Parliamentary Participation Workshops for Rural Women

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Meeting report

JOINT MONITORING COMMITTEE ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN

JOINT MONITORING COMMITTEE ON THE IMPROVEMENT OF QUALITY OF LIFE AND STATUS OF WOMEN
4 April 2001
PARLIAMENTARY PARTICIPATION WORKSHOPS FOR RURAL WOMEN


Chairperson: Ms P Govender ; Deputy Chairperson: Ms P Themba

Documents handed out:
Revised programme for rural women's workshop (email
info@pmg.org.za for this)

SUMMARY
The Parliamentary Participation Unit has organised day-long workshops aimed at educating rural women on the role they can play in South Africa's democracy. The workshops will be held in Mpumalanga, the Northern Province, the Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal.

Service providers contracted by the PPU will present the workshops. This parliamentary committee will actively participate in the workshops; each committee member will attend a particular workshop.

The PPU is also planning a roadshow between 23 April - 7 May. The roadshow will go to the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the North West, and Mpumalanga. An outside company who specialises in roadshows will organise this.

The participation of Members of Parliament has been identified as a key element for the success of both the roadshow and the workshops.

MINUTES
Committee's response to defamatory article in the Mail and Guardian
An article appeared in the Mail and Guardian making various defamatory allegations against the Committee. The allegations include that the Committee wastefully spent money on holding a jazz festival rather than spending the funds on the needs of rural women. The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Pregs Govender was also criticised.

The Committee will respond to this with a letter to the Mail and Guardian. The letter will note that:
- the jazz festival was held as a fundraiser
- the Committee did not spend any of its own money to organise the event, there were sponsors.
The Committee will request a formal apology and retraction from the Mail and Guardian for the inaccurate and defamatory article published.

Parliamentary Participation Workshops for Rural Women: presentation by the Parliamentary Participation Unit Representatives from the PPU were Ms Joy Watson, Mr Thaabit Albertus, and Ms Linda Rhoda.

Introduction
The Parliamentary Participation Unit (PPU) has existed for some time. However structural and resource problems within the Unit has caused it to remain unused for a long time. In the past the Unit has not had a good working relationship with parliamentary committees. The Unit must receive information from committees. To ensure this happens the PPU has allocated staffers to some committees. The objective is the active participation of committees. They receive information then they put out programmes and literature. The programmes must be relevant to members' needs and members' involvement.

The function of the PPU is one of support. To this end they produce many publications; for example they distribute a parliamentary newsletter nationally through constituency offices. They give information on the different components of Parliament. They also have interactive programmes. This includes an upcoming media programme for which funding has already been approved. There will also be radio programmes where MPs are interviewed. They also distribute posters and pamphlets. There is a thirty minute TV series in the pipeline. Of course there is also the rural women's workshop coming up.

The concept for the rural women's workshop project
The concept goes back to 1998. It was decided the PPU would look at the implementation prospect of the project. They identified four provinces in which to hold the workshops. These are Mpumalanga, Northern Province, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. They looked at six workshops in each province. The provincial legislatures are also involved. They want women to understand how to make their voices heard in the legislative process. The European Union Parliamentary Support Programme funds the project.

The workshops will include discussion on domestic violence against women. In June last year, service providers were trained in civic education. Service providers are the organisations that will be facilitating the workshop. The women targeted for the workshops are rural women who are leaders in their communities.
Mr Albertus commented that the PPU does not have the capacity to reach nationally into rural areas. Therefore they engaged the services of organisations in those areas to conduct the programmes.

Ms Watson took the committee through a draft programme for the workshop. Although they appointed service providers, the role of MPs is key to the success of the workshop. They are expecting to tap into the expertise and knowledge of members to use at the workshops. The workshop should mark the beginning of a relationship between members and participants in the workshop. Through the members the women must interact with Parliament on a more regular basis.

Draft programme for the workshop
The workshop will be used to obtain submissions on the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act and also on inheritance and succession. The committee wants to know what women are experiencing in this regard.
They will ask women what they understand and know about Parliament and what they want from the workshop. They will show them how they can contact the PPU and the Committee.

The Committee will look at an introduction to gender. Women will record their daily activities. The idea is to illustrate how hard women work and that often they get up earlier than men and go to bed later than men.

One of the questions they will ask is why are rural women particularly marginilised?

The South African Parliament has one of the best representations of women in the world.

The workshop will also look at the three arms of State namely the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary.

There is also a law-making process section. The committee believes if women understand the context then they can participate better.
They also want them to learn where the opportunities would be for them to make an input and shape Bills before they become law.

The committee hopes for feedback from the participants on the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) and the section on Inheritance and Succession. They will look at where someone can go in the event of domestic violence and what the person can do. They want to know how well people understand the law. Also, if someone was a victim of domestic violence, did she get help? They want to look at the problems, obstacles, and successes of the DVA. The facilitator will then give an overview of the DVA.

The committee will look at inheritance and succession. They will ask specific questions such as who will inherit the house. They will ask women if they would like this to change.

The workshop will end with an evaluation and closure. Here the attending MP can suggest ways for the relationship to go beyond the workshop.

Discussion
The Committee broke into groups of three to discuss any possible changes to the workshop. The committee resumed as a whole again after twenty minutes.

The Chairperson suggested that MPLs and councillors also participate in the workshop.
Ms Watson replied they are being invited to participate.

The Deputy Chairperson suggested that before the workshop commences the members and co-ordinators could visit local radio stations to talk about the workshop.
Ms Watson replied there will be advertisements on radio. Radio is part of the original concept.

Ms Ngwenya (ANC) asked if there would be adequate translation at the workshops. Also they must try to simplify the language they use to make it accessible to all women. She suggested the women give feedback on the Customary Marriages Act and the law of succession. She commented that for a one day workshop the programme was too long. If they deal with the laws then they are changing the whole focus of the PPU. The women must be given an opportunity to ask questions.

Ms Watson replied that workshops would be run in the local vernacular. The service providers will be able to speak the local language as well as English so they could accommodate translation along the way. She agreed that speaking in ''plain language'' is also important.
She said they would try to include contextual information on the Customary Marriages Act, perhaps a summary of the Act.
If the committee wished to shorten the workshop they could try to see what they could take out of the programme. They do not want to overload people. On the focus of the PPU Ms Watson said that they were trying to get feedback to bring to the Committee. This is a form of public participation thus the focus of the PPU is not being changed.

Ms Botha (ANC) commented that people would want to know what they can get out of the workshop.

An ANC committee member asked if transport from the rural areas had been arranged.
Ms Watson replied that the service providers must ensure that people get to the workshops. Money was given to them for this purpose. It was included when the logistics were considered.

The Deputy Chairperson commented that they would also need contact numbers of the organisations giving the workshops. In the past it has happened that the members end up there alone with no-one else there.
Ms Watson replied that this request could be easily accommodated. Details of the service providers would be forwarded to the members.

Ms Twala (ANC) said that the service providers would have tell the PPU what mechanisms were used to ensure that the workshop will take place. They must furnish the following information:
- Who are the participants in the workshop?
- Where are these participants coming from?
- Has transportation been organised for them?
- Who has been consulted from the provincial legislature?
- Who has been consulted from local government level?

Ms Watson replied that they have given service providers guidelines on how to attract people to ensure they come to the workshops. They have suggested the use of the radio and media to advertise. Deciding on the guest list is also a consultative exercise. They do not simply want to invite, they are asking community leaders who would be the best people to invite. So far the response has been good.

Ms Botha (ANC) suggested that perhaps the MP present could translate for the MP that did not understand rather than to burden the facilitator with this function.
She commented that experience has proven that people will raise all sorts of issues that are not intended to be part of the workshop. Women will ask questions about problems they encounter in respect of maintenance issues and pensions for example. This means that they must set more time aside for discussion to accommodate people who will raise questions not related to the work programme.
She asked which criteria was used to select the service providers. She also suggested Kingwilliams town in the Eastern Cape as a possible location for a workshop. The area has many villages and many problems.

The Chairperson replied that the selection of the service providers precedes the current staff at the PPU. There has been a turnover of staff several times since 1998.

Ms Watson replied that it is a good idea for members to assist with translation.
It is natural that people will bring up things not on the programme. This cannot be helped.
On the service provider selection, the provincial legislatures were asked for tenders. A selection process followed. The CGE sat on the panel. Service providers were picked from the tenders. Now the PPU has contractual agreements with these service providers.
Mr Albertus said it is too late to change venues for the workshops now because they have contracts with the service providers and the funder. Changing venues would require consultation with them and they do not have enough time to go through this process now. He added that there are monitoring mechanisms in place to monitor the service provider in terms of its contractual obligation.

The Chairperson requested a list of people contacted in the provincial legislatures, local government and from the CGE. The committee agreed that the service providers must also liase with the constituency offices of the members on the committee. She added that the members would have to indicate which workshops they would attend. A team from the Committee can sit with the PPU to restructure the programme.

Ms Botha (ANC) said that they should try to accommodate people with disabilities.
The Deputy Chairperson replied that the PPU can liase with disability offices in the particular areas.

The Chairperson said that the participants in the workshop must be women but the MPs who participate can be women or men. The service providers must ensure the maximum participation from women.

The Roadshow
Mr Albertus discussed an upcoming roadshow which the PPU arranged. The roadshow is to take place between the 23 April - 7 May. It will go to Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, North West Province, and Mpumalanga. They have contracted an outside company that specialises in roadshows to handle the event. It is designed to be educational and entertaining. It will go to rural areas and deal with democracy, parliament, legislative process, and various other key issues. The key issues have not yet been decided.

The committee agreed it would be best to discuss this at the parties' caucus meetings. Ms Watson said that they met with the Chief Whips about this over a month ago. They would like to know which members are going to participate. They have not been able to meet with the Chief Whip of the ANC due to his busy schedule. Instead they met with the Deputy Chief Whip. The European Union is funding the roadshow.

The Chairperson said it is important to ensure this is successfully done. Ms Botha (ANC) said they should also liase with the office of the Premier and the provinces on this.

In conclusion Mr Albertus said this is the first committee that they have worked with in this way. He thanked the committee for its support.

The meeting was adjourned. A few members stayed to work with the PPU on restructuring the programme for the workshop.


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