns included the lack of cohesion and collaboration between the Department and others such as the Departments of Social Development, Health, and Basic Education. Above all, Members were frustrated that the Department did not have a strong and efficient monitoring and evaluation unit, did not indicate any time-lines or deadlines for the implantation of its set goals, strategies and objectives, and had failed on a number of occasions to provide relevant documentation such as concise reports and detailed presentations to the Committee on time. Therefore Members agreed that should the Department not address these administrative issues in future, it would be sent back.
National Plan of Action for Children 2012 -2017 (NPAC): DWCPD briefing
Mr Mzolisi ka Toni, DWCPD Deputy Director-General (DDG): Children’s Rights and Responsibilities and Rights of Persons with Disabilities, briefed Members on the Draft National Plan of Action for Children 2012 -2017 (NPAC), which the Department was developing. The plan was a review of that developed in 1996, and took account of changes in society, culture, technology and the legal spheres.
As background, he stated that it came about after South Africa became signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) n 1995, as a result of which South Africa was obligated to develop a national plan of action for children, which was done in 1996.
The reviewed 2012 -2017 NPAC had been developed to embrace the new legislation for children, which had been adopted at local, regional as well as international levels. The NPAC focused on 'The Child' as the central point of departure and, in collaboration with structures and institutions such as The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRDP), the South African Constitution, the National Development Plan: Vision 2030 as well as existing Government plans and policies, outcomes and goals such as child participation, child survival, child protection and child development were achieved.
The approach used when structuring the NPAC was that of mainly collecting baseline information on every issue concerning 'The Child', such as child mortality under an overall theme, such as Child Survival. Existing governmental goals that were contributing towards the achievement of mandates focusing on children had been used as benchmarks to inform Government programmes. Also broad national indicators were set to guide and track progress during the implementation of these goals and the roles of the lead and supporting departments in all sub-themes were outlined.
There were five sub-themes of the NPAC: these were child survival, child development, protection and care for children, standard of living of children in South Africa, and child participation.
Child survival was about reducing the rate of child mortality by ensuring that babies were born healthy and that they stayed alive, it was also about keeping children healthy by providing good nutrition and ensuring that children living with HIV/AIDS lived longer. Child development was about ensuring that all children grew, learned and developed to be the best persons they could be by providing early access to child development and quality education in schools. Disabled children as well as children living in rural areas had access to services and education that would contribute positively to the creation of opportunities for growth and development.
The Protection and Care for Children was about keeping children safe and taking good care of them. This area thus focused on children who were victims of child abuse, neglect, exploitation, violence, rape and sexual abuse, as well as children who were orphans/ without parents who lived in the streets. Under the theme of protection and care for children, child-headed households as well as refugee children who travelled as unaccompanied minors were also a concern. The fourth sub-theme dealt with the Standards of Living of Children in South Africa. This area focused on taking care of children who were poor, improving the conditions of accommodation/ shelter/ housing that the child lived under, providing access to clean water and hygiene, and providing parks and recreational facilities and material support and food for children. Lastly was the sub-theme titled Child Participation. Children needed to be awarded the opportunities to participate in policy making in Government and to be provided with the opportunities to exercise their rights as guided by their responsibilities.
With regards to the institutional arrangement of the plan, Cabinet oversaw the translation of NPAC into Sectoral Policies and Programmes, in alignment with the National Planning Commission and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation.
The NPAC structure was done in collaboration with other departments and workshops were organised for national and provincial departments, civil society, and children’s rights machinery, and children’s inputs were also consolidated in these workshops. A meeting was held on 19 April 2012 with a team of experts to refine the NPAC document. One of the main achievements of the plan so far had been the roll-out of a child friendly NPAC document on 5 November 2011, which was National Children’s Day.
The NPAC document was still being refined based on the various documents received and emerging issues such as harmful cultural practices and violence against children were still to be considered as crucial issues. The final NPAC document would be circulated to Heads of Department for endorsement and it would also be released as a public document after its approval by Cabinet.
Ms C Mosimane (COPE) said that the fact that many disabled children were still not going to school was still a major concern, and this was because there was a lack of adequate schools to accommodate these disabled children. The second concern was that of the high rates of child-headed households; the Department should be working in close collaboration with the Department of Social Development to curb the problem.
Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) raised a concern which fell under the sub-theme of the protection and care for children; she argued that the plan did not seem to tackle the high rates of drug use among children in South Africa and this was a serious concern.
Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) raised a concern about child development; she pointed out that there was a lack of information about the benefits of education; she made reference to a school in the North West which had 17 pregnant learners. She argued that parents also needed to be engaged when dealing with issues of child development and education. Information such as that in the NPAC should be translated into various indigenous languages and distributed within schools in the rural areas. Another concern was that of the rights of 'The Child'; she argued that children misused these rights and the Department should aim to re-educate children about their rights.
Ms H Lamoela (DA) began by stating that the Department's presentation was very poor. She wondered whether the Department took into consideration the Children’s Act when drafting the NPAC framework. She also stated, that according to statistics, there were about 467 000 disabled children who were not in child-care centres or schools and thus wondered whether the Department was aware of these statistics and what it was doing to improve them. Ms Lamoela then wondered about the goals that the Department had set for itself and what the time-lines and deadlines for implementation were. She also enquired about the strategies and programmes that the Department had put in place to achieve set objectives, and about the nature of these strategies and programmes. She wondered what they entailed. She also wondered how the Department was working with other departments such as the Department of Social Development to reach its goals and objectives; she also stated that with regard to monitoring child participation, the departments had not set any clear outcomes on the monitoring process. She also highlighted the importance of play in child development and coordination; she then asked whether the Department intended to engage municipalities to build parks and recreational centres.
Ms C Diemu (COPE) asked whether the Department was working with the Department of Social Development to reduce the number of children living on the streets; she wanted to know how the Department was reaching out to these children. She also wanted to know how the Department was dealing with children who were poor.
The Chairperson further highlighted the fact that departments were not working together to achieve their various goals and objectives and that this hampered progress.
Ms Mosimane wondered whether the Department was working with the Department of Health when it came to child survival, and matters such as the reduction of child mortality, the provision of healthy nutrition and ensuring that children living with HIV/AIDS lived longer.
Mr Toni responded that the main disadvantage that the Members had with engaging with the presentation was that they did not have the actual NPAC document with which to engage directly; the reason was that it was a fairly long document of 136 pages which still needed to be discussed and approved by Cabinet. With regard to child participation, he referred to the Children’s Parliament, which took place annually, where children were given an opportunity to challenge and engage leaders in discussion of issues that were relevant to them; Mr Toni then highlighted that this year the Children’s Parliament took place on Mpumalanga. He also made reference to the National Take a Girl Child to work Day, which took place annually in September.
With regard to child labour, the Department was working with the Department of Labour to stop and prevent the exploitation of children by the labour force. With regard to the issue of disabled children in schools, the reason why most disabled children were not in schools was because these schools were meant for severely disabled children and that most disabled children did not need to be in these schools. He also noted that children in special schools were equipped well enough to handle the ‘unprotected’ environments of higher education and universities; this was to reduce the already high drop-out rates at university level.
With regard to the protection and care of children, the Department was working together with the Department of Police to curb issues such as drug abuse; the Department was also working with Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) to keep track of the numbers of children who were disabled, orphans, etc. The NPAC document would be printed in indigenous languages, which was why the Department began by introducing the child friendly version. The Department was working with the Department of Social Development to deal with early childhood development and the Health Conference held in the Eastern Cape earlier this year also dealt with issues relating to child development, care and protection. With regard to child play, the Department was working with municipalities and the Minister launched the 'Safe parks' campaign in KwaZulu-Natal so that communities could also understand the importance of play.
With regards to monitoring and evaluation, the Department was expected not only by the South African Government but also by the United Nations to report on the improvements on child development and child protection and there was a report that would be presented in Parliament,and would be signed off by Cabinet by 05 December 2012 so that it could also be available to the public with the report on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which had been approved by Cabinet and would be readily available for public consumption.
Ms Lamoela argued that the Department had once again failed to issue the relevant documents in time before the meeting; she then suggested that, should the Department fail to do so again, it should be sent back. She further reiterated that monitoring and evaluation within the Department was still a major concern. She also wanted to know where the document on the United Nations on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was available.
The Chairperson agreed with Ms Lamoela that it was not acceptable for the Department to hand out documents on the day of the presentation and that the Committee would consider turning away the Department if it repeated the same offence.
Report of the National Women’s Conference August 2011: DWCPD briefing
Ms Modjadji Seabi, DWCPD Deputy Director-General: Women Empowerment and Gender Equality, stated that the conference was held from the 31 July to 03 August 2011 and was based on the theme 'Working together for equal opportunities and progress for all women'. The intention of the conference was to review the progress made by the Department in the implementation of gender equity and women’s empowerment in the country.
The conference saw the attendance of more than one thousand women from different sectors in the country, including young women, women with disabilities, rural-based women, and the elderly. There were at least fifteen members from the Executive, including Cabinet Ministers and Premiers, who addressed the conference. The purpose of the conference was to re-examine the progress made by Government and development partners towards their commitments towards a non-sexist society, and identifying the shortcomings and then proposing recommendations that would ensure that women’s issues and gender equity were mainstreamed across public and private institutions.
The expected outcomes from the conference were the development of: a national strategy and implementation plan for rural women’s development; a national policy on women’s empowerment and gender equity towards a Gender Equity Bill; Women, Peace and Security Plan of Action on UNSCR 1325; a national council against gender based violence; the Plan of Action on the 365 days of No Violence against Women; and engendering the New Growth Path and the Job Fund.
Some of the objectives of the conference were to identify ways to strengthen institutional arrangements that supported the transformation and the implementation of gender equality and women’s empowerment; reviewing the efficiency of the national gender machinery; providing a platform for women to articulate their concerns, needs and issues to include young and rural women; and also to create the space for women to engage in job creation, decent work and economic empowerment programmes.
Deliberations during the conference showed that women were in full support of the development and enactment of a gender equality bill and that some of major challenges were the under representation of women in industries such as the mining and energy sectors, and that this challenge must be addressed by encouraging more young females to study engineering, science, technology, and mathematics. Conference delegates were also in full support of the establishment of a land management commission reform especially for women.
Women at the conference were also in full support of extending the 16 days of activism against violence against women and children to a full 365 day campaign against gender-based violence. There was agreement on the need to encourage HIV testing and dedicating focus on the reduction and elimination of maternal mortality. There was still a growing concern about matters relating to the institutionalization of the women’s agenda for societal transformation and the inalienable realization of women’s rights.
The following key concerns needed to be addressed; first was access to information. Women did not know where to get access to important information such as which shelters were around their communities, for example; therefore there was a need to empower women with information so that they could seek to improve their own lives. Other issues included ‘The Green Agenda’ which dealt with issues concerning the environment, expanding opportunities for employment so that women could also enter job sectors which were previously reserved for men, continued dialogue, engendering the New Growth path, financing opportunities for women entrepreneurs, and safety and security - this dealt with issues of violence and shelter.
Some of the commitments made at the conference included bilateral meetings held by the Department and signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) between Government, the national Department and Premier offices at provincial levels to build partnerships and develop joint strategies for taking forward the women’s empowerment and gender equality programme of action. Also national and provincial departments pledged their support and cooperation with the Department.
Some of the recommendations were the establishment of national priorities for women and girls grouped under various sectors including economic empowerment, job creation, education for girls and women, health for girls and women, rural development and food security, fighting gender-based violence, and land reform.
The progress made so far was that out of the thirteen projects in collaboration with the Industrial Development Corporation(IDC) to support women in business, ten were approved by the IDC and were all in different phases; some were still starting up while other were already up and running. Also the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill (WEGE) had been submitted to Cabinet and was being consulted upon widely; a Rural Development strategy had also been drafted and a Gender Budgeting strategy was also initiated; also senior positions had been filled, which include that of Deputy Director-General and four Chief Directors and one Director.
As to the conference recommendations, there would be a plan to monitor implementation and progress.
The Chairperson further raised the concern that the Committee did not get reports in time from the Department; this then hindered the Committee from carefully scrutinizing the documents or the presentations in greater detail and that this was a major challenge. She also stated that the Department did not report to the Committee in time about the work it did and the Department’s presentations did not have any deadlines.
Ms Lamoela reiterated that the Department's handing out documents late was unacceptable and that next time it should be turned back. She then enquired about what the Department used as criteria for selecting the 32 council members to sit in on the National Council on Gender-Based Violence (NCGBV) and how civil society was engaged in the matter. She then also wondered why ‘access to information’ for women was still a challenge; she then wondered whether the Department was not utilizing the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No 2 of 2000). Ms Lamoela also argued that was it of vital importance that the Department worked in collaboration with other departments to achieve its goals and objectives.
Ms Diemu also agreed that late reports were not acceptable. With regard to the various departments which had committed themselves with MOUs, she wanted to know how far the departments had progressed in implementing their commitments with the Department and what the deadlines were for outstanding MOUs.
Ms Mosimane asked for clarity about the bilateral meeting held by the Department with other stakeholders.
The Chairperson then wanted to know about the content of the MOUs signed by the departments.
Ms Seabi apologised to the Committee on the late submission of reports and said that the Department would work on providing details on various deadlines; she also acknowledged the importance of time-frames. In terms of the Women and Gender Equality Bill consultation, a number of sessions had been held with provincial governments and research institutions, and various inputs from stakeholders had been accepted; therefore the information as to who had been consulted would be made available at a later stage. With regard to the criteria for the selection of council members, calls for nominations were published in the newspapers and the main criteria was that the institutions should be committed to the elimination of gender-based violence among other things. She also agreed that the Department needed to come up with a plan to monitor its activities within itself and between the Department and line departments.
Mr Toni added that even though there was the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2000, people still did not know how to access information properly and that most information was accessed only by educated people; this was therefore something that the Department was still working to improve.
Ms Seabi also noted that the Department had accepted the suggestion to work with ward committees to reach communities and certain municipalities would be identified. The Department would draft a plan to work with them to improve the lives of women and the communities in which they lived. With regard to working with line departments, this was part of the Department’s plan. She referred to the work that the Department was scheduled to do with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform; the Department had requested to meet with that Department to deal with issues of land . She then stated that the Department did not have time-frames to deal with MOUs and that it was something the Department would work on. The content of the MOUs would be provided in a presentation at a later stage.
Ms Ditshetelo raised the concern of the lack of access to information in rural areas; she then asked what measures had the Department put in place to reach out to these rural women.
Ms Nxumalo recommended the Department that they make use of Members of Parliament (MPs) and their constituencies to reach out to rural women and various communities to provide information, support and various services.
Ms Lamoela added that a large percentage of women were still illiterate; she then made reference to Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET), and said that the Department needed to provide more support to the structure so that it could reach more women in remote areas. She also suggested that the Department work in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education in this regard.
Mr Toni responded that, in the selection of women to participate in the rural summit, various structures were consulted such as women on farms. However, budgetary constraints limited the number of women who could take part. ABET fell under the mandate of the Department of Higher Education and Training and what the Department could do was to attempt to work in collaboration with the Department of Higher Education and Training at a later stage.
The Chairperson proposed that the Department move onto the third presentation on rural women.
Mr Toni responded that the Department would prefer to present the report on rural women when Parliament commenced after the recess as the Department felt that it had only a poor presentation.
Ms Nxumalo (ANC) agreed that the report handed in by the Department was too big and too late, therefore the Department should come back and present at a later stage.
The Chairperson accepted the appeal of the Department and proposed that it should present its report on 31 January 2013.
Committee minutes: adoption
The Committee adopted its minutes of the following meetings: 05, 12, and 19 September; and 9, 10, 11, and 18 October 2012.
The meeting was adjourned.
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