Missing Documents: Draft Report of the Women’s Roundtable Discussion September 2015
The Caucus met to consider the draft Committee Report on the Women's Roundtable discussion held in September 2015. The Committee's Researcher had been part of the team, and took Members through the draft Report. The main concern of that meeting had been that many of the resolutions taken at the Women's Roundtable did not seem to be followed up and implemented, and so the main resolution there had been that deliberations should be channelled to other relevant parliamentary committees. A report-back session would be included in the next Roundtable discussion in 2016 and quarterly reports from this Women's Caucus would be presented. Members of the Caucus were asked to follow up on resolutions in their other committees. Some actions for the Caucus would have to be completed by August, and this Caucus had been asked to ensure that Women's caucuses were established at local and provincial levels. It was also asked to resurrect the gender-responsive budget initiative and host dialogues with civil society organisations on prevention of gender-based violence. Other actions to be followed up by other portfolio committees were mentioned.
Members were generally pleased with the Report, although some Members asked that a different reporting format be used for future reports. They were particularly pleased that timelines were noted for tasks. One Member commented that the Report needed to include a section on the discussions around the role of the Department of Small Business Development, which was particularly important to empowering women. Several Members went on to raise issues arising out of the Roundtable discussion, but that were not a part of the Report itself, and although the Chairperson appreciated that the points made were important points that merited discussion at a later date, she emphasised that they could not be incorporated into this Report, because it was similar to minutes of the meeting and must therefore reflect only issues actually raised. These other issues included concerns whether community based counsellors were adequately equipped to perform the work and insufficient attention being paid still to the position of social workers. In the education sector, it would be important to emphasise issues of teenage pregnancy, safe environments, provision of social workers in schools and whether schools were properly inclusive, and age restrictions in schools for learners with disabilities. The role of the Department of Arts and Culture in nation building and social cohesion was very important. Points were also raised about the apparently different funding to women's shelters that had been raised at the meeting,and the researcher clarified that the grants were based on uniform calculations but that some provinces were topping up funding. Issues out of the Justice sector included the need for proper court interpreters and the finding that many women were receiving harsher sentences than men for the same crimes. The Committee approved the draft Report, with amendments relating to the information on small businesses.
Draft Report of the Women’s Round-Table: Committee Researcher's Presentation and deliberations
The Chairperson began by acknowledging the absence of many of the Members, who were in other committee meetings. Parliamentary activity had increased due to the upcoming recess, but she suggested that this Committee continue nonetheless. She noted that the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus had been tasked with adopting the report of the 2015 Women’s Roundtable Discussion.
Ms Joy Watson, Senior Researcher, who had been part of the team who had been taking down all information during the meeting, took the Members through the draft Report of the Women's Roundtable Discussion in September 2015 (the Report). The main concern at that meeting had been that many of the resolutions discussed at the Women’s Roundtable were not being acted upon. The key outcome of the Roundtable had been to ensure that recommendations emanating from deliberations would be channelled through relevant committees and possibly be debated in both Houses of Parliament. Members present had asked that at the next Roundtable discussion, a report- back session should be included, to follow up on what had been achieved during the intervening period. Quarterly reports would be required from the Women’s Caucus at the 2016 Women’s Roundtable. Ms Joy Watson advised the Committee to move quickly to ensure that actions were being taken by other committees of Parliament.
The resolutions in the Report included the following:
- Parliament should approve the 2015 Women’s Roundtable report
- Some actions for the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPCW) were mentioned, which had to be completed by August 2016. in time for the report to the 2016 Women’s Roundtable
- The Women’s Caucus had been tasked with ensuring that Women’s Caucuses were established across all provinces at local and provincial government levels.
- The MPCW also has to resurrect the gender-responsive budget initiative
- Dialogues are to be hosted with civil society organisations on strategies for prevention for gender based violence.
She also went on to mention actions that had been referred to other portfolio committees, saying that the MPWC should follow up on these in the near future.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Watson for the briefing on the draft Report and asked for contributions, comments and points of clarity from the Members.
Ms D Robinson (DA), representing the Portfolio Committee on Women, was impressed with the Report and felt that it had clear indications of what was expected. She was happy to find that each task had a completion date next to it, which would encourage implementation. She mentioned that she had encountered a particular challenge that needed to be followed up. This was that community based counsellors were not adequately equipped to do their work. She also emphasised that many of them lacked the proper qualifications to handle the cases that arose, and so they produced poor quality reports. She believed that insufficient justice and attention had been paid to the position of social workers, probably due to a lack of funding. She asked that the need for properly trained social workers be set as a priority.
Ms J Basson (ANC), representing the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, felt that the teenage pregnancy in schools had to be brought to the forefront when considering issues pertaining to Basic Education. Not enough schools were equipped with qualified social workers to deal with young pregnant girls. She also felt that it was important to have teachers who were trained to handle emergency situations that may occur in schools. It was important to focus on creating safer environments, including stairways, for the girls in schools. The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education emphasised that it wanted to see complete abolition of harsh punishment meted out in schools.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC), representing the Portfolio Committees on International Relations and Home Affairs, mentioned that the discussion on the role of the Portfolio Committee for Small Businesses Development had not been included in the Report , although it was extremely important for women's empowerment. The Women’s Caucus wanted to see women economically uplifted. She wanted to know what kind of programmes would be applied to empower women.
The Chairperson acknowledged the importance of each issue that had been brought up. However, the purpose of this meeting was not so much to deliberate upon what had been discussed at the Roundtable itself but to consider and adopt the Report. She asked that discussions be limited to the Report itself at the moment, and matters arising could not be reconsidered or included into the final report at this point.
Ms P Mogotsi (ANC) welcomed the report but asked for clarification of some issues raised in the Report, as she had not attended the Women’s Roundtable discussion. She asked about the issues of age restriction in special schools for learners with disabilities, and the context in which the discussions at the Women’s Roundtable had been held in this regard. Inclusivity at schools had been raised already as an issue and she wanted to know how the restrictions would work. She also asked for clarity around the funding of women's shelters. She did not understand what was meant by the difference in the funding models, which seemed to imply that departments may not be giving out appropriate funding. The Department did apparently consider the numbers of children in children's homes. Nothing was said in this report about the Arts and Culture sector, which aims to bring about social cohesion and nation building. She believed that this programme should be emphasised in the future.
The Chairperson reiterated that Ms Watson had been reporting on what was actually said at the meeting and was not commenting on the work of the researchers. However she asked that Ms Watson should elaborate on the points raised.
Ms Watson said that there had been mention, at the meeting, of a report on women's shelters and the need to follow up on the procedures, by somebody from the National Shelters Movement. It had been found that different NGOs were provided with different funds, and that different provinces had had different funding models. She also said that when a woman entered a shelter with a baby, the Departmental funding covered the woman, but did not cater for the child, and thus the NGOs would have to look to private sector funding for this.
Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) commented on activity 3.4, pertaining to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development. She mentioned that the Women’s Roundtable discussion had spoken about looking into the different sentences given to men and women who had committed the same crime, after a finding that women were often given harsher sentences than men committing the same crime. The discussions had also gone into the need to have skilled interpreters in courts who did not misinterpret what was being said by the victim; it had been found that many victims had lost their cases because of language barriers within the court setting.
Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) said that the research seemed to have been based on findings from one facility and so she had not been convinced by the conclusions on the funding models. She also clarified that as far as she knew, the Departmental funding model had been standard for all provinces, but that some provinces might choose to top up the amounts, depending on the availability of budget to do so. For the women's shelters, the Department would provide funds based on the individual shelter capacity – so if a woman came in with a child, the child was not catered for according to the original funding but would be temporarily accommodated until a permanent solution could be found. She was concerned about discrepancies in some of the information provided, and whatever information was provided to the National Assembly should be discrepancy-free. In relation to education, she noted that inclusive education had already been made compulsory, although she agreed that some schools did not cater for children with disabilities. She too wanted to hear about the age restriction in special schools, as she thought that there were no age restrictions in schools for children with special needs unless a referral was needed.
The Chairperson asked again that Members confine their discussions to whether the draft Report was an accurate reflection of the Roundtable discussion. This platform should not be used to put the researchers on the spot to speak to other issues; they were reporting only upon what had been said at the last discussion.
Ms Z Dlamini-Dubazana (ANC) was concerned about the format of the Report; she suggested that the conclusion be inclusive of each objective, and all deliberations made on that objective.
Ms Watson mentioned that there had not been a standard format set for each Report. She also said that the Report was compiled by the Women’s Roundtable staff, but that she would be willing to amend it if Members so wished.
Ms P Bengu (ANC) agreed that inclusivity in schools had been made compulsory, but that many of the schools had been unable to deal with students who had more than one disability. The parents were also unaware of the special school facilities available to their children, and so many had simply kept the child out of school.
Ms J Basson was concerned about the loopholes identified within the information provided by the research.
The Chairperson clarified that the Report documents were provided to the researchers, and not actually complied by the research team.
Ms Pilane-Majake asked that the Report be discussed first, and other matters arising from should stand over once the Report had been adopted.
Ms D Robinson said that she had been happy with the format and asked whether, if changes were made, this would mean that the Report would need to be reconsidered before being adopted.
The Chairperson asked if Ms Dlamini-Dubazana’s suggestion to change the format was agreed to. Ms Watson had indicated that she was happy to change the format.
Ms T Memela (ANC) suggested that this Report be left in the current format, but that changes to the format be made when compiling future reports.
Ms Mogotsi asked that communication about meetings be sent out to all the members of the MPWC as she had been unaware that the meeting would be taking place on that day.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) agreed that communication on the meeting was not up to scratch: she had received no emails nor SMS messages about the meeting.
Mr B Mantyi, Committee Secretary, asked that Members should check the weekly Parliament programme, but said that the meeting dates were sent to Members on email, SMS and on the Z-list.
The Chairperson noted that the Parliamentary email system had been experiencing some problems and asked that other forms of communication also be used in future.
The Committee approved the draft Report, with the necessary amendments
The meeting was adjourned.
Adoption and Approval of Minutes
The Committee approved the Draft report and agreed that the necessary amendments would be made to fully reflect what had been discussed at the round table.
The meeting was adjourned.
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