2019 Women's Parliament outcomes; Multi-Party Women's Caucus mandate

Multi-Party Women’s Caucus

04 September 2019
Chairperson: Ms N Bilankulu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed on the Outcomes of the 29 August 2019 Women’s Parliament. Members heard that the Women's Parliament focused on strengthening the National Gender Machinery and engaged with members of the public on the resourcing of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Femicide (henceforth the 'NSPGBV'). The NSPGBV emanated from the Presidential Summit on GBV and Femicide that took place on 1 – 2 November 2018. The summit aimed to strengthen the response to GBV at the highest levels, as well as across all levels of Government and all levels of society. The summit culminated with the establishment of an Interim Committee on GBV, which was tasked with drafting an NSPGBV by October 2019.

Members heard that the key action areas on which to focus were: Parliament should facilitate a review of the NGM drawing on work that has already been done and that Parliament should engage further with the structures of the National Gender Machinery. Members noted that the extent of Gender-Based Violence has become a national crisis and needs a response at this level. They noted further that while the recent Women’s Parliament was good, the planning thereof left much to be desired. The value of attending the entire programme was emphasised. Members expressed keenness to facilitate the process of edging the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to plan for a 2 day session instead of one. The Committee expressed concern about the lack of the capacitation of women and proposed that a tracking system should be placed in all departments to monitor the capacitation of women. The involvement of the National Treasury in the ring-fencing of the projects that affected women was lauded as this would prevent this Committee from becoming a ‘talk shop’.

Oversight at police stations was a strong recommendation because many women are not assisted correctly there and very often withdraw charges because they were not the bread winners in the household. Members were encouraged to go and do oversight at shelters to make sure that funding from government was availed to them. Members expressed the need to resuscitate the National Gender Machinery (NGM) and that women need to be skilled so that they could be ready to compete in the mainstream economy. Members decided that they would formally request that the last Thursday of the month should be for the MPWC meeting.

The Committee was briefed on the Mandate of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus. The focus areas agreed upon were Decriminalization of Sex Work; Women in Politics; Sanitary Dignity; Gender Based Violence and Femicide; Strengthening of the National Gender Machinery; the Re- introduction of Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB); Building Relations with Stakeholders and Women and Health. It was noted that the identified focus areas were informed by the outstanding projects from the previous 5th MPWC.

Members acknowledged that the Strategic Plan of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities noted that Sanitary Dignity, the NGM, GRB and Planning are the identified focus areas which also form part of the key performance areas for the Department. The MPWC Steering Committee felt that perhaps women should be trained in manufacturing sanitary towels and suggested that a big company could be established by government under which women cooperatives and SMMEs could operate which would look at issues of skills development and capacitating women to be able to compete in the mainstream economy. The MPWC stressed the need to ensure that the machinery of Parliament works properly to advance the issues of women going forward.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that the purpose of the meeting is to be briefed by the Senior Researcher on the Outcomes of the 29 August 2019 Women’s Parliament. The Content Adviser will also brief the Committee on the Mandate of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus.

The Chairperson said she was concerned about the recent violence against women and children. The killing and rape of women must not be tolerated, and something needs to be done to stop this violence. She requested all present in the meeting to stand up and observe a moment of silence for the women and children that have been raped and killed.

The Chairperson asked the Senior Researcher to present the Outcomes of the 29 August 2019 Women’s Parliament to the Committee.

Briefing on the Outcomes of the 2019 Women’s Parliament

Ms Joy Watson, Senior Researcher: Parliament, said that the Women's Parliament took place on 29 August 2019, with the theme, 'A Twenty-Five Year Review of the Women's Charter for Effective Parliament,' and the sub theme, 'Gender and Institutionalism: Towards Strengthening the National Gender Machinery as a response to addressing Gender Based Violence in South Africa’.

Thematic areas of focus:

Ms Watson said that the Women's Parliament took place within the contextual framework of assessing progress made in giving effect to the Women's Charter for Effective Equality adopted in 1994. Set against this backdrop, the Women's Parliament focused on strengthening the National Gender Machinery and engaged with members of the public on the resourcing of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Femicide (henceforth the 'NSPGBV'). The NSPGBV emanates from the Presidential Summit on GBV and Femicide that took place on 1 – 2 November 2018. The summit aimed to strengthen the response to GBV at the highest levels, as well as across all levels of Government and all levels of society.

Ms Watson said the summit sought to reflect critically on the country's existing interventions to GBV and to determine new directions in the development of coordinated responses to the problem, including its prevention.

The summit had the following objectives:

  • To reflect critically on initiatives to date and identify actions of improvement;
  • To outline a roadmap to a South Africa free from Gender-Based Violence and Femicide;
  • To align different initiatives to create mechanisms and processes for effective coordination and planning beyond the summit;
  • To establish a commitment to resourcing and accountability.

Ms Watson said that the summit culminated with the establishment of an Interim Committee on GBV, which was tasked with drafting an NSPGBV by October 2019. One of the purposes of the Women's Parliament dialogue was to provide an opportunity to reflect on the resourcing of the NSPGBV. The adequate resourcing of Gender-Based Violence is critical to developing an effective funding model that adequately addresses it. Research shows that Gender-Based Violence has a significant cost to society as a whole.

Addressing it properly in the short-term reduces the costs to society in the longer term. One of the most significant challenges in resourcing Gender-Based Violence has been the data limitations in this regard. The Women's Parliament was therefore an opportunity to reflect on ways in which these limitations can be addressed.

Key issues that emerged in relation to the National Gender Machinery (NGM)

Ms Watson said the National Gender Machinery (NGM) is a mechanism to discuss and give input into policy and programmes for women's empowerment and gender equality, as well as hold Government accountable in this regard. To this end, the NGM is a key stakeholder in the fight against gender-based violence, both as it relates to creating awareness and advocacy, and in holding Government service provision and resourcing for gender based violence to account. However, despite this important mandate, structures of the NGM continue to experience challenges which hamper its effectiveness. For it to make an impact in addressing GBV, these challenges must be addressed.

Key challenges experienced by the NGM and which require review and intervention include the following:

  • A lack of coordination and synergy in terms of planning and programming between the various structures;
  • A lack of coordination between the structures;
  • A perceived overlap in terms of the mandates of the various structures;
  • A lack of authority in terms of the placement and powers vested in the structure, particularly in relation to the Gender Focal points and
  • Some of the structures do not have the requisite financial and human capacity for them to be able to carry out their mandates.

Action areas to focus on

Ms Watson said the Women's Parliament noted the following key action areas in relation to strengthening the NGM:

  • Parliament should facilitate a review of the NGM, drawing on work that has already been done (such as the work of the Commission for Gender Equality and the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities) to contribute towards such as review. Further, it should elicit the input of civil society in this regard.
  • Parliament should engage further with the structures of the National Gender Machinery in this regard.

Key issues that emerged in relation to the resourcing the NSPGBV

Ms Watson said participants at the Women's Parliament noted that the extent of Gender-Based Violence has become a national crisis and needs a response at this level. GBV is so widespread it can be described as being a physical and psychological warfare waged on women and LGBTI persons. It has a negative impact on everyone in society and must be addressed at all levels. The Women's Parliament emphasised the fact that this violence not only affects CIS-Gender Women but affects Trans-Gendered Women as well. In addition, the violence perpetrated against Lesbians also requires targeted responses.

Action areas to focus on:

Ms Watson said the Women's Parliament noted the following key action areas in relation to strengthening the resourcing of GBV:

  • Legislation and Policy. The focus should be less on developing legislation and policy and more on the implementation thereof.
  • Femicide Legislation: One possible area for developing legislation is in the area of Femicide as a crime in its own right.
  • Political Accountability. There is a need to find appropriate mechanisms to ensure accountability. At a parliamentary level, this could potentially include the creation of a specific oversight committee on gender-based violence.
  • Oversight Mechanisms: Oversight in relation to gender-based violence at Parliament must be more targeted and coordinated. Parliament should consider developing an inter-sectorial oversight plan in this regard.
  • Link Service Delivery to Government Budgets: Parliament needs to improve upon its mechanisms for engaging in gender responsive budgeting by ensuring that Government is held accountable in providing services and in integrating gender based violence into budgets and ensuring that it is linked to planning, monitoring and evaluation initiatives.
  • Ring-fence Budgets for GBV: Through its oversight initiatives, Parliament should interrogate Government budgets and advocate for the ring-fencing of monies allocated to GBV. Ideally, Government should look at creating a basket fund, pulling in a range of funds from different sources to support specific pillars of the National Strategic Plan. We will also look at the strengthening of the services by provided by the Government on GBV. In order to do this, Parliament should engage with the costing of providing services for both the addressing and the prevention of GBV. This should be used for example, to engage with what is being spent on services such as the provision of shelter services and victim support services.

Discussion

The Chairperson thanked Ms. Watson for her presentation. She said the recent Women’s Parliament was good, but the planning of it was not good because they needed two days for the Women’s Parliament meeting, not one day. They also delayed in starting the meeting because instead of starting at 8:30am, they started at about between 10:00am or 11:00am, and they ended up very late. When they rounded their meeting a lot of people from provinces had already left the House. She said that therefore the value or the impact is for women to attend until the end of the scheduled programme because it was at the end that they understood exactly what was happening throughout the day or throughout the programme.

Therefore, they need to interact because maybe it will assist them the next time when they were going to have another Women’s Parliament to facilitate the process of edging the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to plan for a 2 day session instead of one. She said that there was an issue with some Members not being present because they were out doing oversight.  This did not look good since all of them as women were affected in this Parliament. So, it is important for all women in Parliament to attend in order to come up with the decisions that will bind all of them.

Ms R Semenya (ANC) said that planning is important especially at the level of participation and assessment. Here she reminded Members that even in the 5th Parliament the issue of planning was raised. They should plan their own activities. Personally she is tied to compliance because it seems that as women they are in this Parliament for compliance. There should be proper planning, and for proper planning to take place they need to look at the issues that have been raised throughout the year. The issues that have come before Parliament should be issues that have already been raised and canvassed in order to bind them to come up with resolutions. It will then depend on the individual department to implement those resolutions.

She said that the other thing is that last year they had the Women’s Parliament and they were supposed to get feedback on the issues that were raised by women in terms of GBV. If the Women’s Parliament does not report back on the issues raised and what they have done as Parliament, then women have not been served.  

Ms Semenya agreed that the Women’s Parliament should not be a one day session because previously when they had the National Parliament for the Provincial Women’s Parliament this meant that the Women’s Parliament would have their own Parliament in the Province. But when they came to the National Parliament it meant that they were speaking on behalf of women nationally.  

Therefore there needs to be a proper plan in place for the Women’s Parliament and there should be a calendar of activities dealing with the issues affecting women. The other thing is that this structure of women should not be politicised because it is important that when their activities are planned, there has to be unity and women should speak with one voice. Secondly, as it is important to also speak of the abuse against women outside Parliament, it is of equal importance for women in Parliament to confront the abuse against women inside Parliament. This matter has been raised continuously and the Women’s Parliament needs to stand firm on these issues and to come up with resolutions that will be implemented on the ground.

The Chairperson agreed that they really need to change some of the things that are happening in this Parliament if they really meant to represent the voiceless women out there. They need to start with themselves because the treatment of women in this Parliament is uncalled for and her observations from the 5th Parliament and the 6th Parliament are different.

Ms P Kopane (DA) said that as women in Parliament their integrity is questionable because people out there are looking at them and were questioning what they were doing for women on the ground. They were privileged to be Members of Parliament and they needed to remember where they came from because they were here to represent women who are voiceless as has already been stated by her colleague. So they need to change the way this Parliament is run.

Ms Kopane said she was happy about the things that have been identified during the Women’s Parliament. But something that is missing is under the action areas that needed to be focussed on in relation to the strengthening of the resources on GBV. It is something they need to talk about because many women find themselves being the victims of GBV because they do not have skills and are not capacitated. She said she has just come out of the Joint Committees of the DPWI and the DEFF where they were talking about women who are involved in the small harbours, and they noted that only one woman was capacitated with skills. How many women in South Africa are there who are capacitated with skills in terms of the statistics?

This Committee therefore needs to monitor other Portfolio Committees to find found out from each department how women are capacitated. There needs to be a tracking system in place to monitor the capacitation of women in all departments.

Ms Kopane said she is happy with the involvement of the National Treasury in the ring-fencing of the projects that affected women otherwise it will remain just a ‘talk shop’ Committee in Parliament if those projects are not ring-fenced.

Ms Kopane said that they need to be seen to be going outside of Parliament doing oversight at police stations because many women are not assisted correctly in police stations as some withdrew charges because are not breadwinners, and at the end of the day they are killed by their ‘loved’ ones. It is so sad to be killed by a person you trusted and believed you were safe with and protected by.

Also it is shocking to know that 52% of the shelters of the Department of Social Development are rendered by the NGOs on behalf of Government. Members of Parliament are not making sure that Government gives money to those NGOs that are supposed to be helping them. Therefore Members need to go and do oversight at those shelters to make sure that funding from government is availed to them.  As women Members of Parliament they should have been part of the march that is outside Parliament to show solidarity with the students and women that have been raped and killed recently.

Ms Majeke (ANC) agreed that they needed to resuscitate the NGM. Women need to be skilled so that they can be ready to compete in the mainstream economy. Now there is talk of amending section 25 of the Constitution, but the key question is how much land will be owned by women because women must be there in the economy to share in the wealth of the country and must therefore also own property.  So, women need to know the role of the MPWC in Parliament and how THEY were going to make Parliamentary oversight work WORK for women. Every Committee in Parliament has the responsibility of ensuring that the empowerment of women and the status of women are packaged in every department’s annual performance plans with a budget to endorse the capacitation of women. If this does not happen then this Committee is actually wasting time.  

The Chairperson said the issues that have been raised by Members need enough time for deliberation and proper planning to provide guidance on the way forward. But time is not on their side now because there was a need to get to the second presentation. All Members of the MPWC need to meet to come up with a proper plan that will guide them forward and that day should be requested before they go for a recess in two weeks’ time so that they could meet immediately after they came from recess.

Ms Semenye suggested that as the MPWC they could meet on the last Thursday of each month because during the 5th Parliament they had managed to secure the last Thursday of the month for MPWC meetings. There was therefore a need to write a letter to the NCOP Chairperson requesting that the last Thursday of the month should be for the meetings of the MPWC.

The Chairperson said the Content Adviser has just told her that they have managed to write a letter to the Programme Committee and 19 September 2019 has been secured for the MPWC meeting. But going forward they will formally request that the last Thursday of the month should be for the MPWC.

The Committee agreed.

The Chairperson asked the Content Adviser to present to the Committee.

Briefing on the Mandate of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus

Ms Thembakazi Mpapela, Content Adviser: Parliament, said that the Steering Committee of the Multi-Party Women's Caucus (MPWC) met and agreed on focus areas for adoption and implementation by the Sixth MPWC. The identification of focus areas was informed by outstanding projects from the previous MPWC; sixth administration Government priorities as well as domestic, regional and international obligations.

The identified focus areas are:

  • Decriminalization of Sex Work: - This project is about continuation of work done by the previous MPWC, which had voiced support for the decriminalisation of sex work. The lobbying and advocacy efforts of the fifth MPWC led to the release of the South African Law Reform Commission report on adult prostitution (Project 107).
  • Women in Politics: - This area of focus is not only about increasing the number of women participating and represented in politics but also about capacitating and supporting the current women Members of Parliament and lobbying for a gender responsive Legislature. This is about ensuring that current women Members of Parliament are equipped with the necessary tools to stay longer and thrive in politics as well as be role models for young women and girls who also aspire to be in politics.
  • Sanitary Dignity: - The sanitary dignity project as inherited from the Fifth MPWC was twofold. The first part was about the removal of VAT from sanitary products, and the second part was about the provision of free sanitary products to indigent women and girls. The removal of VAT came into effect in April 2019. There were engagements with various stakeholders including the National Treasury, the Department of Women and civil society organisations on the provision of free sanitary products.
  • Gender Based Violence and Femicide: - The focus area in this regard is the implementation of comprehensive, united, well-resourced and coordinated initiatives aimed at eliminating GBV and Femicide. Engagements with various stakeholders on issues related to GBV and Human Trafficking. An equal and safe society free from all forms of violence against women and girls.
  • Strengthening of the National Gender Machinery (NGM): - To have an effective, strengthened, reviewed and well positioned NGM to ensure gender mainstreaming in all institutions. Engagements with Department of Women. An effectively functioning NGM will improve the status of women by ensuring gender equality in all programmes and budget allocations of all institutions.
  • Re- introduction of Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB): - Adoption of budgets and programmes that take into consideration the needs of both men and women. Engagements with the Department of Women about development of the GRB and Planning Framework. A gender responsive budget will ensure gender equality in access and the provision of services.
  • Building Relations with Stakeholders: - Targeted stakeholders to include Women's Caucuses, Civil Society Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, Government Departments and any other organizations committed to gender equality include men formations inside and outside the Country.
  • Women and Health: - The focus will be on raising awareness on health issues affecting women in communities according to the annual South African Health Calendar. Increased awareness on impact of various health issues on women will assist in curbing future occurrences.

Ms Mpapela said that the Strategic Plan of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities noted that Sanitary Dignity, the NGM, GRB and Planning are the identified focus areas which also form part of the key performance areas for the Department, and as such it is subject to oversight by the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with disabilities.

The Sanitary Dignity Project

The target set by the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with disabilities for the current financial year is the submission of the Sanitary Dignity Framework to Cabinet for consideration and approval. The quarterly targets include consultations, public comments as well as progress reports on the national roll out of the revised Sanitary Dignity Implementation Framework.

National Gender Machinery

The set target by the Department under this area is the approval of the NGM Framework by the Director-General (DG) for submission to Cabinet for consideration. Quarterly targets include releasing the Draft Framework for public comments, consultations and approval by the DG for submission.

Gender Responsive Planning and Budgeting

During the 2018/19 financial year, the Department had planned on developing a Gender Responsive Planning and Budgeting Framework. For the current financial year, the set target is the development of guidelines on Gender Responsive Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring and the Evaluation Framework.

Discussion

Ms Semenya said that the emphasis on sanitary towels is not duplication between the MPWC and Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities because the Portfolio Committee must understand that it can use the strength of the MPWC in advancing the issues of women in terms of its work. It is also important that women must be trained in manufacturing sanitary towels. A big company could be established by government under which women cooperatives and SMMEs can operate, which will look at issues of skills development and capacitating women to be able to compete in the mainstream economy.

Ms Majeke said that one thing that is important is that they have their Legacy report and when they do their planning they will take note of what is in the Legacy Report because they do not want to start with the other Committees’ work because they need to bring new ideas. They need to consider what they did but at the same time they need to open their minds to what the Steering Committee is saying so that it should not stifle their business. The MPWC needs to make sure that the machinery of Parliament works properly to advance the issues of women going forward.

The Chairperson thanked Members of the MPWC Steering Committee for their deliberations and inputs.

The meeting was adjourned.

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