International Women’s Conference: Report

Multi-Party Women’s Caucus

18 October 2017
Chairperson: Ms M S Morutoa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee discussed a report on the recently held International Women’s Conference and the Changing World of Work – Giving Effect to the Sixty-First Session of the Commission on the Status of Women Conference Report. Key issues at the Conference included the Poverty Trends in South Africa Report released by StatsSA which showed that the face of poverty in South Africa was female.  Violence against women was another significant obstacle that negatively impacted on women’s lives and exacerbated their economic empowerment. South Africa had led the way in respect of Gender Responsive Budgeting but had fallen by the wayside in recent years.

Action plans were discussed to deal with the above issues. All discussions had taken place in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals in women empowerment which had to be taken into consideration in determining how to take the resolutions forward.

There were seven key areas in which work could be structured. The work was for the Women’s Caucus but it could not do it all on its own and therefore needed to involve other Committees and structures. The Senior Researcher would finalise a document with recommendations on action to be taken.

A matter that required urgent attendance was the continued lack of attendance by the Deputy Chairperson who represented all smaller parties in Parliament. There had been suggestions that the Women’s Caucus Steering Committee was ostracising the other Political Parties as they were not getting information about the Caucus Steering Committee The only other member of the smaller parties on the Steering Committee would have to ensure that the parties nominated a replacement.  It was also agreed that the smaller parties should receive copies of documents from the Steering Committee. 

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson welcomed everyone and explained that they had to adjust because she had not been aware of the Debate taking place in Parliament that afternoon. She welcomed back Ms C Majeke (UDM) who had been involved in an accident during an oversight visit and wished her well. She expressed her sympathy at the passing away of another parliamentary Member in the accident. She believed that the Committee had to be vocal about dangerous vehicles used by parliamentary drivers.

She apologised but informed the Committee that the Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency would join the meeting as the Portfolio Committee did not have a quorum because most of the Members were in the Joint Multi-Party Women’s Caucus Steering Committee.

The meeting would commence with a presentation by the Senior Researcher for the Committee on the recently held International Women’s Conference.

Presentation by the Senior Researcher on the International Women’s Conference

The first document handed out was a summary of the International Women’s Conference proceedings. The first key issue that had emerged at the conference was women and economic empowerment. StatsSA had released the Poverty Trends in South Africa Report which showed that the face of poverty was female. The Conference acknowledged a need for oversight work especially with women who worked in sectors where there was little legal protection, if any.

Violence against women was another significant obstacle that negatively impacted on women’s lives and exacerbated their economic empowerment, especially as violence significantly affected woman in the form of absenteeism loss of productivity, high staff turnover and costs to company.

Sexual harassment was present both in the workplace and at Parliament and provincial legislatures, especially between Members of Parliament and staff. 20 years into democracy, there were significant patterns of gender inequality as regards income. On average, women earned 23% less than men.

Technology was recognised as important, especially in rural and poor areas, government had to provide access to the Internet and ensure that women and girls were technologically empowered, computer literate and able to navigate their way on the Internet. Other themes that emerged included the development of gender sensitive policies, the role of Parliament, the importance of Women’s Caucuses as a strategic structure and gender responsive budgeting. South Africa had been a model but had fallen apart, and there was a need to do work in that regard.

There were seven key areas in which work could be structured. There was work for the Women’s Caucus but it could not do it all on its own and therefore needed to involve other Committees and structures. Action plans were discussed in order to deal with the above issues. All discussions had taken place in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals in women empowerment and had to be taken into consideration in determining how to take the resolutions forward. A document on a proposed plan of action was distributed.

The first key area was women in economic empowerment, specifically the status of black women. The Caucus needed an oversight plan as to how the Caucus would look at the issue over the course of the next two years in collaboration with the Portfolio Committees on Trade and Industry, Economic Development and Small Business. The second issue was income inequality. It was a significant theme. The suggestion was to await the report of the High-Level Panel on the Independent Assessment of key Legislation and then to take up the recommendations with the Employment Equity Commission. The third theme of changing the world of work to make it more gender sensitive could be addressed at a summit where it would be possible to get input from civil society for the Employment Equity Act and to work with the Portfolio Committee on Labour. The area of violence against women, especially as far as it affected women’s ability to be economically active and productive, was critical. There was a need for oversight and to refer the matter to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services. Gender Responsive Budgeting had been a strength in South Africa but had collapsed and so it was suggested that a pilot be conducted in relation to Gender Responsive Budgeting and the cost of violence against women in conjunction with Treasury and to request that Treasury disaggregated budgets in a way that revealed budgeting for women. The penultimate item was strengthening the National Gender Machinery (NGM) and it was proposed that the Caucus conduct a study on the status of this unit using a questionnaire to be sent to all structures in the NGM. Lastly, it was important to address Sexual Harassment. There was a need for more information on sexual harassment in Parliament and legislatures and it was suggested that the Caucus meet with the Deputy Secretary to engage on the number of cases formally taken up by Parliament and the related challenges. There was also a need to host a roundtable or seminar on sexual harassment in Parliament.

There also had to be a discussion on Chapter 9 institutions.


The Chairperson asked for issues of clarity as the debate in Parliament would inform the public and would discuss everything that the Researcher had raised. She did not see the necessity of dwelling on the recommendations at that time.

Ms N Khunou (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson but she reminded the Researcher that there had been a one-day pre-conference with provincial legislatures before the Conference and there were a lot of things that provinces wanted Parliament to do with them, so she wanted to have their interests included in the programme of action. She thought that there should be a multi-party women’s conference of caucuses. The Conference in August had been a very special conference that they had worked hard for and it had been a significant achievement.

Ms Majeke noted that all the pictures in the report on the Women’s Conference were of older women and that a picture of the Steering Committee would show that there were young women in the Caucus and would support the succession plan.

The Chairperson concurred.

Ms M Cheu (ANC) disagreed with the Whip, Ms Khunou, that the Caucus had planned the Conference. She stated that they had been ambushed and they had not planned for the conference.  They should not forget what they had wanted to do as women. The distribution of sanitary pads was an important matter.

The Chairperson stated that there was a need for an extensive discussion on the way that things were organised and everything that had transpired.  Patriarchy was a problem. She pointed out that the Researcher was reporting on the International Women’s Conference. 

The Researcher explained that the report would be ready by the following day.

The Chairperson said that it could not be adopted at the meeting as an extensive report was needed. The Researcher could collate the report on the conference with provinces as that was very important.

Ms Khunou agreed that they needed a full meeting of the Women’s Caucus and to present the report at the Women’s Caucus.  Then the women of the South African Parliament could talk to it and develop a plan of action. Copies of the report on the conference had to be circulated to all Women Members of Parliament. She felt strongly about the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Researcher reminded the Chairperson that Parliament did not print draft reports, but only adopted reports.

The Caucus had to be part of the 20-year celebrations as well as the Portfolio Committee on Women. It was important to invite the Deputy Speaker.

The Chairperson handed over to the Acting Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Women to finalise the Committee’s report. (Details contained in the Report on the Portfolio Committee on Women – 18 October 2017)

After the Portfolio Committee meeting, the Chair was handed back to Ms Morutoa. 

The Secretariat informed the Caucus Steering Committee about arrangements for future meetings. Members would be advised as to the agenda of the following Steering Committee meeting. The monthly meeting of the Women’s Caucus was on 26 October 2017 and National Treasury had been invited to make a presentation on the initiative of gender responsible budgeting and what needed to be improved upon to make gender analysis possible.  It would be important to know how much was spent on dealing with violence on women.

On 3 November 2017, subsequent to the Law Reform Commission Report on Sexual Offences: Adult Prosecution, the Caucus Steering Committee would allow stakeholders an opportunity to provide input on adult prostitution. It was anticipated that the Caucus would need a full day and the only options were a Monday or a Friday so the Chairperson had opted for Friday 3 November 2017 from 10:00 to 15:00.

The Caucus had not yet been allocated a Thursday for the Caucus meeting in November. Parliament rose on 30 November but the secretariat was hoping for a date for a final meeting of the year. 

The Chairperson spoke about the meeting of 26 October 2017 and asked whether an agenda item on sanitary towels had been included.

Ms Kunou stated that the Caucus needed to adopt the Report from the researcher but the issue of Sanitary Towels had not been included. In addition, she wanted the copies of the report re-printed. The photograph of the Chairperson was unacceptable.

Ms Cheu suggested that the Researcher should indicate how much time she needed.  She also suggested that the Competition Commission could help the Steering Committee to understand how sanitary towels were priced. It had been said, arrogantly, that the VAT on sanitary towels could not be removed. A brief presentation in addition to the National Treasury input would be useful. She suggested that the secretariat work with the researcher to finalise the programme for the next meeting. She agreed on the Friday for the summit but a draft programme was required and the Members needed to know who was going to run the summit. She added that a study tour was required to visit Canada which practised gender-responsive budgeting, and also there was a need to be a tour to countries where VAT had been removed from sanitary towels.  A study tour would be preferable to an oversight visit.

The secretariat explained that the content advisor was working on a proposal which would be put to the Steering Committee.

The Chairperson promised that the secretariat would look into the matters.

The non-attendance of the Deputy Chairperson (Ms S Nkomo (IFP)) was problematic as she was repeatedly absent. The Chairperson had been informed that the Women’s Caucus Steering Committee was ostracising the other Political Parties. The EFF had said that they were not getting information. Someone had suggested Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) should be on the Caucus Steering Committee but the opposition parties had to make the decision. It was suggested that Ms Majeke needed to call the smaller parties so that they could decide on who would attend. If Ms Majeke were elected Deputy Chairperson, the opposition parties would have to nominate someone in her place. Ms Khunou suggested that the opposition parties should receive copies of all documents from the Steering Committee. She also noted that if a person was repeatedly absent from meetings, the parliamentary rule was that person had to be removed. The Steering Committee had to take it up with the opposition parties because people were complaining. 

The meeting was adjourned


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