Priorities & Programme for 2000-2001

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


13 September 2000

The committee discussed the critical issues currently hindering women in South Africa. A programme of action will be consolidated to alleviate these key problems. A multi-party task team has been set up to decide on a systematic programme of action and to discuss their capacity for disseminating information and for holding workshops.

Key issues that were raised during the discussion were:
- women were not empowered enough to lead their communities.
- the inability of women to access information on how to access funds and get
documents for funding.
- the upsurge in violence against women in the recent months.
- the implementation of laws specifically relevant to women need to be monitored
- police officers should be trained to handle cases of abuse of women and children more effectively and sensitively.
- the unemployment of women and the need for workshops for rural women was identified.
- the accountability of NGOs funded by government, which misused money.

The Chairperson, Ms P Govender (ANC), thanked the deputy chair, Ms MP Themba (NCOP), for the welcome and the good work that she had done while she was away on maternity leave.

She stated that the objective of the meeting was to look at the priorities that face women in the country, especially those in poverty. This would inform their programme of action for the next year.

It was agreed that the meeting be conducted in a workshop style to facilitate the discussion of salient issues. The committee members proceeded to reflect on the critical issues that they faced in their respective constituencies.

Discussion on critical issues facing South African women
Ms X C Makasi (ANC) stated that her constituency was New Crossroads in the Western Cape. She felt that women were not empowered enough to lead their communities. She stated that those who were interested were suppressed easily by the male members of their community and as a result gave in to these pressures. She suggested that there be more empowerment workshops for these women.

Ms D M Morobi (ANC) stated that her constituency was Orange Farm in Gauteng, which was an informal settlement. She said that her constituency consisted of many active women who were constrained by unemployment and illiteracy. The women tried to help themselves by baking and sewing but this is not adequate. One of the problems she identified was the inability of women to access information on how to access funds and get documents for funding. She stated that these women were embarrassed by their living arrangements, which consisted of shacks. These women were generally unemployed mothers who struggled to provide food for their children. She added that there was also a water problem.

A member whose constituency is Ermelo in Mpumalanga was concerned that the months of August and September each year left women and children especially vulnerable to abuse and mutilation due to the demand for muti.

The member of the constituency Germiston in Guateng highlighted the upsurge in violence against women even in the urban areas.

A member of a Northern Province constituency stated that unless the implementation of the domestic violence law is monitored, it is useless. She recognised that the Departments of Safety and Security and Justice failed to carry out their duties due to a lack of resources available that form a necessary component of their jobs. She stated that in certain instances, the police could not arrest offenders because they did not have a vehicle to transport criminals in and carried out their duties using public transport. She also noted that the prosecutors and magistrates had mindsets of the previous regime and showed lack of empathy for women. To this extent they were not functional. She suggested that every department have a gender desk to monitor the implementation of laws relevant to women.

Mr Maphalala (ANC) who represented a rural area of KwaZulu-Natal stated that women in the rural and urban areas could benefit from economic empowerment since they lacked the skills to manage their trading effectively. He urged that there be workshops that would empower these women to succeed in economic terms.

Mr Maphalala also expressed concerns about the domestic violence legislation. He stated that such legislation had to be monitored because there were instances in which the laws were not carried out due to the reluctance of police officers to intervene in domestic issues. He felt that if the police officers were women they would respond differently to domestic violence situations. He asked that the South African Police Service management be transformed in an effort to alleviate the problem.

Ms N B Sigabi (DP) from Gauteng agreed with Mr Maphalala with regard to the attitude of the SAPS and also noted an upsurge in violence against women and children. She stated that men were in a better position in the community. She suggested that workshops be initiated across the board and there be funding provided for these workshops. She asked that station commanders also undergo this training.

Ms S B Nqodi (ANC) whose constituency is KingsWilliamstown in the Eastern Cape raised the issue of women's access to funding and welfare being restricted. According to government records there was money available but there was no money to be found in the province itself. She called for accountability in the provinces with regard to funding. She also noted that SMME funding and projects such as Ntsika served to benefit men rather than women. She also noted that loans were out of reach for women due to the surety requirement at banks. As a result many women resorted to taking cash loans which left them poorer than they had started.

Dr J Benjamin (ANC) from the Western Cape with her constituency including Belhar, Delft and Bellville stated that only 2 of the 3 police stations in her constituency had progressive attitudes and had been trained with regard to the treatment of women. She stated that the Bellville and Delft police stations had separate desks to deal with women abuse. She was impressed with the approach taken by the officers after the training. The training included dealing with children and rape cases and had been facilitated by NGOs. She urged that pressure be placed on training for the police. She also noted instances in which the interdict was being used by women against women. She called for civil society to integrate Aids education into the curriculum.

Ms M P Themba (ANC, NCOP) whose constituency is Inchanga in Mpumalanga emphasized the problem of violence against women and made reference to the non-participation of different women's organisations in the Women's Day celebration. She felt that the women of different political affiliations should unite and take off their party caps when dealing with women's issues. She also noted the problem of unemployment within her constituency. She felt the need for funding workshops for rural women.

Another member raised the question of accountability of NGOs funded by government, which misused money. She referred to cases in which a NGO would exist to take care of a particular area but that area would not be aware of such an organisation.

Ms B Thompson (ANC, NCOP) whose constituency is from Ixopo to Matatiele in KwaZulu-Natal stated that the problem of virginity testing was still rife and perpetuated itself through the mindset of the younger generation. She raised the point of women being exploited by farmers who physically abused them. This was predominantly the case in the Underberg region. She stated that grants for children were now only available up to the age of seven and this was inadequate since there was no follow up on the children after they were seven. She also expressed concern over the quality of gloves used by certain hospitals in the region, which posed a risk for HIV / Aids.

Ms R A Ndzanga (ANC, NCOP) expressed concern over the pension pay points that did not serve older women well. She noted that the older women were being pushed aside by the younger women when they come in to collect their pensions. She also noted that the officials in charge of maintaining order in these circumstances were often corrupt and accepted bribes. She asked for a solution from the Welfare minister and for respect for the elderly.

Ms L R Mbuyazi (IFP) supported all that had been said so far and stated that monitoring structures at a national level were under resourced and were therefore unable to help structures such as this committee.

The Chairperson also noted a problem of women's access to land and water as an issue raised by a member not present at the meeting.

The following additions were made:
- The problem of orphans of Aids mothers and refusal of grants to them.
- The problem of the Gender Commission having a gender desk in each province but unable to do so in reality due to a lack of funding. There was a request to have an investigation to establish the reasons for this.
- Mr Maphalala raised the problem of rural women's access to energy and asked that the Minister of Minerals and Energy affairs be held accountable for this.
- It was noted that women spent a lot of time and energy weeding the fields. This could be prevented by providing these women with chemicals, which would stop weeds from growing. It was suggested that the Department of Agriculture provide the chemicals to the needy women. It was uncertain whether the members of the community would agree to using chemicals for effective weeding due to the impact such chemicals have on the land and the general environment.

Programme of Action
The Programme of Action was summarised by the Chairperson as an utilisation of the powers of the committee within the rest of the year and the next to act as a catalyst for the initiation and monitoring the implementation of legislation. She added that legislation that had been suggested in 1998 had to be followed up. She emphasised a focus on monitoring the justice and welfare departments with reference to women and child abuse. She stated that all the legislation should be tracked and made sure that it is effective. The issue of resources and the budget would have to be taken into account.

Ms N Botha (ANC) suggested that the various departments be invited before the Gender Commission to discuss measures to be taken to alleviate the problems discussed in the meeting. She suggested that the other provinces be visited. She felt that the younger generation should be confronted with the relevant issues by means of campaigning. She was concerned that issues such as virginity testing are resolved as soon as possible and suggested that training be more intensive in order to come to a solution. She also suggested inter-parliamentary linkages between SA women's organisations and other SADC countries.

The Chairperson suggested that there be a space in which to feed back information from conferences such as the Beijing plus Five, to facilitate circulation of this information.
She also referred to the need for the Committee to finalise the appointment of a researcher.

This was followed by a confirmation of the priorities:
- Poverty in terms of land, water, unemployment and illiteracy.
- Violence against women and children.
- Aids and death of women relating to poverty

Mr Maphalala suggested that a time period be specified for dealing with any one issue.

The Chairperson then highlighted what had been discussed in terms of following up on legislature and budget and disseminating information and working in parliament with other committees towards desired goals. She suggested a task team to decide on a systematic programme of action within time-frameworks and to discuss the capacity for disseminating information and for holding workshops. The committee agreed to this.

Ms O N Mndende (UDM) stated that she fully supports all that had been said and offered a reason for the lack of support of other parties in functions such as the Women's Day. She stated that other parties were made to feel as if they were simply invited along and not part and parcel of the proceedings. She stated that ANC songs were sung during such events and one did not feeling very comfortable with that if one was a member of another party.

It was decided that the task team meets the following day. It was agreed that an urgent item on the agenda was the visiting of the provinces. It was also suggested that one member of each political party be appointed to the task team. The following people were nominated; Ms Sigabi (DP), Ms Mbuyazi (IFP), Ms J Witbooi (NNP, NCOP), Ms Mndende (UDM), Ms Southgate (ACDP) and Mr Baloi (UCDP). This would include the Chairperson and deputy Chairperson.


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