The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD) and Office of the Chief State Law Advisor briefly outlined the amendments contained in the Commission for Gender Equality Amendment Bill, which was proposed to bring a number of sections of the principal legislation into line with the Constitution and Public Finance Management Act. Members discussed the wording of the Preamble, and suggested more specific terminology.
The DWCPD then briefed the Committee on its efforts on the Rural Women’s Empowerment and Development Programme, including a report-back on the summits held in various provinces during 2011, which resulted in a number of proposals that the Department was presently taking forward. The Development Programme included promoting networking opportunities, government programmes of education and training, strengthening women’s access to markets, exploring and developing funding opportunities, including public/private partnerships, tapping into resources from other departments, taking the One-Home-One-Garden concept further and celebration of social advocacy campaigns such as the World Rural Women’s Day. The challenges were numerous, and included problems around inheritance and lack of knowledge by women on their rights, no or inadequate access to land, limited funding, including too little working capital or insufficient cash injections to improve the products they produced. Women were particularly affected by natural disasters, and unsustainable use of natural resources, and faced problems in securing proper and safe care for their children while they were at work. Stock theft, corruption at official levels, lack of access to markets and the need to develop farm workers’ programmes were also cited. Although there were programmes in place across several departments, there was generally inadequate monitoring and evaluation, and this would need to be addressed not only so that government efforts became more visible, but to develop the programmes. Disabled women faced even greater problems and the DWCPD wanted to emphasise that they must be given full recognition of their rights and roles as mothers, women and wives and farmers. Emphasis on communities learning sign language and access to programmes for the visually disabled to obtain information from the internet were particularly important factors in taking their rights further. Some of the project-related challenges were outlined, including ongoing lack of technical expertise or the right equipment, the fact that many other implementing departments were not attending to applications with due attention or speed, lack of funding, lack of access to land despite business plans being approved and limited infrastructure development that hindered projects. The position of cooperatives, and the improvements needed, were also outlined.
Members noted the need for continued support of cooperatives, questioned how the DWCPD would address other departments’ inadequacies and force improvements, the work of provincial units and projects in the Western Cape and on farms. They made the point that the sanitary towel campaign did not appear to be effective enough, and urged for continued support of women who had been given initial help by the Department.
Commission on Gender Equality Amendment Bill: Deliberations
Ms Thandeka Mxenge, Acting Director General, Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, reported that the legislation on the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) needed to be aligned with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and the Constitution, and for this reason the Commission on Gender Equality Amendment Bill (the Bill) had been drafted. She presented the draft (see attached documents), pointing out that bold and bracketed items were to be deleted, and those underlined to be added.
Ms M Tlake (ANC) suggested that the words “under certain conditions” should be added to the clauses that dealt with removal from office.
Ms E More (ANC) said that the word “mechanism” pertained to any process, and there was a need to spell out what the mechanism was in each case.
Mr Sisa Makabeni, Senior State Law Advisor, Office of the Chief State Law Advisor, clarified that the Preamble was not a substantive clause, and was intended to set out the broad vision, not to be specific.
Ms Mxenge reiterated that the Preamble referred to a general perspective.
Mr Makabeni also added that whilst the Committee would of course eventually decide what was to be included, some of the additions were more an emphasis, as the main substantive points about the Commission were already contained in the Act itself.
The Committee decided to consider the draft before discussing the matter further.
Rural Women’s Development Programme: Department’s briefing
Ms Mapitsi Mononela, Chief Director: Advocacy & Mainstreaming, Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Branch, Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, said that the Department (DWCPD) had recently embarked on a rural women’s development programme that included summits and advocacy programmes, in line with government’s priority on rural development, The focus of the initiative was on expanding opportunities for rural women.
The objectives of this initiative included:
- Conducting a series of consultations with rural women and women-owned organisations, who would hopefully articulate their issues, so that they could be urgently and effectively addressed;
- Guiding and informing mainstreaming for rural women’s holistic development, as well as gender equality at all three levels of government;
- Facilitating the acquisition of first hand information, by conducting site visits to farms owned or run by women
- Providing an opportunity for decision-makers, implementers and policy makers in Government to listen and use the information and find ways to expedite these issues being addressed
- Taking note of efforts made by rural women in terms of income generation and self-reliance, and the challenges faced. DWCPD would then seek to address the challenges that presently caused the closure of businesses, address the issues of working capital and infrastructure or inadequate exposure and know-how, and help women to access marketing and further-processing opportunities
- Finding and incorporating solutions, including those already set out in relevant legislation and policies, such as the Green Paper on Rural Development, the Green Paper on Land Reform, Traditional Courts Bill, strategies that the Department of Agriculture already had for projects and funding, and the Department’s own Draft Strategy for Rural Women’s Development.
Ms Mononela then spoke to the successes of the Summit held on 13 and14 May 2011 at Karibu Lodge, in Mopani District Municipality, and repeated on 13 August 2011 at Gonubie Hotel, on 20 November 2011 at Ugu District Municipality in Port Shepstone (which was addressed by President Zuma, and which had also included discussions on widows and domestic workers) and on 12 and 13 December 2011 at the Port St Johns Municipality Offices, on World Rural Women’s Day.
The broad participation and interaction at the summits had led to networking opportunities. Amongst the representatives were delegates from all nine provinces from women political principals, government officials, members of various developmental partners (see attached presentation for detail), traditional leaders, civil society organisations (CSO), the private sector and NGOs representing a number of organisations and interests, ranging from Rape Crisis, through Widowed Women SA to Landless People’s Movement.
The Summit had discussed the promotion of government programmes on education and training, access to markets, funding opportunities and the One-Home-One-Garden initiative, which included the distribution of agricultural implements such as jojo water tanks, wheelbarrows, and seedlings. In addition, there was celebration of social advocacy campaigns such as the World Rural Women’s Day.
Ms Mononela noted that there were a number of challenges facing rural women, in particular, which included:
- inheritance issues, as most women lack knowledge of the laws of inheritance, Dispossession of property and ukungenwa are still being practiced.
- inadequate or no access to land, and the fact that women did not have sufficient control and decision-making in this regard
- many of the cooperatives established by women were not able to expand to their full potential, owing to the women having inadequate access to resources and business practices
- low levels of funding for operation, working capital and infrastructure; and lack of access to water for both household use and agricultural development
- low levels of skills and literacy, compounded by the problem that many documents are in English
- inappropriate labour practices
- lack of technical knowledge in completing forms and signing contracts with institutions
- decay of the social fabric, leading to crime, including children abusing drugs and alcohol
- under-utilisation or unsustainable use of natural resources, including unexploited opportunities in agriculture, tourism and mining
- destruction of infrastructure by natural disasters, which left projects vulnerable, especially those for women with disabilities
- problems of safety and security for children when their mothers went out to work, which needed to be addressed by provision of Early Childhoood Development programmes
- stock theft
- corrupt officials
- access to markets for products
In addition, the Department noted the need for a programme specifically to address farm workers and farm dwellers, such as negotiations that would lead to them being able to obtain shelter. Human rights issues underpinned many of the problems. It was pointed out that although there were some programmes already in place, there was not effective monitoring and evaluation, which meant that government was perceived as not attending to the problems. The programmes were also hindered by lack of research and development. In some provinces, most of land was taken up with mines, but women had neither access to ownership of the mines, nor access to land for other purposes. The DWCPD was exploring the possibility of women being given the chance to obtain rights over disused mine land.
There were specific problems with women with disabilities. Firstly, they were not treated like other people in their society, and their disability was always brought into issue. There were particular problems with those who were hearing or sight-impaired; many others in the community could not communicate with the hearing impaired in sign language, and information over the internet was not readily available to those with visual difficulties. Another problem was that sometimes it had been found that those supposedly assisting the women had in fact copied their knowledge to enrich themselves. The DWCPD urged that the general population should be educated to accept these women fully in their roles as women, mothers and farmers, and “dis” should not be seen as a negative. People with disabilities needed their full rights and freedom as citizens of the country and wanted to be given a chance to show that they could achieve.
The Department then outlined some of the measures for implementation that had been proposed at the summits. The DWCPD would be drafting Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with other departments, including the Departments of Rural Development and Land Reform, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Arts and Culture, and Trade and Industry, to set out how each would support women’s projects. The DWCPD would then work with relevant departments to develop support programmes for the projects that needed urgent attention. Appropriate measures to support projects should be drawn for the short and long term, including short term skills development initiatives that would help improve the quality of goods produced.
The DWCPD noted that a monitoring and evaluation system for all women’s projects was needed, so that challenges could be identified and addressed on time. The DWCPD intended to hosting similar summits in other provinces, to draw a bigger picture of the challenges that women experienced.
It was noted that some of the particular problems with existing projects included:
- Ongoing lack of technical expertise and other resources, particularly finances, insufficient working capital funding and the need for finance injections to prevent near-collapse of projects, and to ensure that the lower quality produce would be able to improve, in order then to attract markets. This problem had been highlighted particularly in Limpopo and Free State.
- In some cases, lack of irrigation systems on farms, or harvesting equipment, such as fishing nets, had resulted in loss of income
- Implementing departments, to whom requests for project funding or technical support were directed, had not responded timeously to the requests, which often led to missed opportunities for women projects and “take over” threats from other parties, such as LandBank
- There was insufficient human capacity and skills at provincial and local spheres of government, to follow up effectively with departments.
- Projects were challenged by insufficient funding to effectively implement operational plans
- Sometimes, there were approved and funded business plans, but women were still not able to secure the land for farming
- There was still little infrastructure development, especially the provision of electricity, water and proper roads by municipalities.
The DWCPD outlined what it was intending to do to address the problems. Firstly, it would continue to lobby and seek to strengthen Public-Private Partnerships (with business and UN development partners) to support rural women’s projects. It also intended to work to strengthen institutional support and capacity building at local level, working with traditional leaders and municipal Mayors and councillors, and holding information sharing sessions on funding and requirements in different government and training initiatives. Where there had been successes, it would attempt to replicate them in similar areas, such as the successful Gombani brick-making project in Limpopo, that would be adapted for the Eastern Cape. The DWCPD intended also to strengthen integrated monitoring visits, including those with provincial departments, for further follow-up and sustainability of projects.
Working with other Departments
Ms G Tseke (ANC) said there was a need to approach all departments and ask them to help women. Many of them had a substantial amount of money allocated that was not actually reaching rural women.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said that the delays of other departments were of great concern, and wondered if they were reluctant to fulfil the conditions in the MOUs. She asked what DWCPD would do to ensure that other departments fulfilled their roles and did not delay the processes.
Ms Mononela replied that the problem often lay at the higher levels in the departments, although there were meetings held at lower levels, trying to deal effectively with human resources and communications.
The Chairperson asked for more information on which departments had not responded.
Ms Tseke said that there were programmes and projects concerning women collapsing every day and it was therefore particularly concerning to hear that departments were not providing support.
Ms Tseke said that there was a need to empower units within the provinces, as this would have more impact on the municipalities, who tended not to take women’s development seriously. She through it would be useful if more MECs were women.
Ms Van Der Merwe asked if projects were being run in all provinces, or only certain areas, and whether DWCPD had a database, showing how many women, and what areas, had benefited.
Ms Mononela replied that there was a database, and it was updated every time a project was visited.
Ms Tseke complained that there was little impact seen on the sanitary towels campaign. There were reports that there was limited roll out and there were also issues of sustainability.
Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) said that it was a good move to give money to co-operatives and there was a need to spread this idea to other provinces.
Ms Modjagi Seabi, Deputy Director General: Women’s Empowerment, DWCPD, advised that the Department was working with Coca Cola to try to find ways in which this company could help sustain the co-operatives.
The Chairperson pointed out that there were past experiences of cooperatives being formed, but later disintegrating. There was a need for continuous training and monitoring, so that they did not collapse, since many of them did not succeed because of lack of management.
Ms Seabi replied that the Department had engaged with Pretoria University and other academic institutions, and the target was to train 10 000 women. Scholarships had been offered.
Ms Mononela added that there were also follow up meetings, as the DWCPD had found that women sometimes felt discouraged and disincentivised when they did not make money instantaneously, or where the members were not entirely honest. The DWCPD would advise on re-investment of any proceeds, and paying of salaries.
Ms C Diemu (COPE) asked what was happening within the Western Cape, especially within the rural areas, and with women on farms, as this had been specifically addressed in the presentation.
Ms Seabi replied that she received a call from women in the Western Cape to import mobile toilets and she had requested more information on the project, including a proposal. She was yet to hear back but would follow up, as there was a need for supporting that service. There were other projects that were also worthy of support.
Ms Mononela added that the DWCPD had met with women on farms to check what kind of programmes the Department of Agriculture had put in place, as it too had money set aside for some projects, and there had been a meeting arranged with that Department’s official responsible for provincial Vulnerable Persons projects. Although the issues had not been fully explored, there had been initial meetings.
The Chairperson urged a follow up.
Ms E More added that there was a need to make sure that the support continued, and that there was training, to ensure that businesses and ventures prospered. She also noted that it would be interesting to see what was happening in the deep rural areas.
Ms Tseke said that it was important that the DWCPD must be specific in stating where advice was given, indicating the exact location of the projects as well as the province.
The Chairperson agreed, pointing out that all too often officials sat in their offices and were not really aware of where things should be happening, and not following up to check on the real results.
Adoption of minutes
The minutes from the previous meeting were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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