The Department of Social Development (DSD) conducted three briefings dealing with the Gender Chief Directorate, its approach to Gender-based Violence (GBV), and the disability rights coordination mechanism.
The overview of the Gender Chief Directorate dealt with the DSD’s efforts towards gender transformation. Members asked why the briefing had not made reference to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex (LGBTI) community, and said it was disappointing to see that there was still apathy with regard to gender mainstreaming in the DSD. There were various departments which were not sensitive to the issue of gender, as there were no gender focal points. They wanted to know how many of the 72 interns who had been capacitated in the first quarter of 2015 were fully employed in the DSD. The 595 rural women who had participated in the workshops was a small number when taking the amount of rural areas in South Africa into consideration. The workshops should have been expanded to all municipalities. They also referred to the small amount of funding available to the DSD.
The second briefing -- the DSD approach to Gender-based Violence (GBV) -- dealt with goals, services and programmes that tackled GBV. Members expressed concern that many people were unaware of the Department’s programme of action targeted to address GBV. The GBV Command Centre and telephone counselling were described as fantastic, but there were questions over how well the initiatives had been advertised. There were too few shelters for abused women. As there were many unemployed social workers, and many South African social workers migrated to other countries, a Member wanted to know why the DSD had said there were not enough social workers in South Africa, and why there was a lack of social workers in the DSD.
The briefing on the overview of the Disability Rights Coordination Mechanism covered national implementation goals for disabled communities.
Members asserted that people with disabilities had been isolated and an urgent presence was needed. Disabled people did not want to be seen as welfare cases, but wanted to be given opportunities to empower themselves economically and educationally. South Africa had an increased amount of learners with disabilities who dropped out of school. Many schools were not disability friendly and there were too few schools in South Africa that catered for disabled learners. They questioned the general awareness of people in rural areas and across the country, of the increased amount of DSD programmes available to the disabled. There were worries that DSD campaigns directed at violence against women and children provided only a passive emphasis. A special relationship should have been formed with the SAPS, as the police did not understand issues of the disabled. There were concerns about the staff complement of 15 for the past year, which indicated that disabled people had not been on the priority list of the DSD. The funding of NGOs was a major problem in the disability sector. Members also said that the Department had not rolled out enough programmes.
Overview of Gender Chief Directorate
Ms Nelisiwe Vilakazi, Acting Director General of the Department of Social Development (DSD), briefed the Portfolio Committee on gender transformation in a presentation titled, ‘Overview of the Gender Chief Directorate.’ She said that the aim of the presentation was to look at the DSD’s “mandate, purpose and functions” to mainstream gender into its programmes through implementation of the DSD Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Policy and the Gender Mainstreaming Guidelines.
Ms D Robinson (DA) said it seemed as if the DSD had generally got a move on. She asked if the Committee could receive information about the women’s empowerment workshops held in 2014/15 on women’s legal rights, as it would be useful to disseminate what had been done. The DSD had reached some people, but there were many more who should be afforded the services provided by the DSD. She wanted to know where the 595 rural women had participated in the workshops. It was disappointing to see that there was still apathy with regard to gender mainstreaming in the DSD. Apathetic behaviour was a nationwide problem, but she wanted to know how apathy could be countered as part of monitoring where pressure could be placed on the DSD and other departments. She was happy to see that there were practical initiatives, such as the Rise Women’s Club and the Pink Drive campaign. However, in the presentation there had been no specific reference to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex (LGBTI) community.
Ms P Bhengu (ANC) said that, with reference to the DSD’s assistance towards the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, there were various departments which are not sensitive to the issue of gender, as there were no gender focal points. It was not clear as to whether the DSD assisted women in the departments, specifically with gender focal points. She wanted to know how many of the 72 interns who had been capacitated in the first quarter of 2015 were fully employed in the DSD. The 595 rural women who had participated in the workshops was a small number when taking the amount of rural areas in South Africa into consideration. The workshops should have been expanded to all municipalities. She also referred to the small amount of funding available to the DSD. With reference to the 2015/2016 budget of the DSD, the figure shown in the presentation had been incorrect. The amount allocated was not R5 305 000, as shown, but R5 294 000.
Ms Dikeledi Moema, Chief Director, DSD, replied that the Department took the LGBTI community very seriously. Capacity development and training had covered the issues faced by the LGBTI community and how to be sensitive to these issues. The women’s empowerment workshops had been conducted in the provinces of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State. She acknowledged that the number of women reached in rural areas had not been enough, but it was planned to reach more women.
In response to Ms Robinson’s disappointment about apathy in the DSD, Ms Moema said that in order to circumvent gender-sensitive issues, the DSD had educated everybody in the DSD on the meaning of ‘gender’ and what it entailed to be gender conscious.
Ms Moema then referred to the gender focal points of the Beijing Platform for Action, which were addressed through the work of the DSD and its provincial offices. Other departments took responsibility through their ministries of women. The financial figures had been older figures, based on an older structure. With the appointment of the new Chief Director, the figures would change. The Chief Director of the DSD had embarked on a workshop aimed at ensuring that the post was properly capacitated in order to make an impact on the ground.
Ms Robinson was pleased to see that there was facility training within the DSD, but wanted to know how it could be taken out into the wider community. There was a lot of prejudice, stigma and harshness towards the LGBTI community, such as the prevalence of corrective rape. She asked how the stigma in a “more traditional approach to life” could be addressed on the ground.
DSD’s approach to Gender-Based Violence (GBV)
Ms Vilakazi briefed the Committee on the DSD’s approach to GBV. Cabinet had appointed an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Violence Against Women and Children. Through the DSD’s leadership of the IMC, a technical task team had been formed, in coalition with other departments -- the Department of Justice and the South Africa Police Services -- to address challenges faced by women and children. The three pillars of the DSD’s programme of action (POA) were presented.
Ms Robinson commended the DSD on the strides they had made, but was concerned that she had been unaware of the POA targeted to address GBV. She mentioned her passion to address GBV, and if she was unaware of the POA, then there were many others who did not as well. The GBV Command Centre and telephone counselling was fantastic, but she queried how well the initiatives had been advertised. There were too few shelters for abused women, and she wanted to know how the DSD had planned to roll out more. She also requested more information on the White Door Centres of Hope.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said that the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Violence against Women and Children had been created and assigned to conduct activities over the period 2013-2018, so by 2015 there should have already been a progress report that would, for example, have indicated how many people had called the call centre. Although it had been only a year that the DSD had taken on the role within the IMC from the Department of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities, there was a need for more clarity. She said the IMC had an integrated approach where other departments, such as the Department of Justice (DoJ), were involved, so one could not merely blame the DSD, but inherent challenges showed that women had not been reporting cases, as they were discouraged. She acknowledged that reporting was an issue dealt with by the police.
She wanted to know if the POA’s three pillars approach would address the issue of shelters. Although the POA pillars provided a good plan on paper, Ms Van der Merwe was sceptical of the POA in practice. The Commission for Gender Equality was clear that twenty years since the Beijing Platform for Action, targets had not been met. Government departments had moved backwards and had worked in silos on integrated programmes. She had seen a lady in Voortrekker Road, Cape Town, being manhandled by her husband. Although people had come to the woman’s aid, she wondered whether the woman knew about the support services available from the DSD. The DSD acknowledged the need for their own officials to be capacitated with regard to the new services provided according to the POA. DSD staff members had to be properly trained so that their services were properly rendered. Reports of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), who had specialised in human trafficking issues, were needed.
Ms Robinson requested that the phone numbers of the GBV services be provided for the Committee, and that the numbers be better advertised.
Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) acknowledged that the Department of Women no longer dealt with the IMC, but she was still interested in the role they played in the IMC. As there were many unemployed social workers, and many South African social workers migrated to other countries, she wanted to know why the DSD had said there were not enough social workers in South Africa, and why there was a lack of social workers in the DSD. She was from the Free State, where there was an issue of human trafficking. She asked for figures that dealt with this issue.
Ms Vilakazi said that the information that would answer the Member’s questions were available, but were not in the presentation. The GBV command centre required a progress report. Visitors from abroad had come to observe the services provided by the DSD. She suggested that the Portfolio Committee visit the centres where services were provided. The issue of GBV was not an issue dealt with only by the DSD, but other departments as well.
Ms Siza Magangoe, Chief Director for Families at the DSD, said that the GBV command centre had received more than 10 000 calls over the last year. Marketing had not been up to scratch, but the DSD would improve its strategy. Police stations and clinics had the pamphlets with phone numbers for the services provided by the DSD. The GBV help-line was 0800 428 428. The White Door Centres provided a transit service to deal with the lack of social workers at the community level. The Centres created a safe space for someone to wait for the services of a social worker, as there had not been enough social workers available in all the wards. It was a 48-hour centre to which women and children could easily run. The Centre had a partnership with the South African Police Service (SAPS), which monitored the Centres from time to time. The DSD had formulated a comprehensive progress report that was not available at this meeting, but other departments, including the DoJ and SAPS, had met some of their own targets with regard to establishing dedicated support services. Not only had there been a need for social workers, but for counsellors as well, so that the DSD could deploy someone to assist social workers with psycho-social support services.
Ms Vilakazi said that information about the services had been made available on the internet, but the DSD would still ensure that ordinary women would have access to this information.
Ms Van der Merwe asked if the DSD used the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), as that would incur no costs for marketing. Community radio stations would be a useful means to market the services as well.
Ms Bhengu asked if there were volunteers who provided information to homeless people, as there were people who lived under bridges who would not have access to day-to-day marketing mechanisms. She indicated that there was a desperate need for shelters.
Ms Magangoe responded that the local municipalities had been mandated with the responsibility to provide shelters. The DSD had been mandated to deal with shelters specifically for women and children.
The Chairperson asked if the DSD had a working relationship with the NGOs which had run most of the shelters for the destitute. She asked what the DSD had done for poor children, and mentioned an example where a three-year-old boy could be vulnerable to sodomy – the issue of child rape had spread. How could a programme be addressed to eradicate the issue of child vulnerability to rape? She mentioned another example she knew of, where in the Western Cape a female toddler had been “openly” raped and had been incapable of defending herself. This issue had been documented in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), but had not been spoken of. There was also an issue where young girls had been raped by their HIV-positive uncles. She asked if the DSD could have synergy when dealing with the worsening issue of child rape in South Africa. The SABC was regarded as the best means of locally advertising services through community radio stations. She asked how many social workers had received sufficient practical training, as opposed to just “dishing out” academic knowledge.
Ms Robinson stressed the Chairperson’s point that government departments should deal with the issues of rape with synergy. She had been a counsellor in 1998 for a “street people” programme, where enormous networks had been created to communicate information of services of shelters. Local and provincial tasks should not be considered as mutually exclusive, but interaction between the cities and provinces were important. Support should also be provided to NGOs, but it was important to make sure that the NGOs supported were credible organisations. Information from monitoring and oversight was important so that money flows were transparent and ensured that corruption did not take place. Protection, particularly for the disabled, should be intensified. She was particularly concerned about the mentally challenged people who were victimised. She mentioned her concern that sexual offenders were released from prison, but often immediately went and repeatedly raped the same victim again.
It was good that the DSD trained more people, but as someone who had worked in the GBV field for many years, she was still not aware of what the DSD had done to tackle GBV. People lived in ignorance and fear, so information of the services should have been disseminated to every province and Member of Parliament (MP) so that “we know when to reach out.”
Ms Van der Merwe said that GBV has been an issue grappled with for many years, but there had been a lack of progress due to insufficient funding. To see a new initiative was heart-warming, but while good work had been done there was a need for greater efforts. One major issue was that the police had not been properly trained to deal with issues of GBV, which had discouraged women from reporting incidents of GBV. In addition, there had been a low conviction of sexual perpetrators. Another issue was stigmatisation, where women were discouraged from going to hospital as they feared being blamed for being raped. She said that the ten White Door Centres were not enough, as GBV had been highly prevalent throughout South Africa. Although key departments had been in coalition with the DSD, the Department of Communications and Public Enterprise should have been included, as the issue of GBV was a national crisis. The Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) had an extensive programme with community radio stations and they could come on board to advertise the DSD’s services.
Ms Vilakazi responded that the DSD would make an effort to disseminate more information about DSD services and promote synergy in different spheres. She referred to monitoring, and said that in the shelters there was a need to check that the workers at the shelters were registered because in terms of the Children’s Act (No.38 of 2005) it was important to make sure that none of the workers had committed sexual offences. The DSD had financially supported NGOs that had provided shelters.
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Acting Deputy Director General (DDG), DSD, said the organisation of the arrangement of the IMC on GBV was one thing that the President had tried to do, by allowing ministers to lead. Although communication between the DSD and provincial governments was good, communication between the DSD and local government needed improvement.
Overview of Disability Rights Coordination Mechanism
Mr Mzolisi Toni, DDG: DSD presented on the ‘Overview of the disability rights coordination mechanism.’ The mandate had been derived from the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 33, which spoke to national implementation and monitoring. It was required that “architects of disability” were properly consulted on mainstreaming. The function was primary responsible for the overall coordination of implementation of National Disability Rights and Gender, which was being done through the UN Convention on Disability Rights. The empowerment of disability rights was coordinated through legislation. The policy framework spoke to the integration of disability rights within government.
The presentation’s section on “Disability Rights Capacity Building and Advocacy” dealt with development of the approved implementation of disability rights suitable for integrative programmes, as well as the coordination of government disability structures, campaigns and committees. The third section of the presentation was titled “Disability rights compliance with constitutional [and] international obligations,” which covered the reporting of progress. A baseline report had been formulated, and a fiscal report would still be formulated for presentation. The Disability Quality Index had been incorporated into a policy.
Ms Robinson asked how the structures put in place related in practice. People with disabilities had been isolated and an urgent presence was needed.
Ms Bhengu said that during the disability parliament, people had expressed their unhappiness with the DSD. Disabled people did not want to be seen as welfare cases, but wanted to be given opportunities to empower themselves economically and educationally. South Africa had an increased amount of learners with disabilities who dropped out of school. How would children who remained in their homes instead of going to school be dealt with by the DSD? Many schools were not disability friendly and there were too few schools in South Africa that catered for disabled learners. She mentioned her personal experience, where she had applied to go to a school for the disabled, but had been on the waiting list for three years, so she had not been able to attend that school and had had to attend a mainstream school. She had been very young and had been unaware that her disability had led to her being abused by teachers and learners. Eventually she had dropped out of school.
Ms Bhengu asked whether the DSD’s inclusive education approach was working. She questioned the general awareness of people in rural areas and across the country, of the increased amount of DSD programmes available to the disabled. Awareness was important, as the disabled did not want to depend on disability grants, but wanted to gain opportunities to obtain an education and look after their families.
Mr A Madella (ANC) was worried that DSD campaigns directed at violence against women and children provided only a passive emphasis. High levels of violence against women were evident in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, where women had disappeared. The women’s dismembered body parts were then found on sale for muti. A special relationship should have been formed with the SAPS, as the police did not understand issues of the disabled. In addition, with the focus on women and children, emphasis on the disabled had disappeared. He said that on Monday, 26 October 2015, in his constituency, a disabled person had been arrested. This person had been arrested on three occasions, but the police had mistaken him as someone who was intoxicated. He asked about the total of staff complement of the DSD, because he was worried that if the staff complement had been 15 for the past year, as indicated in the presentation, then disabled people had not been on the priority list of the DSD.
The meeting of the Presidential Working Committee on Disabilities had been postponed, but this kind of meeting sat only once a year. The DSD had mentioned a march in Pretoria, but had not mentioned the protests outside of Parliament. The funding of NGOs was a major problem in the disability sector. The DSD had not mentioned a way in which the DSD supported disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in fulfilling their own mandates within the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He suggested that the DPOs reflect on matters – for example, participation -- separately from the DSD, to provide independent qualitative input.
Ms C Majeke (UDM) said that within rural areas there were disabled people who did not benefit from grants. In order to get a grant, one had to get a certificate from a psychologist. However, disabled people in rural areas were unable to get to a psychologist. Psychologists went only to areas where, for example, 300 disabled people lived. Disabled people also waited for psychologists who did not show up. She suggested that the number of disabled people within an area be documented for follow up purposes. She proposed that community radio stations be utilised in order for communities to be aware of the contact details for the services provided.
Ms Vilakazi agreed that the DSD needed to do more in relation to the disabled in the country. She referred to the question of disabled schools, which were probably better than in the past. Before the DSD had come on board, there had been disability schools which had been community driven. She reflected on her personal experience, where the DSD had provided support to the mentally challenged and parents had found the assistance empowering. However, parents still wanted to know how the DSD could assist their children during the day. The DSD had started a special school with parents up until the Department of Education (DoE) had taken over the responsibility for dealing with parents. She referred to the issue of mentally challenged children, who could not go to special schools until they were certified.
In response to the question on staff complements, she said that the DSD had made a positive move as initially the focus had been on welfare, but it had also put the focus on disability mainstreaming. She suggested that the branch be repositioned in order to ensure that more staff was employed. A number of engagements and dialogues had happened with the Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, that had covered various DSD sectors’ needs. She commended well organised sectors. With reference to in-sourcing education for the disabled, she said that some of the disabled would benefit, but some would not.
Mr Toni referred to the questions of education for the disabled, and said he was unsure if the questions had been directed at him personally. He said that as an activist, he would attempt to give an impression of what he thought. In his view, the DSD had been the only department that had seriously worked with the disabled. He acknowledged the negative perception which Members of the Committee had when looking at the DSD as a welfare department, but the DSD had looked at how best to develop disabled people. In order for there to be holistic development, the Department of Education and the DSD had equal roles to play. One should consider the situation holistically by looking at what the government was meant to do, but not merely the DSD.
He suggested that the Presidential Working Group be looked at to see what direction and leadership was being provided. Thus the President and the 14 ministries involved should be looked at, to ensure the DSD’s domestication of the UN Convention. It would be easy to provide a progress report and the DSD could come back to the Committee to relay the progress.
He referred to funding within the DSD, and said that currently about R2 million was set aside to begin to look at how to support disability organisations. This funding was something the DSD would examine, as currently there was no funding model that had adequately been debated between the DSD and other sectors. The DSD had also looked at how to transform the protective workshops so that they would respond to cooperative models and ensure that workers had sustainable jobs. When the Minister of Social Development had developed a DSD budget vote in 2014, disabled people had been called upon to critique the Minister’s suggestions. Subsequently, the DSD had developed an action plan, received by the Minister, which spanned the period from now up until 2019. The DSD would also present a progress report to the Ministerial Working Committee.
The Chairperson responded to Mr Toni and said that as an activist, he did not need to choose what to present to the Committee, as the meeting was not dealing with ornaments, but with people whom it loved. She asked what programmes were in place to make sure that people were not dependent on disability grants. She mentioned that in other provinces that had workshops, small businesses had been started, which was why she spoke of synergy. The Chairperson mentioned that she avoided using the word ‘disabled,’ and preferred to use the description ‘other abled.’
Ms Simmi Pillay, Acting Director: Governance and Compliance, DSD, said that a critical part of what the DSD had produced was a plan in coordination with the National Development Plan. The DSD made sure that disability was mainstreamed at the highest level of planning, policy-making and budgeting. A report on this had been produced where the DSD advocated to government on what the DSD did with disability rights machinery. Coordination with the government included the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission on Gender Equality, business and the disability sector. Thus there was a platform where government communicated with the disability sector. Through Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), the DSD would provide progress reports and indicate the best factors and challenges. These initiatives were new and therefore it would take time. She then referred to the issue of education and said that the DSD provided certain norms and standards so that there were facilities available for children with disabilities. The DSD tried to ensure that teachers were fit to handle diversity in the classroom. Moves had been made towards placing disabled learners in ordinary schools, because special schools had not provided the promised services. Children placed in special schools were isolated from their families and communities. Therefore schools would be provided with resources to train teachers -- for example, to learn Braille and sign language, where applicable. Certain special schools would remain, but they would be upgraded to ensure adequate available healthcare and learning resources. She stressed the importance of provision of higher education and subsequent employment for the disabled. The quality of education was a challenge in special schools.
The Chairperson asked who monitored the consistency of schools over the years. She said that the reality was the norm. She pleaded that the theory not be depended on. A wide grey area existed, and more clarity by the DSD was needed. She suggested that instead of closing the special schools, there should have been an upgrading of the schools to improve the delivery of education. Learners were accustomed to going to their own disability schools. All that was needed was the improvement of certain areas of the existing schools. She sternly and repeatedly stressed that the existing schools should not be closed, as parents would attach blame to the government for closing a school that catered for their disabled children.
Ms Bhengu asked if the DSD had made disabled people aware of the problematic negative perceptions of the DSD as a welfare organisation. She said that certain workshops for the disabled, such as sewing workshops, made the disabled do lots of work for someone else, yet they could not provide for themselves and did not have adequate housing. In a workshop in Johannesburg, disabled women sewed the garments used by traffic officers. She questioned whether the DSD had worked with other departments to help the disabled start their own businesses. She mentioned that issues on behalf of the disabled had been advocated in Parliament, which had failed to accommodate disabled Members with special needs. She asked if the DSD had met certain targets for the disabled within the Department.
Ms Vilakazi responded that the DSD was looking at the transformation of the workshops based on the issue that disabled people worked extremely hard for low pay. In most of the workshops, the disabled participants were thoroughly trained to produce good products, but they were not well paid. The DSD funded the workshops, but its leadership had explored options of co-opting so that the disabled could be empowered.
Mr Buthelezi said that it was a fact that people had complained a lot about the size of the staff complement, but their efforts had gained momentum. The Department of Women only did monitoring, but the DSD had been on the ground. The Minister had decided that the DCD would run their own youth, women’s and “other abled” cooperatives. The DSD had struggled with funding, because the National Treasury had cut its budget, so the DSD had decided that they would go out and look for money. The DSD distributed R120 billion per year. He said the DSD gave because there was a need to give, yet they had taught welfare beneficiaries to be independent.
The Chairperson asked the DSD for the outstanding documents.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Department of Social Development (DSD): overviews of Gender Chief Directorate, its approach to Gender-based Violence (GBV), and the disability rights coordination mechanism 2
- Department of Social Development (DSD): overviews of Gender Chief Directorate, its approach to Gender-based Violence (GBV), and the disability rights coordination mechanism 1
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