Multi-Party Women’s Caucus programme & priorities

Multi-Party Women’s Caucus

25 July 2019
Chairperson: Ms NK Bilankulu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee Content Advisor and Committee Senior Researcher gave a briefing on the work of the previous MPWC and suggested some priorities for the new Sixth Parliament Multi-Party Women’s Caucus. The projects suggested included:
Decriminalisation of sex work
Women in Politics
Sanitary Dignity
Gender-based violence and femicide.
National Gender Machinery
Gender Responsive Planning
Building and strengthening relations with stakeholders.

Additional suggestions by Members were equal pay for equal work for women, 50% gender parity the South Africa Law Reform Commission Report on adult prostitution, task team progress on rollout of sanitary pads, building and strengthening relations with stakeholders, depression, infertility, teenage pregnancy and child maintenance.

The Committee accepted the suggested projects and additional suggestions and agreed that further suggestions could be emailed to the Committee secretary by 31 July.

The Chairperson noted the challenge about Caucus meeting timing or programming. Many women are not attending not because they do not want to attend but due to the schedule the Caucus is given. There needed to be an improvement on this matter

Meeting report

The Chairperson said there is a need to first address issues affecting women in Parliament before handling those affecting women outside Parliament. This is because women in Parliament are not catered for in the way that they should. They would consider the Committee programme of action and draft committee programme. They need to bear in mind that there matters left unattended from the 5th Parliament that still need to be dealt with. She asked the Committee Content Advisor and Senior Researcher to brief them about the Draft Action Plan

Suggested Projects for the Sixth Parliament Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC)
Ms Thembekazi Mpapela (Committee Content Advisor) said that the projects for the sixth parliament MPWC included the following:

Decriminalisation of Sex Work
The current MPWC needs to be informed about the recommendations contained in the South Africa Law Reform Commission Report (SALRC) and on the report on the public hearing hosted by Parliament. There is a need to host public hearings in the provinces on the SALRC recommendations. They also need to engage with the Department of Justice and Correctional Services about sex work law reform.

Women in Politics
She suggested a study tour to Rwanda to learn about their successful strategy to increase the number of women participating and represented in politics. There is a need to adopt strategies aimed at supporting women parliamentarians such as hosting regular sessions for all women chairpersons and committee whips to learn about and share best practices for leading committees. They need to advocate for a gender-sensitive Parliament. There is a need to mentor young women and adopt strategies aimed at making politics attractive to women through hosting dialogues with young women. There is need to share best practices with the women caucuses of Provincial Legislatures and Municipal Councils. Lastly, there is a need to encourage women Parliamentarians who are participating in regional, continental and international structures to regularly report to the MPWC about resolutions undertaken.

Sanitary Dignity
The MPWC will monitor the rollout of sanitary products to indigent women and girls and ensure women-owned business are involved in the manufacture and distribution of the sanitary pads.

Gender-based violence and femicide
The MPWC will ensure that the Presidential Summit Declaration is implemented and follow up on issues mentioned by President during the State of Nation Address (SONA). The GBV and Femicide Council and the National Strategic Plan need to be established. There must be follow up on the motions referred to the MPWC by the National Assembly (NA). The MPWC needs to engage the Department of Basic Education to ensure that safety in schools for women and girls is a priority. The Caucus also need to raise awareness of religious and cultural practices which are harmful to women.

National Gender Machinery
The MPWC will engage in the challenges facing the national gender machinery and receive feedback on the review of the national gender machinery. The committee will find ways of strengthening the work of the national gender machinery.

Gender-responsive planning and budgeting.
The plan is to empower the current MPWC about gender-responsive planning and budgeting and its relevance to women empowerment. There is a request for progress on the development of the gender-responsive planning and budgeting framework. One needs to ensure that parliamentary committees are engaging with government budgets through the lens of gender-responsive budgeting. Lastly, the Committee needs to establish relations with stakeholders by attending their events and acknowledging their contribution to communities.

Ms Mpapela noted that once the MPWC agrees on the focus areas, the next step will be to draft a strategic plan document which they will present first to the Steering Committee and then to the broader Caucus at the next meeting.

Ms Joy Watson (Senior Researcher) spoke about the way forward once they have selected their focus priorities. A number of international sites have had some exciting development in the areas raised by Ms Mpapela. For example, in the area of sex work in the Netherlands, there is a model for the decriminalizing of sex work which is also the stance that was adopted by the Fifth Parliament MPWC. In Sweden, there is a model where the buying of sex is criminalised but the sex work is not criminalised. In the consultations with the public, the Sweden model was not the model which was most supported. However, it can stand as an alternative model.

On Gender Responsive Budgeting, there are some countries doing some very exciting work about working gender into the budget and making sure the government adequately plans for women and the LGBTI community.

On the Sanitary Dignity Campaign, there are a number of countries that have adopted a progressive stance about sanitary products. In countries like Tanzania, Nigeria, Canada, and Jamaica they have stopped charging for sanitary products. In Kenya, they have removed tax from sanitary products. In South Africa, the decision was made to stop charging for sanitary pads only and not other female hygienic products.

On gender-based violence, the Presidential Summit in November 2018 took a stand that it will prioritise the development of a National Strategic Plan on gender-based violence. The President promised that the plan will come out by October 2019. When it comes out, it is important they engage with it and review its implications. Also, there are a number of local events presenting exciting research where they can learn from best practices. There is an invitation to the MPWC to an event on gender-based violence which will happen in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. There is also another event happening in December which seeks to bring together civil society, Parliament and  SADC.

She said the Chairperson had requested that they mention some of the events that the previous MPWC was involved in outside the country.  They attended the Regional Parliament Women’s Caucus. The Chairperson usually sits on this regional caucus and gives feedback to the MPWC. In March is the Commission on the Status of Women which happens at the United Nations offices in New York. South Africa usually sends a delegation led by the Department of Women. Parliament is also invited to constitute a smaller part of the delegation.

Discussion
Ms Z Nkomo (ANC) welcomed the proposed programme and noted that most of the programmes are very progressive in what they seek to achieve. However, she needed clarity on sanitary towels. The Fifth Parliament elected a task team to monitor the rollout of the sanitary towels. Therefore is there a need to establish another task team or is that task team still existing? She requested the motions referred by the National Assembly as soon as possible.

Ms Nkomo noted the gender equity policy for fifty-fifty gender parity and asked where the MPWC fits in to ensure that 50% is advocated and implemented.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) noted that they must keep up the work that was done by the Fifth Parliament such as on sanitary pads and the fact that they managed to drive issues such as gender-based violence which eventually led to the Presidential Summit. On sex work, they need to appraised about the South Africa Law Reform Commission (SALRC) Report as this can be informative.

Ms van der Merwe asked how they are going to address equal work, equal pay. In the legislature women are supposed to be earning the same as men but the reality is there is a 27% pay gap. This should be addressed.

They need to get an update about where the sanitary pads task team is. Apparently, there is also a task team for implementing resolutions of the Presidential Summit on gender-based violence. There is a need for interaction and a briefing from them to understand how far they are with the resolutions as it is seven months down the line.

Ms B Maluleke (ANC) needed clarity on whether the resolutions of the summit were distributed amongst the Committee and, if not, can they get those resolutions so that they can check if everything has been captured and if they have activities for those resolutions. The Fifth Parliament held public hearings on sex work so having another hearing would be repetitive. She suggested they should rather receive that public hearing report.

Ms K Tlhomelang referred to the priority of building and strengthening relations with stakeholders and asked how they planned on achieving this. Also, how can they ensure that MPWC concerns at municipal level are able to be consolidated?

Ms Tlhomelang said that there is a need to find time to deal with depression, motherhood and infertility.

Ms A Muthambi noted that she had looked at the document “Wrapping up the work on the National Gender Machinery in the Fifth Parliament in preparation for the Sixth Parliament” but nowhere does it mention the Commission on Gender Equality. She asked why it was not there or if it had been omitted.

She commented that the MPWC seems to be like a by-the-way committee and that most of the women MPs do not even have an interest in it. She asked what they are going to do to ensure that all women MPs make time to attend because serious issues about women are being addressed.

Ms van der Merwe suggested teenage pregnancy and mothers who cannot access maintenance as matters affecting women that need to be addressed.

The Chairperson noted that all of them had raised important issues. She said that for the Caucus not to be seen as a by-the-way committee, it needs everyone in the Committee to come together and come up with something tangible so that at the end of the day they can show both parliamentarians and outside parliament that they did achieve something. Therefore it is up to them not to be a by-the-way committee.

The Chairperson raised the challenge of meeting timing / programming. Many women are not attending the meetings not because they do not want to attend but because of the schedule the Caucus is being given. Therefore this needed to be improved.

Response
Ms Joy Watson replied that what they hoped to achieve by this briefing was to present some of the work of the previous MPWC and elicit some priorities for the new MPWC and see which areas they want to continue with and which they want to bring to a conclusion.

One of the discussions of the previous Caucus was that the problem is that there are so many issues. In order for the Caucus to be effective, it has to choose what its top priorities are going to be. This is because if they want to be effective over the five-year term, they have to choose by looking at the political imperatives and the priorities come from these.

On fifty-fifty gender parity in government, one way of looking at that is to get the Employment Equity Commission to present the current status and provide input on how they think things should be.

She said that both the SALRC Report on Sex Work and the public hearings report will be presented to this forum. She noted that the reason for the recommendation to do public hearings in the provinces was that the Caucus thought they should get more opinions especially on decriminalising sex work.

On equal work equal pay, there was an international conference on changing the world of work for women and income inequality was a very important point that was raised. There is a need to find meaningful ways to take the work forward.

The gender-based violence task team was tasked with setting out a plan based on the recommendations from the Summit and they are still in the process of coming up with a plan by October. They have divided the plan into three different components, for example, prevention of violence, communication about violence and law and policy. They mandated different groups to write the different parts and they are likely to bring those different parts together on 31 July.

She noted that the institution hosts the Women’s Parliament in August which is led by the political champions, that is, the Deputy Chair of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and the Deputy Speaker. They are still developing the proposal but the idea is to take the Gender National Machinery and look at what challenges the Gender National Machinery is facing so it can operate as it should.

She said that after the meeting it would be nice to have some political direction around what areas should be in the plan and they develop a strategic plan around that.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee accepted the draft plan or whether there are some suggestions that they would like to add so they can start to come up with a strategic plan.

Ms Muthambi proposed they accept the suggested projects and if anyone has additional suggestions, they can email the suggestions to the Committee secretary.

The Committee agreed and the Chairperson noted that the additional suggestions should be sent to the secretary by 31 July.

The meeting was adjourned.

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