Progress report on matters arising from previous committee meetings

Multi-Party Women’s Caucus

22 May 2020
Chairperson: Ms N Bilankulu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (Steering Committee) 22 May 2020
Audio: Progress report on matters arising from previous committee meetings 

The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus Steering Committee convened to consider the Draft Committee Programme, Progress Report on matters arising from previous committee meetings and the finalisation of

28 May and 2 July 2020 full Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC) meeting agendas.

Members were concerned about reports of an increase in Gender Based Violence (GBV) and femicide cases during the state of lockdown. Inter-departmental cooperation was lacking and contributed to there not being a unified approach to address the issue of violence against women and children. Members needed the MPWC to participate as an active collaborator and not merely be invited to the implementation of parliamentary GBV activities and projects. The imposition of the state of lockdown had a negative impact on the programme of the MPWC. Members were not given information on GBV and femicide related matters and were therefore unable to intervene and fulfil oversight duties.

Members present deemed it problematic that absent Members did not attend Steering Committee meetings but would raise new issues at full caucus meetings. The Chief Whip’s Forum would be approached to address the poor attendance of meetings.

The frequent breakdown in network connections on the Microsoft Teams platform presented a problem to Members from rural areas. Members suggested that the Zoom platform be considered as a replacement. The Chief Whip would be consulted on the matter.

Meeting report

The Chairperson requested the Secretary to the Committee read the agenda into the record.

The following agenda items were noted:

-Opening remarks

-Deliberations on Draft Committee Programme

-Considerations of previous Committee meetings

-Finalisation of agenda for full MPWC meetings

-Summary of meeting outcomes / resolutions

-Closing remarks from the Chairperson

The proposal for the adoption of the agenda was moved and seconded.

Opening remarks by the Chairperson

The Chairperson welcomed all Members to the first meeting of the second quarter. She noted that it had been two months since the President made the lockdown announcement as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country was at level four at this stage and although life was not easy, she hoped that everyone was abiding by the lockdown rules by limiting their movements, staying safe, wearing masks and sanitising hands. Level four created the opportunity to be at home and spend time with one’s family. But Members were learning on a daily basis of women, children and girls that had been subjected to live under conditions of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and femicide. This was an issue that the Committee needed to review with the goal to bring changes the Constitution. As the sixth Parliament, the Committee needed to draft clear regulations that would commit each Member on the issues of GBV and femicide. The Chairperson concluded her opening remarks by saying that Members were all learning about the new model of virtual meetings, but were expected to deliberate, make comments and to be proactive.

Apologies and briefing on agenda items by the Secretary to the Committee

Apologies in respect of the following members were moved and accepted:

-Ms L van der Merwe (IFP)

-Ms P Kopane (DA)

-Ms R Semenya (ANC)

-Ms C Ndaba (ANC)

-Ms G Tseke (ANC)

Briefing of the agenda items:

28 May 2020: A full MPWC meeting was scheduled for 10:00 where the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities (DWYPD) would conduct a briefing on the framework of gender-responsive planning, budgeting, evaluation, and auditing. The DWYPD was ready to do the presentation. Members should receive the meeting documents by Monday or Tuesday before the next week’s meeting.

10 June 2020: The Steering Committee was scheduled to meet to consider the implications for the MPWC of the final report on the National Gender Machinery Summit that was held on 4 March 2020. Follow-up was done with the office of the Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP to establish when the report would be finalised. The report was expected to be formally tabled in Parliament on 2 June 2020.

In a previous meeting, the Committee made a resolution and agreed that a comprehensive gender-responsive budget and planning workshop must be scheduled and that it should include all stakeholders. It was envisaged that the draft workshop programme, participants, and objectives could be finalised in the meeting on 10 June 2020. As the term was ending on 25 June 2020, it was foreseen that the workshop would probably not be held this term. A date would be identified once the framework for the next term was confirmed.

24 June 2020: The DWYPD provided a copy of the Cabinet-approved National Strategic Plan on GBV and femicide. A briefing was supposed to be held on 2 July 2020 but due to programme changes, a resolution was made to first brief the Steering Committee before it was discussed at the full MPWC. A proposal was made for the Steering Committee meeting to be scheduled for 24 June 2020.The Content Advisors and Researchers would be in a better position to brief the Committee on the analysis of the approved plan and the DWYPD would do a briefing on the plan as a whole.

Discussion

Ms N Sharif (DA) pointed out that the dates, as per the Draft Committee Programme, differed from the dates that the Secretary to the Committee was reporting on. She said the issue of GBV and femicide was of importance especially during the state of lockdown. The statistics on GBV from the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) Command Centre showed an increase in domestic violence occurrences. She argued that everything related to GBV and femicide should be addressed as soon as possible and given higher priority on the programme. It could not be delayed until 26 June 2020 for an introduction in the National Assembly. The DWYPD and the Interim Steering Committee should appear before the MPWC to explain what had been done during the lockdown period and provide an update on the GCE Command Centre. Members should be informed of whether assistance was needed and how the MPWC could be of help. The MPWC should also have the CGE on board. She stated that it had been six weeks since the state of lockdown was imposed but to date, the MPWC had not been intervening nor doing oversight. It had also not been given any information on GBV and femicide matters which she considered to be an important aspect of the programme. She urged Members to adapt and look at GBV from a women’s perspective and find ways to intervene instead of depending on the Gender Machinery. To conclude, she asked whether the strategic objectives document had been finalised and whether a copy could be made available to Members.

Ms B Tlhomelang (ANC) was of the opinion that the dates should be adhered to and that the Draft Committee Programme should be taken more seriously. She felt that there was a need to engage with the DWYPD after reports by the Minister of Police on the impact that drugs and alcohol abuse had on GBV and femicide. Although the focus was currently on COVID-19, women were at home with their abusers even before the state of lockdown came into effect. The MPWC must defend women and the voiceless.

Ms F Masiko (ANC) agreed the dates on the Draft Committee Programme that related to discussions on GBV related issues be prioritised. She was concerned about the contradictory numbers that were reported by the Call centres and the police. Correctional Services reported a decline in the numbers but she argued that access to the Thutuzela Care Centres should be investigated.

The Chairperson agreed with the previous speakers that the DWYPD should brief the MPWC. She indicated that the briefing to the Steering Committee was planned for 28 May 2020 and that the issues might be discussed at the briefing of the full MPWC. On the GBV matter, she advised that Members should fulfil their oversight function and report to the local District Command Centres even if they were expected to be at home. It is at the local Command and District Command Centres where the accuracy of statistics could be queried. She said that it would assist if Members could get statistics from local constituency offices.

Ms M Hlengwa (IFP), who joined the meeting during the deliberations, was briefed by the Chairperson regarding the discussions that occurred up to this point.

The Secretary to the Committee reported back on the date differences. The dates as per the Draft Committee Programme were correct and the dates as per her earlier briefing were incorrect. The differences were due to the Steering Committee meetings being moved to Fridays.

The Chairperson advised that due to the caucus meetings also being held on Thursdays, it was suggested the Steering Committee meetings be moved to Fridays. She invited Members to discuss the change if it did not suit them.

Ms Masiko supported the Friday meetings but reminded Members to consider that it might coincide with the Portfolio Committee meetings.

The Chairperson said that Members needed to advise each other about other meetings in advance to accommodate changes of the MPWC meetings.

Briefing by the Secretary to the Committee on the Draft Record of Decisions / Outcomes

Item 1: Scheduling Steering Committee meetings

  1. Lunchtime meetings should be avoided
  2. Meetings to be held in preparation of full MPWC meetings as the need arises
  3. Meetings should preferably be held on Thursday, before full MPWC

Ms Z Nkomo (ANC) agreed with issues of the first item but had a concern about the full MPWC meetings as it coincided with the study group sessions. She proposed that full MPWC meetings be held bi-weekly.

The Chairperson stated that the Steering Committee meetings were not held every week.

Item 2: Scheduling of Multi-Party Women’s Caucus meetings

2.1 The MPWC should be more proactive in determining its own meeting dates

2.2. The Chairperson should formally submit proposed dates to the National Programming Committee for            inclusion in the parliamentary programme of each term

The Secretary to the Committee reported that the Chairperson wrote a letter to the Programming Committee about the MPWC determining its own meeting dates. The resolution was therefore implemented.

Item 3: Attendance of meetings: Poor attendance of meetings should be brought to the attention of the Chief Whip and will be raised at the Chief Whip’s Forum

The Secretary to the Committee still needed to confirm whether the matter was discussed at the Chief Whip’s Forum

Item 4 Planned Workshops

4.1 A strategic Planning Workshop to develop the Committee’s Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan based on its adopted focus areas

4.2 A comprehensive gender-responsive budgeting and planning workshop geared towards assisting parliamentary Committees in scrutinising departmental planning and spending on gender related initiatives.

4.3 A workshop on the role and responsibilities of the MPWC in ensuring participation in international and regional bodies

4.4 Gender-based violence concepts and existing legislation

5. Local visits: should be prioritised and be relevant to the Committee’s focus areas

6. Study tours: A discussion paper on sector trends on the continent must be developed and should include recommendations on focus areas and countries that a delegation of the MPWC could visit and benchmark against

7. Gender Based Violence and Femicide

7.1 The Interim Steering Committee should appear before the MPWC

7.2 The National Strategic Plan on GBV should be considered

7.3 The MPWC should consider the establishment of a parliamentary Committee dedicated to GBV and femicide

7.4 The MPWC should consider the NA resolution on the exploitation of women and young girls in cultural and religious settings

8. Women’s Parliamentary and the Revival of the National Gender Machinery: The MPWC should be included in the planning and implementation of parliamentary GBV activities and projects. To date, MPWC is merely invited to such events, rather than an active collaborator

9. Support to female Members of Parliament (MPs)

9.1 The MPWC should consider, decide, and lobby for improved support mechanism for female MPs

9.2 The Steering Committee should interact with Presiding Officers regarding, amongst others, the establishment of a day-care centre

The Chairperson said that the first item was dealt with and as there were no comments on the second item, she requested Members to engage on the third item. The next full caucus meeting was planned for next week and she urged Members to develop a strategy for the meeting. She voiced her disquiet with Members who did not attend Steering Committee meetings but who then raise new issues at full caucus meetings.

Ms Tlhomelang proposed that the Whip should take the responsibility of engaging other parties as the MPWC was a non-political forum. Issues must be channelled via the Whips. Members should be encouraged to come to the meetings and assist in providing solutions. She felt that Members were not serious about the meetings but would afterwards re-open matters that were agreed on.

The Chairperson supported the comments and stated that other parties must make an impact as far as attendance to meetings was concerned.

Ms Hlengwa fully supported the view expressed and the suggestion made by Ms Tlhomelang.

Ms Nkomo also agreed with Ms Tlhomelang about the issue of poor meeting attendance by other parties. She said that participation of Members who did not attend meetings, should be limited.

Ms Sharif concurred and noted the points made by previous speakers.

The Chairperson asked for comments on the item relating to workshops.

Ms Nkomo fully supported the focus on the empowering of women. She said that although the country was in a state of lockdown, the workshops could be of assistance to all women.

Ms Tlhomelang asked that Members be provided with documents prior to the workshops.

The Chairperson raised the matter of the virtual meetings being a problem. She experienced difficulty in making contributions due to the frequent breakdown in the network connections.

Ms Nkomo also had difficulty with network connections in rural areas and enquired about changing to the Zoom platform.

Ms Tlhomelang agreed that Zoom was an easier platform than Microsoft Teams and suggested that the Planning Workshop should be held via Zoom.

The Chairperson concurred that Zoom is a better platform to use in rural areas. She would be approaching the Chief Whip about the possibility to use Zoom in rural areas.

Ms Nkomo suggested that the status of the items in respect of Local Visits and Study Tours should remain pending at this stage.

The Chairperson agreed and moved to discuss the item on GBV and femicide.

The Secretary to the Committee stated that the term of the Interim Steering Committee ended. She needed to establish who would be appearing before the MPWC in its place.

The Chairperson said that she did not know what would happen but assumed that the DWYPD might address the MPWC.

The Secretary to the Committee undertook to provide the Members with a list of outcomes after this meeting.

 Ms Sharif asked whether the matters of pornography and sex work were discussed and if a copy of reforms could be made available.

The Secretary to the Committee said that she would provide a copy of the requested document but that the Content Advisor would be in a better position to comment on the matters.  

The Chairperson said that the issues of pornography and sex work were important but requested that it should be discussed at the Steering Committee before it is engaged with at the MPWC. She suggested that Ms Sharif brief Members at the Steering Committee and that the focus of this meeting should be on issues that were currently affecting people on the ground.

Ms Sharif agreed and thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity and the platform to address the Steering Committee on the matter.

Ms Hlengwa asked whether Members of the MPWC would be able to visit schools and make themselves visible to ensure compliance to rules of the COVID-19 Command Council.

The Chairperson said that it was a good idea as Members would be informed about what was happening at schools. It was the duty of Members to check on whether the situation at schools were conducive to learning and to observe whether kids were wearing masks and if hands were being sanitised. She urged Members to keep safe and wished everyone good health.

The meeting was adjourned.

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