The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus received a briefing by the Content Adviser on the draft MPWC Implementation Plan that followed the International Women’s Conference (IWC) on “Women in the Changing World of Work” held in August 2017. The draft action plan was designed to serve as guidance for the actions of the MPWC going forward this year.
Members expressed frustration with the lack of progress that has been made in Parliament on women’s issues. Lacking a proper implementation plan to date, issues that are continually discussed have yet to be addressed. With a focus on women in the changing world of work, Members questioned the effectiveness of current programmes such as the Extended Public Works Programme and the Community Work Programme.
The MPWC established that the matter of the National Gender Machinery (NGM) must be the first priority if the Department on Women is to be successful in addressing any other goal. Male dominated representation has prevented the conversation on women’s issues from transcending through Parliament, let alone to be adequately addressed on an international scale. Members expressed discontent about the Minister who they feel does not treat women’s issues as important, even rejecting several offers to attend MPWC meetings. A consensus for the need to take action to remedy inadequate representation was reached by Members.
The Chairperson explained that this Caucus was scheduled to have a meeting in the previous week, however, due to the situation in Parliament it was postponed until today. Despite what is unfolding currently with the President, these meetings must proceed.
International Women’s Conference draft report: briefing by Content Adviser
Ms Joy Watson, Content Adviser, presented the draft implementation plan following the conference on “Women in the Changing World of Work” hosted by Parliament in August 2017. At the end of the conference, the adoption of a declaration served to outline action areas which the parliaments represented at the conference sought to prioritise. From these key action areas, an implementation plan had been formulated which the MPWC may look to for guidance in determining what to act on.
A summary was provided of the key issues that arose at the IWC from which the draft plan was formulated. A total of fourteen categories were highlighted: women and economic empowerment, violence against women, sexual harassment at parliaments, women in marginalised sectors of employment, income inequality, creation of gender sensitive places of work, care work, development of action plans, focus on SDGs, 2030 agenda for sustainable development, technology as a tool to women’s empowerment, development of gender sensitive policies, the importance of women’s caucuses, and gender responsive budgeting.
Ms Watson utilised a database to determine what key issues most frequently arose before categorising them to formulate the draft action plan. Seven key areas of work are suggested:
- women and economic development
- income inequality
- changing the world of work so that it is more gender sensitive
- violence against women
- gender responsive budgeting
- strengthen the national gender machinery
- addressing sexual harassment.
The draft action plan is broken down to emphasise what is the key action, the role of the MPWC, and the role of other committees. The MPWC must prioritise what actions to take as not all items can be accomplished at once.
The Chairperson regretfully stated that this topic has been gone through many a time.
A Member referred to the draft plan of action on the national gender machinery. She talked about what measures had been taken by Members who had come before those currently serving. Previous Members had adopted a national gender machinery structure and that ensured the establishment of a Ministry of Women. It is now important to look at the oversight from all the Committees on Women to determine how to best to ensure the structure is working for women. The excuse has been made that nothing will change in a male dominated system and women usually accept this. Parliament is not doing enough to implement and follow up on the issues mentioned since the structure has been polluted and populated by men. It is important to ensure women can get to the higher hierarchy.
The Chairperson raised the question of the role of the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP), stating that it has been bothering her for years. She does not see what the programme does for women.
A Member responded that the programme was meant to create an opportunity for work. It was implemented following an evaluation done by a previous term. It has created a burden at some point for it gives people the technical skills needed for work but it does not give them a place to work. There is no exit plan from the programme or a link to other programmes that are established. Most people that are trained in the system are not given any certificate to indicate their training which is needed to obtain employment.
An ANC Member said that the EPWP does not create permanent jobs.
A Member of Parliament addressed sexual harassment on the last page of the presentation. The slide talks about what happens in Parliament but she wonders what happens about sexual harassment in provinces and departments where women need to do things in order to get a promotion or even to get a job when men are at the forefront of those employment decisions. She asked if this would be applicable to this topic.
The Chairperson requested clarification from Ms Watson on how certain issues came to be focused on over others because some of the matters discussed have now been left out of the conversation.
Ms Watson clarified that during the conference a member had directed the conversation to speak specifically about sexual harassment in Parliament. The focus was placed on people in high positions in order to discuss what happens when people in power are caught in these sexual harassment scandals. This topic can be expanded at the Committee’s discretion.
Ms P Bhengu-Kombe (ANC) drew attention to the role of other parliamentary committees as outlined in the action plan. She believes it is important for all Members to discuss these issues as they each share a role of responsibility for the economic empowerment of women. Therefore, all Members of Parliament need to understand the issues. She too shares concern about the role of the EPWP as it is causing some of the problems. Women do not get certificates to show their participation in the programme. The Community Work Programme (CWP), which is not just for women, does not give participants money for their work but rather a food voucher. People need money to be able to do what they want to do and support their families and CWP is hindering that.
An ANC Member pointed out that the Committee talks about the same issues year in and year out but there is not a proper implementation plan. The draft action plan provides good suggestions but it is not enough, the Committee needs to plan what items specifically will be talked about. The Committee is being seen as complainers, not innovators. On the matter of EPWP, she stated that is it primarily made up of small programmes for jobs and training and she suggests that they be put together in a project to determine how it truly helps women. She emphasised the importance of establishing a clear cut plan of action before the Committee can push forward to coordinate with other countries.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) brought up a programme that had been in existence a few years ago which served to provide free sanitary products to women. She inquired if this programme had fallen off and if so, could it be resuscitated? She also mentioned that individuals at another conference had raised the issues of health and HIV treatment. Would that be applicable to the goals being discussed currently?
The Chairperson informed Ms Tseke that the issues she raised are important, however, they are off track to the conversation. The agenda the Committee is addressing pertains to international issues, not South African-specific health matters. The comments were not out of order as health can be slid somewhere into the programme.
The Chairperson addressed Ms Watson as she was wondering about the role of the other Committees that were included in the presentation. The Multi Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC) members are all members of other committees, some Members are sitting on the committees directly mentioned. The MPWC should have a report from each and every committee related to what is being talked about. She does not know if this should be included in the plan.
Ms Watson responded that the plan can be changed to state what the MPWC is going to do and what other committees are going to do. There is a focus on the budget and what each committee will do with it which can be included in the plan.
An ANC member asked where the Committee can place gender issues that are faced in South Africa. This plan has not included the private sector and that is where the majority of people in South Africa are working. There is also a need to be able to meet with other departments and check on the progress of other commissions to determine what is most helpful to issues pertaining to women.
A Member responded that it is her belief that it should be the Department of Women that takes responsibility for checking with each department on their efforts.
Another Member directed the conversation to the fact that is it men serving as chairs and they do not take seriously women’s issues. She gave the example of trips to other countries. One person represents all the committees of Parliament to the world when travel takes place to New York or Beijing. What are they taking to these meetings? What problems are they representing? Parliament must ensure the machinery operates as it should operate. Women’s issues need to be accurately represented internationally. The Minister of Women must be able to address these issues but they do not know how to help ordinary women in the country. Parliament has all the measures to take action but these powers are not being utilised. She then addressed the Budget, questioning if it is structured in a way that could actually empower women.
The Chairperson regretfully commented that Parliament is not working. The national gender machinery has been mentioned on many platforms however the Minister does not believe it is important. Parliament is doing nothing about these issues. She questioned why is this Caucus here? The appointed minister will not come to meetings of the Women’s Caucus although continually invited.
Ms Bhengu-Kombe claimed that the Department of Women has been mandated in a way to monitor other departments. The Minister has been asked to have a working relationship with ministers from other departments yet they are not involved in what is going on. The Minister is not carrying issues forward. The Department of Women has been restructured several times and with officials always changing, it is not possible to move forward with this Department.
An ANC member agreed that if the Minister is not moving, the Committee must make them move. She proclaimed that the Members should not be apologetic to do their job even if it means exposing others because they are here to protect the people who have voted them into power, not each other. It is important to figure out what the problem is with the Department and the Minister that is halting progress.
The Chairperson responded that the problem is that this is not the kind of minister the Committee wanted, they were just given this minister.
An ANC Member expressed the need to push as the ANC and as women in Parliament to get the President on board and tell him what the Committee wants.
A Member commented that the issue of gender machinery is critical to achieve all other goals, therefore, that is where the plan should start. When it comes to the issues of women, one has to be a gender activist in order to understand it. Men are appointing people that do not have this understanding so it is the role of the Committee to educate these individuals on what the issues actually are. She would like to see the gender machinery prioritised first before the Committee can move on to focus on the Budget.
The Chairperson asked Ms Watson to prioritise the action plan and isolate the issues that pertain to the gender machinery.
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