Commission on Gender Equality 20 Year Review & Africa Gender Development Index Report

Women in The Presidency

24 October 2017
Chairperson: Ms T Memela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Commission on Gender Equality carried out two presentations; the 20 Year Review of the CGE Final Report and the African Gender Development Index Report. The Human Sciences Research Council conducted a study for the purposes of the first report. Legislation, customs and practices, Information and education programmes, Gender-related initiatives and complaints, Liaison with institutions with similar objectives, Compliance with international conventions and protocols, Research, and preparation and submission of reports to Parliament and Media profile were indicators used to assess achievements of the Commission. Despite its successes in meeting its core mandates, the report found that action cannot be directly translated into impact, thus raising the question: Have the right messages come across?

Key issues included: funding, strategic leadership in the Commission, limitations of the Commission’s mandate and appointments of commissioners. Several recommendations relating to funding, the Commission’s relationship with the state, strategic focus, use of powers and reach were made.

Members of the Portfolio Committee expected more detail on the activities carried out and tasks undertaken in the first report presented, however, answers to questions raised by Members and the second presentation earned the commendation of the Committee for the work of the Commission. It was praised for its many successes and achievements despite a lower budget than various government Departments.

The Africa Gender Development Index Report was meant to assess South Africa’s compliance with international and regional gender equality commitments, by using the Gender Status Index and the African Women’s Progress Scorecard. It considered the following indicators: education and health, income, time use, employment, access to resources and formal and informal political representation of women in relation to men. The report found that gender divisions persist, as does patriarchy, as women are still at the receiving end of intractable socio-economic divisions, gender-based violence and sexual harassment as well as economic disempowerment.

South Africa is performing well in terms of ratification, reporting, promulgation of laws, developing policies and involvement in civil society, legislations dealing with gender, civil society and gender mainstreaming. However, poor areas of performance included monitoring and evaluating the implementation of commitments, information dissemination, capacity development, accountability and inconsistent and irregular reporting. Three policy recommendations relating to translating policy intentions into practical outcomes and collaboration between government and institutions within the National Gender Machinery were identified.

The Committee raised concerns about gender stereotyping and the role of advertisers in reinforcing these and promoting gender inequality, the issue of land and property and the level of female title deeds in rural areas, the plight of widows who are kicked off the land, and asked how the Commission was dealing with these? The Commission listed various cases and tasks undertaken to address these issues and assured that, as a collective, government departments could be held accountable. 

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone and apologised that the Content Advisor and the Committee Secretary were both still on compassionate leave.

Briefing on Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) 20 Year Review

Ms Lulama Nare, Chairperson, CGE, introduced the team of National Commissioners that accompanied her and emphasised that the purpose of the 20 Year Review of the Commission for Gender Equality Final Report, was to determine the progress made by the CGE, as a Chapter 9 Institution, in combatting patriarchy. She referred to the amount of support given to the CGE in terms of funding, state support and resources. She highlighted that independent research illustrates how the CGE has been working with a deficit of R16 million (and a budget that has been decreasing), pointing out that its broad mandate requires creativity. However, she expressed the CGE’s commitment to gender and women’s issues.

Dr Thabo Rapoo, Director: Research, CGE, explained that the Commission approached the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), as it sought an independent review by a reputable research institution. The study was conducted by the Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery Department, who assessed the progress, achievements and challenges of the CGE by using the Theory of Change model and going as far back as the establishment of the Commission, to determine why it was established as a separate institution to deal with gender transformation.

Publications, documents, legislation and data were consulted, and the variables focused on in the study included: state capacity and the extent to which women’s machineries influenced policy making from a gender perspective, state society relations, pattern of politics, organisational forms and the extent to which there is a coherent women’s movement. He listed challenges that the study encountered: how to determine that these changes are attributable to the CGE, when sectors are open to other actors and the absence of baseline data.

According to Mr Rapoo, previous reviews were also considered during the process.
After explaining the structure of the report, Dr Rapoo discussed the indicators of achievements: Legislation, customs and practices, Information and education programmes, Gender-related initiatives and complaints, Liaison with institutions with similar objectives, Compliance with international conventions and protocols, Research, and preparation and submission of reports to Parliament and Media profile. Because the CGE is so broad and the report so content-heavy, certain areas needed to be identified strategically but went on to list three achievements under each indicator.

Contributions to gender legislation and policy (such as Ukuthwala, for example), those done through the Parliamentary Liaison Office, public campaigns conducted across the country, hosting the National Summit on Gender Equality, Employment Equity hearings and the Legal complaints office were listed as achievements. Dr Rapoo also pointed out that the CGE has featured in many news publications and has been said, by HSRC, to be engaged in an impressively large number of activities these last twenty years.

Dr Rapoo discussed what the HSRC identified as challenges to the work of the CGE: adequate funding, its relationship with the state so that it can monitor state compliance with gender-related legislation and policy more effectively, using its powers to greater effect and extending its reach to achieve greater gender transformation. The biggest limitations, however, remains public awareness on gender equality, and he listed cases of campaigns conducted by the CGE in Limpopo. However, after going through the core mandates of the CGE, it was said that the Commission successfully engaged with legislation by making recommendations and its involvement in Constitutional Cases, law clinics and awareness campaigns and has served as a useful tool in challenging current legislation. Areas for improvement are implementation of new legislation and strengthening the voice of affected women in policy-making.

Dr Rapoo gave an overview of the constraints of CGE’s effectiveness: funding and a lack of understanding of the Commission’s financial needs, strategic leadership, and the lack of a unified vision among CGE management and stakeholders, limitations of the CGE mandate and the appointment of commissioners, and resulting power struggles.  He also listed the main reasons for these constraints as insufficient funding, ambivalent relationships to government departments and remittance of the CGE regarding vast gender transformation.

The presentation ended with recommendations concerned with (1) funding; for the state to review the budget, (2) the CGE’s relationship with the state, by establishing a separation of powers, (3) strategic focus of CGE and (4) the CGE’s use of powers; ensuring stakeholders are held accountable, and (5) aligning the strategic focus to gender-related needs of the majority of the population to extend its reach.

Ms Nare emphasised that the Gender Index Report would illustrate where SA is as a country; the purpose of the review was to illustrate progress. She pointed out that the recommendations illustrate how some issues (such as amalgamation) resonate with those related to visibility and accessibility, the budget and resources. Gender power relations in the country have worsened, therefore, women remain vulnerable as a result of worsened socio-economic circumstances. The AGDI report would indicate areas in which CGE lacks.

Discussion
Ms G Tseke (ANC) congratulated Ms Nare on her appointment and sought clarity on whether the successes of the CGE were meant to be shared in the presentation. She critiqued the presentation for a lack of detail, especially considering that non-committee members were in attendance. She asked what, after 23 years of democracy, the CGE has done about the public and private sectors being dominated by men?

Ms M Chueu (ANC) added that the CGE is too bureaucratic for a presentation to a political committee, who wants to know more about what the impact of the CGE has been. She asked what has been practically done to change lives of ordinary women, especially around social justice and fundamental human rights. Women are not a homogenous group and the CGE is meant to change society. She agreed with the report’s recommendations but sought clarity on the second, regarding the separation of powers. She emphasised that the CGE should go out of the norm and take initiative instead of addressing cases brought to it.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) agreed that the presentation lacked detail. She asked what is being done about the lack of unified vision referred to in the report. She also pointed out that, though funding is important, the entire composition of the Commission is too. Referring to page 35, she asked why the CGE lacks muscle if it is a Chapter 9 Institution established by the Constitution. The CGE should not have to beg and suggested that it consider going to court, as it has an obligation to play a role where gaps in the system fail women.

Ms M Morutoa, the Chairperson of Joint Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, recalled the Committee asking for a gender equality barometer five years ago at the CGE’s offices, and commented that perhaps the report presented served as such a barometer. The patriarchy issue emanated with how kids are socialised and the CGE has done nothing regarding early childhood development. Representing South Africa in SADC is difficult, it used to be looked at as an example in gender equality, but this has deteriorated. In SADC, there is dialogue about advancing the participation of women in political policy making and substantive participation. Thanking the CGE for their effort, she asked that the CGE clarify what had been done, and said more is required of them; perhaps they should meet with the CGE regularly?

The Chairperson welcomed back Ms C Majeke (UDM).

Ms M Khawula (EFF) was concerned about the CGE’s budget, which is too small in proportion to its responsibilities; the fact that too many men are in top leadership position; that the CGE seems to have no enforcing powers; and that it has good suggestions but lacks power. She cited the cases of Bridge City and the North West and the need for oversight in these areas. She added that the root causes of issues like human trafficking also need to be identified.  

Ms Morutoa advised the CGE to visit schools and make a concerted effort to address bullying of children and suggested that departments who are not cooperating should be named and shamed. She commented that the report was not specific enough. Misperceptions of men as abusers and women as victims need to be addressed and that the religious sector be discussed.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) said the Committee acknowledged the legal clinics but wanted to know how lives and real politics have been changed.  How, in the public and private sectors, has the CGE influenced and dealt with issues relating to Parliament, legislation and political parties who have 50/50 representation and representation of people with disabilities inside and outside of the working environment? She then thanked the CGE for doing the work of the Department.

Ms D Robinson (DA) thanked the CGE for the work done under difficult circumstances and expressed that the Committee should not be unrealistic. The onus is on women in the private sphere as well, what has happened within the government to change? Representatives should have a human rights culture. She highlighted that unemployment remains an issue and asked how social entrepreneurship can be created. She agreed that human trafficking and sex work needs to be addressed and critiqued the lack of a unified vision within the CGE. Can the structure and term of office be changed to ensure effectivity in term of office?

Ms T Stander (DA) said the CGE often researches issues ailing the country in the four major areas of education, health, safety and inclusion of women in the economy. She suggested that the CGE provide solutions and address these foundational causes to impact departments, such as criminalising Ukuthwala, forced marriage and so forth.

The Chairperson pointed out the problem of amalgamation.

Ms Morutoa stated that the issue needs to be raised in Parliament, as the CGE cannot do this alone.

The Chairperson said the Committee was not asked whether it endorsed the new move and expressed uncertainty as to whether this was decided.

Ms Nare thanked the Committee and assured that some aspects were still to be discussed. 

Ms Morutoa said that the government did not listen when concerns were raised about the National Gender Machinery collapsing. She expressed the need for a gender focal person, training programmes for women, and so forth.

Ms Nare recalled a list of cases that the CGE has been dealing with, including engagement with universities and over thirty private companies that are sometimes subpoenaed. Senior management in the private sector remained predominantly male and, as such, is refusing to transform. Women, in general, are underrepresented but that the CGE has approached farm owners, retailers, such as Shoprite and Pick n Pay. Regarding sexual harassment and sexism in courts, the CGE is said to be working with the Magistrates Commission.

She cited a case with the University of Venda, where the court has rejected complaints of sexual harassment. The rhetoric of magistrates needs to change. The CGE was also looking at the women’s rights to education (cases of virginity testing), trafficking of Thai women and researching underground raping at mines. With regard to the CGE’s vision, a framework looking at race, class and gender is required, as opposed to only a feminist lens.

Ms Nare expressed difficulty when working with political parties but said the CGE would observe how they are performing; funding women’s desks, and the extent to which they consider recommendations. Premiers run Gender Machineries across the country. The CGE will focus on women in the economy, employment equity, gender desegregated information, unity of vision, race issues, the abuse of young white women by young white males, and will explore education and age of consent. The oversight function in rural areas’ magistrates needs to be served, as they usually use prerogative is used for the granting of bail.

Briefing on African Gender Development Index (AGDI) South Africa Country Report
Dr Rapoo said that the purpose of the report was to assess South Africa’s compliance with international and regional gender equality commitments, as per the agreement with the United National Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in 2004 and the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination of Violence Against Women, the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the 2008 SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.  

He described the AGDI as a tool made up of two parts; the Gender Status Index (GSI) and African Women’s Progress Scorecard (AWPS) and pointed out its quantitative indicators: education and health, income, time use, employment, access to resources and formal and informal political representation of women in relation to men. Countries’ performances are rated between zero and two, where two indicates excellent progress.

The study found that gender divisions persist, as does patriarchy, as women are still at the receiving end of intractable socio-economic divisions, gender-based violence and sexual harassment as well as economic disempowerment.  However, primary, secondary and tertiary enrolments of females increased, though representation levels did not reflect this. Academic performance has also not translated into job levels, high salaries nor leadership in institutions.

Dr Rapoo indicated the following findings of the GSI: regarding education; higher literacy rate of males compared to females, however higher dropout rates for males than females. On health; stunted development remains a key issue and there are higher rates of infections of HIV/AIDS of females than males. He also listed findings related to economic power and access to resources, where findings were negative, however, there has been an improvement in women’s access to credit services. With regard to political power, there has been an increase in the representation of women in policy making and in civil society, though they remain underrepresented in the judiciary.

Dr Rapoo discussed the AWPS’s findings relating to areas of good performance and bad performance. South Africa is performing well in terms of ratification, reporting, promulgation of laws, developing policies and involvement in civil society, legislations dealing with gender, civil society and gender mainstreaming. Thus, political commitments have been observed.

Poor areas of performance included monitoring and evaluating the implementation of these commitments, information dissemination, capacity development and accountability. Government needs to distribute information and empower women with knowledge on rights otherwise women cannot claim their rights. Skilled staff are required for effective implementation and to meet commitments towards gender transformation. Inconsistent and irregular reporting, such as the second periodic reporting in 2015, also remain a concern. Three policy recommendations for policy makers were identified: translating policy intentions into practical outcomes, greater resources be allocated to these practical outcomes, and collaborations between government and institutions within the National Gender Machinery.

Discussion
Ms Stander highlighted the issue of gender stereotyping and asked how advertisers are reinforcing these and promoting gender inequality. How are they being monitored and is the CGE approaching these companies? Empowerment is achieved through consciousness and, therefore, there is a need for female consciousness.

Ms Chueu referred to page 9 of the AGDI and said that patriarchy can feed into anything. Challenging gender stereotypes requires conscientisation. She commented that the cases mentioned by the CEO provided the details the Committee was looking for in the previous presentation.

Ms Morutoa commended the CGE and said that, if the CGE is failing, then everyone is. She agreed that the AGDI provided the insights the Committee was looking for.

Ms Stander, concerned about the issue of land and property and the level of female title deeds in rural areas, asked how the CGE is interacting with traditional leadership to address this?

Ms Robinson asked about the plight of widows who are kicked off the land and whether the CGE is following this up?

Mr Wallace Mgoqi, Commissioner, CGE, advised that the CGE should work on producing a strategic plan to share in a forum like this. Regarding the issue of land, he notified the Committee of a colloquia in Johannesburg from 5-9 November 2017, that will be held to review, through the Committee for Land Restitution, how land reform has been implemented. He added that he will be representing from a gender perspective and acknowledged the relationship between women and land.

Another Member added that, with Ukuthwala being repealed, there is currently a Bill doing the rounds, which proposes that land be transferred to individuals. He asked how women will be included before transferring land and said that the Bill would be monitored.

A Commissioner from CGE cited support from other institutions, Men for Change, Health for All, Take the Girl-child to School, and so forth and highlighted that patriarchy is embedded in the system and said that Parliament should listen to this report too.

Mr M Dirks (ANC) asked the CGE to advise on how to prevent older men harassing young girls.

Ms Stander replied that women need to be empowered and that they be aware of their rights so that they report. She raised the issue of structures, perceptions, concepts and stereotypes in society that need to be addressed and concluded that empowering one woman, empowers following generations.

Ms Nare acknowledged the breadth of the report but said that, despite being in different departments, accountability can take place collectively. She raised the point of intra-struggles and issues relating to the origin of the family. She assured the Committee that title deeds will be researched for the Annual Performance Plan. The CGE is working with the SABC foundation and providing training, with the Department of Basic Education, to develop a curriculum on gender and the Masters of High Courts regarding the issue of widows and land. She closed by calling political parties to ensure the progression of women leading in the political sphere and standing commitments to having women in the spotlight.

The Chairperson advised the CGE to think broader and look at combating oppression of women by other women.

The meeting was adjourned.   

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