The Steering Committee of the Multiparty Women’s Caucus met on a virtual platform for a briefing from the Gender-based Violence and Femicide Response Fund as well as to consider its role in the implementation of the objectives of the Women’s Charter for Accelerated Development.
Dr Judy Dlamini, Chairperson of the Response Fund, said the fund had received pledges in the form of donations and pro bono partnerships with private companies and individuals. Outlining the means of processing applications to the fund, Dr Dlamini said a Disbursement Committee would be responsible for governance oversight and the process of analysing grant applications. There had been 400 applications for funding. The media release that called for applications had been translated into all official languages and released on multiple media platforms. One innovative partnership that had been highlighted was with Science Serving Justice which would address DNA backlog challenges in court cases.
Members welcomed the presentation and what the Response Fund had accomplished so far, especially in addressing the DNA backlog. They asked for details of the 400 applicants and whether women’s shelters were among them. It was suggested that funds should be distributed to social workers who assisted women in communities. Members asked whether the Fund partnered with any governmental institutions, and how the Fund would be dispersed across all nine provinces.
Dr Dlamini explained that the selection process in the disbursement of funds would be inclusive and reflective of all nine provinces with a focus on rural settlements and NGOs.
The Steering Committee also considered the Women’s Charter for Accelerated Development and its role in implementing the Charter. Members indicated a need to play an oversight role on issues of labour; the gender pay gap; farm and domestic workers as well as the sanitary dignity programme. An important concern raised was that Members felt the Steering Committee could not fulfil its oversight responsibility effectively. Thus far it had proved ineffective to exercise accountability through the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities as it was an already overburdened department with a focus on coordination and not implementation. The Committee resolved that the Chairperson should meet with the House Chairperson to discuss the mandate of the MPWC and its legacy.
Briefing by the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Response Fund
Dr Judy Dlamini, Chairperson of the Gender-based Violence and Femicide Response Fund (GBVFRF), explained that the current pledges received by the Response Fund had been in the form of donations and pro bono partnerships. Two individuals had offered their professional services pro bono, and those were Veliswa Notshikila and Lynn Stevens. The companies that had offered their services pro bono were the following: Absa; PWC; Alexander Forbes; The Media and Writers Firm; Biza; ENSafrica; Blue Moon; Deloitte; and Multi-media.
She then outlined the process of a request for proposals (RFP). The Disbursement Committee - a Board subcommittee – was responsible for the governance oversight of the process. A Theory of Change model underpinned what the Board aimed to achieve. There was also a process of analysing the grant applications as well as a comprehensive project plan to award, disburse and evaluate impact.
Over 400 applications had been logged in response to the RFP. The media release had been translated into the country’s official languages for national reach. It had been published and broadcasted across multiple media platforms. Posts were also made across the social media platforms of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Substantial PR and advertising value had been achieved for the RFP publication and supporting media, as measured through advertising value equivalent.
Dr Dlamini detailed the partnerships that had been formed to address priorities raised at the meeting on 15 February 2021. One of the innovative partnerships was with Science Serving Justice and one of the things to be addressed was the DNA backlog challenge.
The Chairperson opened the floor for questions from Members.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) thanked Dr Dlamini for the presentation. She expressed approval on the pro bono work that had been done by the companies that had been brought on board. She asked for a comprehensive list of the 400 applications received from organisations. What type of organisations had applied for funding? She asked this because she was concerned about a duplication of services that were already provided by other non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The Department of Social Development (DSD) also funded similar organisations, hence she was concerned about a duplication of services. Ms van der Merwe said the funds should rather be distributed to shelters who had testified at the Children’s Amendment Bill hearing that they were critically underfunded. They catered for women and children but did not have enough money to look after them. Were shelters among the organisations that had applied? She also would like to see funds being distributed to social workers in communities who assisted women with legal services like the drafting of affidavits and with knowledge of their basic rights when confronted with gender-based violence.
Ms Z Nkomo (ANC) commended Dr Dlamini on the presentation. She applauded the work on the DNA backlog challenge and said that she hoped the Board’s engagement with the South African Police Services (SAPS) would yield a solution to the challenge. She pointed out that most cases did not get finalised due to the backlog in DNA analysis.
Ms Nkomo also asked if the Board worked only with private and community institutions or whether they also worked with government institutions. With regard to government institutions, had the Board engaged with any of them to strengthen the areas in which they lacked.
The Chairperson noted that the Board had invited organisations to submit proposals but wanted to know how it would be ensured that all nine provinces were covered. What would happen if applications were received from only three provinces, would the rest be ignored? How would they ensure the entire country was covered? The challenges faced were present across the entire country.
In response to Ms van der Merwe, Dr Dlamini said the Board was not yet privy to the type of organisations that had applied, but it would have access to that information once it had been supplied with recommendations from the Disbursement Committee. Thus, she was not in a position to answer the question. She welcomed Ms van der Merwe’s focus areas. Once the information had become available it would be happily shared.
On work with government institutions, Dr Dlamini said there had been a few meetings with the Thuthuzela Care Centre and the Board had visited a few centres. However, due to the limitation of funds, the Board was merely aware of the work the Centre was conducting and the areas in which it required support. One creative way of intervention with limited funds was to try and involve the private and other sectors to assist. Currently, the Centre was listing its priorities so that the partners brought in to help had a clear indication of what impact their contribution would make. She added that three weeks earlier, the Board visited some police stations that displayed billboards with anti-GBV messaging. They were unveiled by Ms Patricia de Lille, Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure. The Minister had said that a few state-owned buildings had been released for reconfiguration as national shelters. Dr Dlamini said no further meetings had taken place but the Board would explore if other partners could be brought in to help.
On the receipt of proposals from the nine provinces, Dr Dlamini said the Board went out of its way to ensure the call for proposals was translated into all the official languages to make sure that all nine provinces were catered for. She said Ms Lindi Dlamini, Chief Executive Officer of the GBVFRF, had embarked on a roadshow with radio and television media outlets to ensure that the information was communicated across the country. Dr Dlamini said it was important that the process was inclusive with a focus on rural settlements and NGOs. She admitted that there could be a tendency to prioritise certain provinces at the expense of others. She said they were working with an implementing partner who had worked in that space. Research had been conducted the previous year when the Solidarity Fund entered the gender-based violence space, and that research would inform the Board of the areas with the most pressing needs.
The Chairperson asked if Members had any other questions.
Ms van der Merwe said her questions had been answered but added that another presentation would be required at a later stage once the applications had been received. She had no further questions.
MPWC’s role in implementation of the Women’s Charter for Accelerated Development
Ms Joy Watson, Parliamentary Researcher, told Members that the Women’s Charter for Accelerated Development (2021) built upon the Women’s Charter (1954) and the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality (1994). It had been developed in consultation with women’s formations and civil society organisations. She took Members through a document outlining the Charter’s 15 strategic objectives.
The Chairperson asked Members for their thoughts.
Ms van der Merwe thanked the research team for the document. She liked the suggestion that Members identify key areas to drive in the various Portfolio Committees on which they served. There was a key issue, which was long outstanding, that she wanted the MPWC to address, and that was gender-responsive budgeting. She said it was a key area that the MPWC had to address as there had been slow progress.
Ms van der Merwe also welcomed the idea of providing oversight over the various Portfolio Committees. In that regard she would like to exercise oversight over the issue of the gender pay gap that had been raised in Parliament. It was a reason why women stayed in abusive relationships and could not move from dangerous family situations. The MPWC had to play an oversight role on issues of labour; the gender pay gap; farm and domestic workers as well as the sanitary dignity programme. Those were some areas of concern she hoped the MPWC could tackle before the end of the year.
Ms Nkomo agreed with Ms van der Merwe. She said by the end of the year issues like gender responsive budgeting ought to have been dealt with.
The Chairperson agreed with Members. She raised something she had observed that was problematic. As the MPWC, the only way of achieving accountability was through the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD). Therefore, Members who were part of other Committees had to ensure the programmes of those committees held other departments accountable. She said that perhaps one day Parliament would change the role of multi-party committees to enable them to impose direct accountability to speed up the slow progression of resolving issues. She felt that the DWYPD had a huge burden to address which resulted in the slow progress in addressing issues.
Ms van der Merwe agreed with the Chairperson and echoed her sentiments that the DWYPD was limited in its resources and capabilities as it was not an implementing department but rather a coordinating one. Parliament had created the structure of the Women’s Caucus and had appointed the Chairperson who was on the same level as any other Chairperson of a Committee, yet the MPWC did not have any effectiveness. She questioned how Parliament thought the Steering Committee should carry out its responsibilities. She suggested that the Committee seek an audience with Mr C Frolick, House Chairperson, to discuss the mandate of the MPWC and its legacy. She felt it was pointless to meet for the sake of meeting without seeing any real accountability or progress. It was not useful working through a department that was already overstretched.
Ms Nkomo fully agreed. Those sentiments were shared with the other Members of the MPWC. She recalled a previous meeting where the Chairperson interrogated the role of the MPWC versus the role of the Portfolio Committee on Women and Children. She said that part of the presentation on the implementation of the Women’s Charter should have covered the role of the MPWC. It should be discussed in the meeting scheduled for the following day. She said the MPWC was not aware of its boundaries and role, which remained unclear two years down the line. It did not have the same powers as a Portfolio Committee.
The Chairperson said the above suggestions should be presented as a recommendation from the Steering Committee to the MPWC.
The Members agreed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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