Monitoring Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women
Women, Economics & Development: Gender Advocacy Programme & Devaki Jain
Date of Meeting: 27 September 2000
No summary available for this committee meeting.
JOINT MONITORING COMMITTEE ON IMPROVEMENT OF QUALITY OF LIFE AND STATUS OF WOMEN
27 September 2000
WOMEN, ECONOMICS AND DEVELOPMENT: GENDER ADVOCACY PROGRAMME AND DEVAKI JAIN
Women, Economics and Development: Seminar presented by Ms Devaki Jain
Ms Jain focused on the role of elected members in the formulation of policy and development of women. She stated that women should be the designers of policies and not just the beneficiaries. The emphasis on globalisation resigned the poor to leftovers and women suffered the most. The capacity and empowerment of women could only be built if women were allowed to handle money. Ms Jain stated that the role of politicians is to represent the people and give the people what they want. Further only if macroeconomic policy was in favour of the poor could poverty be eradicated. Non-regional free trade agreements impoverished the poor.
The Gender Advocacy Programme recently held a conference on Exploring Social Development through a Gender Lens. They stated that poorer women suffered the most since they had difficult access to the child support grant. This was a reflection of the country’s worsening poverty that was not being dealt with adequately. The role of this Committee was bought into focus in formulating policies that could alleviate the plight of poor women and children. The Committee should play an active role in the creation of the budgets and their interaction with the budget process should be based on a strong research capacity. She called on the Committee to have state officials monitored and regulated to ensure proper implementation of laws and policies.
Firearms Control Bill
Ms M Keegan from Gun-Free South Africa thanked the Committee for the support that they had provided up to this point. She again emphasised the need to ensure that women are fully protected by this Bill. This would be achieved by tightening up the provisions of Clauses 11, 105 and 106 and by including a new definition for an offence to include rape and any other type of sexual assault.
Ms Devaki Jain on Women, Economics and Development
Ms Jain (a Gender and Development expert from India) focused on the role of elected members in the formulation of policy and development of women. She stated that women should not just be the beneficiaries but also the designers of policy.
She stated that the world had moved from deregulation to regulation and questioned whether this was actually good for the world. She saidd that the new financial architecture did not take into account the social justice movement. This was the downfall of present day economic policies.
She focused on the role of NGOs which acted as mediators between the people and the government. She was adamant that the role of the NGOs was not to decide policy. Democratic principles should be stuck to. Those representing the people should be the voice of the people and should give the people who elected them what they desire. The NGOs are not elected to play that role. Institutions like the IMF decide the economic policy of a country rather than the people of the country - by their major influence and the emphasis on globalisation. Institutions like the IMF cannot represent the public voice and should not be allowed to decide policy within any country. Central to negotiating justice is to ask people what they want and this is how it is in India.
She gave examples of the Indian situation which she felt should be reflected in the South African situation. One of the examples was the social security system of India, which was an informal policy initiated by women in accordance with the ILO and the Labour Ministry. Another example was the association of women from across all parties in local politics to claim their power as women.
She stated that gender budgeting trivialised the process and an integrated approach with women in local politics would be more effective. By putting money in the hands of women, the capacity of local women politicians was being built. This gave women the chance to learn theory from practice, which was also more effective.
She said changing the language of politics to job-led growth would have a greater impact than the current economic language.
Child Support Grant
Ms Ayanda Mvimbi from the Gender Advocacy Programme stated that poorer women suffered the most since access to the child support grant was complicated. She stated that R100 for a child support grant was not enough for the whole family to support themselves since in many cases the mother also needed support. The result of this was the disempowerment of women. She stated firmly that this was a reflection of the country’s worsening poverty and because it was not being dealt with adequately, women and children were made to suffer.
The outcomes of the Exploring Social Development through a Gender Lens Conference held by the Gender Advocacy Programme (20 – 27 September) were as follows:
- Proper budgets had to be worked out
- Social spending had to be increased with regard to education, health and welfare
- There needed to be an urgent review of the current social development framework in South Africa. Spending had to take on an integrated approach. Service delivery with regard to women’s access had to be more efficient.
Ms Mvimbi wondered what role the Committee could play in formulating policies that could alleviate the plight of women and children in these situations. She expressed concern that "decreasing poverty in South Africa" were mere buzz words and wanted to see the reality of it in SA. She added that state officials should be held accountable for monies spent.
Ms September (ANC) commented that her constituency is Mitchells Plain and she had done a detailed investigation with regard to the Child Support Grant in that area and she could confirm that access to alleviation monies and poverty relief funds was not easy. She stated that there were many steps involved in accessing the money and these steps were not always clear to those people who needed the money. For instance long detailed forms needed to be filled out that people simply did not understand. She asked Ms Mvimbi if there was a chance that a pilot may be carried out in her area to address such issues.
Ms September also stated that poverty was certainly on the increase and as a result all suffered even those in Parliament who had to help out those who were needy in their extended families. She continued to say that there has been a struggle with the implementation process of many good laws and that the capacity for implementation had to be strengthened.
Ms Mvimbi stated that she was unsure if women and communities should be targeted. She was concerned about an integrated approach by the government that was not happening with regard to poverty eradication. She also spoke of a diversion programme which contributes to inequalities with regard to primary income grants. She stated that officials were not trained properly and were not familiar with regulations and therefore were incapable. She felt that the Department of Welfare was not responding appropriately to the issue of poverty eradication.
Ms Jana (ANC) asked Ms Mvimbi whether the conference reflected views of all regions of South Africa or just the Western Cape. Ms Mvimbi said it was only the Western Cape.
Ms Jain was asked to clarify the terms she had referred to: political empowerment versus economic empowerment.
The Chairperson was keen to hear Ms Jain’s idea on globalisation and also asked for clarification with regard to the suggestion made by Ms Jain about the gender budget and the differential impact between a gender budget and a single integrated budget.
Ms Rosieda Shabodien (GAP) added that implementation by the administrators had to undergo accountability reviews.
The Chairperson commented that an important point that needs to be considered is whether parliamentary committees are the lawmakers or the rubberstamp and to what extent can the committee decide priorities and drive political will.
Ms Jain answered that the role of politicians is to represent the people and give the people what they want. She stated that politicians need to be biased and need to have their own identity. In the past India tried to target poverty on a tribal, caste and women basis and it failed. She stated that all countries failed with the targeted approach. What is needed is to enable the poor to be organised and establish self-help groups that would be motivated by self-interest.
She stated that changing the macroeconomic policy was necessary. Only if macroeconomic policy was in favour of the poor, could poverty be eradicated. Right now the poor were being treated as leftovers. She suggested that macroeconomic policy should favour the home ground and the region and use tariffs. This will protect the economy. She referred to the EU and stated that the concept of free trade was being done away with. Countries were protecting its workers and only had free trade agreements with other countries in its region. She recognised that a possible criticism that she may encounter would be that this policy encouraged xenophobia but she was adamant that protecting the economy was more important than that.
Mr Maphalala thanked Ms Jain and asked the Chairperson if it was possible to have Ms Jain in workshops in SA to absorb her rich theoretical input.
Ms Mvimbi stated that a strong research base was necessary to secure the role of gender on poverty alleviation in South Africa. She called on the Committee to have state officials monitored and regulated. She also noted the Committee should play an active role in the creation of the budgets and their interaction with the budget process should be based on a strong research capacity.
The Chairperson noted that members of the Committee were shaking their heads in despair over not having a researcher.
Ms Shabodien (GAP) referred to the local government elections and questioned whether women were capacitated to lead. She stated that to transform a society that "thinks male" that society needs women to take the lead.
Ms Jain thanked the Chairperson and the Committee members for a chance to express her views on this matter and stated that she felt anxious about South Africa since it was just taking off and she didn’t want to see SA make the same mistakes as other countries have made.
She stated that she did not see the need for Parliament to have a separate research capacity from that of the Academics and NGOs. She did feel that the role of NGOs needed to be revisited. She stated that South Africa needed a mechanism that dealt with industrial policy resolution.
[Due to time constraints, not all the questions were answered and the presenters had to reply to the questions hurriedly]
The Chairperson thanked the speakers for their presentations. She stated that the CEDAW Optional Protocol would be discussed in the next meeting and that there were two meetings left. She suggested that members be nominated to do a presentation before the Safety and Security Portfolio Committee with regard to the Firearms Control bill. It was decided that the Chairperson, Ms Botha and Ms Mndende (UDM) present to Safety and Security Portfolio.
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