The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus Steering Committee convened to consider the Draft Programme of the First Term of 2020. The programme covered meetings of the steering committee, mandate workshops and various briefings required.
Members were displeased with an invitation received by the Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP on the National Gender Machinery Summit. This clashed with a meeting of the steering committee. Members urged the Chairperson to address this with the Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP as there were concerns of divisions of men and women in Parliament, parallel processes and non-consultation. Other Members were displeased that they only received the invitation during this meeting. Members decided not to postpone the steering committee meeting to attend the summit invitation. It was decided that the Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP, and possibly the Speaker of the National Assembly, should be invited to the Multiparty Women’s Caucus to address the matter.
There was brief discussion on possible countries to visit for a study tour.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone in 2020 and noted that there were five Members present – this met quorum so the meeting could continue. She commended the President for apologising to the nation following an incident that took place during the State of the Nation Address debate. The incident was unnecessary and the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus needed to take a stand as it was not about the representation of political parties but the women of South Africa. With every issue that happens in Parliament that concerns women, the Committee needs to stand firm in the defence of women.
There were five apologies, Ms S Kopane (DA), Ms G Tseke (ANC), Ms Z Nkomo (ANC), Ms C Ndaba (ANC) and Ms K Tlhomelang (ANC). Members accepted apologies and proceeded with the meeting.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to go through the first term draft programme.
Consideration of the Draft Committee Programme for the first term of 2020
The Committee Secretary, Ms M Balie, stated that the programme was drafted in line with the outcomes of previous meetings, resolutions and decisions made by the Committee. It is subject to change as the Parliamentary Programme changes. On 4 March 2020 there will be a Steering Committee meeting to discuss the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF), and possible requests that might result from the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC) meeting. Content Advisors and Researchers will be present to focus on broad areas that were adopted by the Committee as well as its link to the State of the Nation Address. The briefing by the Content Advisor on the implementation of the National Assembly Resolution pertaining to the exploitation of women and young girls in religious and cultural settings will take place on 5 March 2020. This will be followed by support to female Members of Parliament on the discussion of a possible daycare centre in Parliament.
On 11 March 2020 the Steering Committee plans to meet in preparation for its Committee meeting that will take place on 12 March 2020. This will be a briefing by the Interim Steering Committee on GBVF on the progress made with the Declaration (National Strategic Plan) and establishment of the permanent structure and the Emergence Response Action Plan. On 19 March 2020, the Steering Committee will be briefed by the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities on the Framework on Gender-Responsive Planning, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and auditing. That will be the end of term one.
The Chairperson noted that the Steering Committee meeting is on 4 March 2020 and the Committee had been invited to attend the National Gender Machinery Summit. Members were asked if they were either keen to attend or preferred having the Steering Committee meeting. The invite was sent by Ms S Lucas, Deputy Chairperson, National Council of Provinces.
Ms R Semenya (ANC) stated that it seems that the office of the Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP runs parallel programmes to that of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus. The Committee will have to be forced to neglect its programme to attend to the invite. The matter needs to be addressed with Ms Lucas as it seems that she wants to run the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus. That shows a division of women to men and Parliament as a whole. Gender machinery affects everyone, therefore, the Committee should be involved and Members should speak in solidarity with their constituencies.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) concurred with Ms Semenya and said that the biggest problem is that women in Parliament are divided, and if she had not come to the Committee meeting she would have not got the invite. It is an all-day conference and it will conflict with her attendance of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development. She suggested that Members who are available can attend, but, the Steering Committee must not be postponed as it is for an hour. Discussion around the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee on GBVF is very important; hence it should not be sidelined.
The Chairperson asked Members if they agreed not to postpone the Steering Committee meeting.
The Chairperson said she would engage with the Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP in connection with Gender Machinery issues.
Ms Semenya mentioned that the Committee should work hand in hand with the Deputy Chairperson on issues concerning women. The Deputy Chairperson has the responsibility of women, youth and disability programmes, therefore her programme must correspond with the Committee’s programme.
The Chairperson agreed with Ms Semenya and mentioned that in the Committee’s deliberations, the Deputy Chairperson needs to come and present her scheduled programmes that concerned women.
Dr C Pilane-Majake (ANC) was of the view that since it is the Committee’s mandate to address issues concerning women in Parliament, the invitation must be objected to. This could be a motion of no confidence from the Committee. Gender Machinery is part of the Committees’ plan and it will mess with the schedule as the outcome is unknown. She left it for the Chairperson to decide on the matter diligently, but her worry was exclusion as the event was planned without consulting the Steering Committee. In a world that embraces democratic principles, the Committee should have been consulted as it is the relevant stakeholder. The Summit was planned in the Committee’s absence and it only got an invite to support it. She advised the Chairperson that if Members decided to attend the Gender Machinery Summit, the whole conference should be hijacked by the Committee as it is their mandate.
Ms van der Merwe explained that the she is an elected Chairperson of a stand- alone Committee on women’s affairs and finds it intriguing that she gets to be invited only to observe. It would have been better if the invitation had asked her to be the co-chairperson because being asked to go and observe is unacceptable as one is being rendered as a bystander. That should be raised as a concern.
The Chairperson asked to conclude the matter and urged Members to stick to the programme. It is indeed out of hand and there is a need for a meaningful engagement with the Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP so that the programme must come back to the Multi-Party Women Caucus. She will be invited to the Committee meeting and discuss what she thinks needs to be taken care of.
Ms Semenya proposed the Speaker of the National Assembly be invited to raise the Committee’s concern with her.
The Chairperson asked if there is anything that needs to be added to the Draft Programme.
Ms Semenya stated that a workshop is needed before the briefing scheduled for 19 March 2020 to understand the concepts of gender-responsive planning, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and auditing. Assuming that every woman understands is unwise and a disadvantage to other women who do not understand.
The Chairperson asked for the best day to conduct the workshop.
Ms Semenya suggested 9am-1pm on the day of the Multi-Party Women Caucus.
The Chairperson was advised by the Secretary that 12 March 2020 is the first day of a full Caucus meeting and Members agreed to have the workshop instead.
Ms N Sharif (DA) proposed that the Committee should find another day for the workshop because on 12 March there is an important briefing by the Interim Steering Committee on the GBVF National Strategic Plan, the establishment of the permanent structure and the Emergence Response Action Plan. The Interim Steering Committee had not come to the Committee meeting of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities and the Multi-Party Women Caucus. Parliament had not heard from the Steering Committee and the briefing will help to understand the National Strategic Plan and the status of implementation. Without this knowledge, it is difficult to engage with constituencies who happen to be enthusiastic about the Emergency Reaction Plan.
The Chairperson said that many women do not know the mandate of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus meeting, so the workshop is important to help understand the objective. She expressed disagreement with Ms Sharif.
Ms Semenya said that the Committee had raised the need for the workshop in order to be able to respond to issues affecting women. The workshop is a priority. Getting a briefing without understanding the concepts that could be achieved by having a workshop was unwise and Members will not be able to engage meaningfully with the Interim Steering Committee.
Ms van der Merwe agreed that the workshop is important, but concurred with Ms Sharif that the briefing presentation is also important. She suggested having the presentation from the Steering Committee in the morning to go through the content, assess the progress made then attend the workshop to utilise the time effectively. Friday 13 March 2020 can be set aside for the workshop because the briefing presentation is equally important with the workshop and cannot be cancelled. Either the Committee can accommodate both proceedings in one day or conduct a Thursday and Friday operation for the specific week.
The Chairperson also noted that both events are equally important.
Ms Semenya asked for clarity on who must get the briefing between the Steering Committee and the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus. On the day of the Steering Committee meeting a briefing should take place.
Ms van der Merwe concurred.
Members agreed to have the workshop on 12 March 2020 and the briefing by the Steering Committee on 19 March 2020.
The Chairperson mentioned that there was an engagement between her and the Secretary on places to be considered for a study tour in order to evaluate issues affecting women. Research based on GBVF and sex work was conducted in other countries, but the decision rests with the Steering Committee to decide the relevance of the selected countries as well as issues to be assessed.
Dr Pilane-Majake asked if sex work was the only area of study that needs to be looked at.
The Chairperson clarified that it is not a closed list and sex work is an example. The Steering Committee welcomes other suggestions.
Dr Pilane-Majake said that South Africa has lost the plot when it comes to issues of gender and advancement of the status of women. There is need to strengthen institutional mechanisms for the advancement of gender and that includes the National Gender Machinery. The National Gender Machinery has weakened to a point where it has affected government departments in terms of the structures that were historically built. There is need to ensure that issues of gender and advancement of the status of women is addressed across departments of government. Training needs to be done to identify focus areas to avoid. Sex work is important, but the study must focus on the issues that represent all women of South Africa.
Specific sectors are important, but it will be unwise to push an agenda that focuses only on one sector. Strengthening institutional mechanisms for advancement on the status of women covers everyone, from white, black, young and women with disabilities. The Committee needs to look at the measures that have been put in place as a country to ensure that the status of women in South Africa becomes a priority. Gender budgeting and training is important and a study must be undertaken to look at countries that have advanced in that area and what they are doing for the upliftment of women. Rwanda has advanced, therefore a study must be conducted there to get their results of best practice and introduce it to South Africa. It is a pity that Rwanda is now ahead of South Africa because once upon a time, South Africa was the fore runner. Therefore, a study on Rwanda is necessary to find out how they tackled their issues and what went wrong in South Africa.
The Chairperson mentioned that the matter before the Committee is important. Issues of sex work and GBVF are in the focus area and if study tours are conducted in the current or next financial year, the theme should be on the advancement of the status of women.
Ms Semenya said that South Africa has indeed lost contact with fellow African countries. The focus areas must not be in Europe or, for example, New Zealand. There are many advanced African countries that South Africa could learn much from, and the African culture must not be left behind. Kenya and Rwanda have advanced so has their legislation on issues concerning women.
Ms Sharif agreed on going into African countries, but the research needs to look at which African countries has what model and how it can be adapted in South African society. GBVF is the most critical issue in South Africa currently and cannot be compared to economic issues. Economic issues cannot be compared to violence against women as these issues are equally important. South Africa does not know where to start in dealing with issues of GBVF so it is wise to benchmark models to follow. Spain has a Commission against GBVF similar to the Interim Steering Committee of GBVF so that model can be taken into consideration and be directly applied to current models. Spain has a school curriculum and formal education on GBV and that can also be adapted to the South African educational system in combination with teaching sex education and consent. It is a good idea to learn from first world countries that have gone under different trials and tribulations and have seen the kind of models that work and that can be implemented based on society here. South Africa is different from other countries because of the diversity it possesses. It would be interesting to merge African and European concepts to find the best practice for South Africa.
Ms M Hlengwa (IFP) agreed to use African countries as study tours to bring lost values as the Department of Education visited Kenya in 2019 and realised that Kenya is ahead of South Africa as far as the educational curriculum is concerned.
The Chairperson asked Members if they would like to engage more on the matter of countries and areas for study tours or if the matter can be concluded.
Dr Pilane-Majeke mentioned that as much as the Committee agrees to focus on Africa with some Members saying Spain, the decision must come from the researchers as well to help in benchmarking. Before going international, researchers must find out what went wrong in South Africa, the current status and what other African counties are doing. The history of gender and the status of women are widely known and there was a time when women were excelling to the extent that Parliament and political parties were listening to women. The Constitution of the ANC emphasised a fifty-fifty representation of men and women but somehow has lost it. It is pointless to get models to work with without knowing what went wrong as the system might have been influenced by unknown factors. The Committee must identify why women’s struggles have been derailed. It is of the utmost importance to notice that there is a need for a study tour and Africa can be first then Spain next. The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is an experience that is good for any form of structure that focuses on the advancement of women. Women across the world can come together to make an audit of progress that has been made across the word. South Africa must have a report that comes from the Committee that should be taken to the CSW. When it comes to the tour, someone must represent the Committee and join the government delegation because attendees can only participate if they are a part of a government delegation.
A Member mentioned that a study tour of Rwanda can be done focusing on women in politics and gender responsive budgeting, and Kenya on sanitary dignity.
The Chairperson asked if Members agreed to the proposal.
Ms Semenya said that research must be done first and the mandate is given to the Chairperson to finalise it as it does not have to come back to the Committee to be finalised.
Ms van der Merwe expressed that there is no need to rush the processes because one understands the need to work within Africa as the struggles are the same compared to Europe. It is wise to look at the advantages and disadvantages of the countries and assess what can be learnt, then address the country’s immediate concerns and discuss it further.
Ms Semenya mentioned that the mandate is given to the Chairperson because different views have been expressed and the debate on countries of study will not end. When it comes to visiting other countries, the interests does not have to be based on tourist attractions, but the objective of the organisation.
Ms van der Merwe said there is no need to focus on women in politics because the ANC has a proposal for a fifty-fifty representation of men and women and there are many women in Parliament. The focus should be on areas that are not excelling for example GBVF but that can be a discussion for another day.
Dr Pilane-Majake said that research must be done first in order to have background information to base it on.
The meeting was adjourned.
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