Initiatives to Promote Gender Equality: briefing by Commission on Gender Equality (National Gender Machinery), Oxfam, Men in Par

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


9 September 2005

Ms Morotuoa (ANC)

Documents handed out:
SA National Gender Machinery briefing
Men in Partnership Against AIDS briefing
Oxfam Final Protocol Report 2
Oxfam Great Britain Presentation to Parliament
Protocol Report to African Charter on Human and People’s Rights of Woman

The Committee first heard a briefing by the Commission for Gender Equality on the South African National Gender Machinery (NGM) programme for involving men in promoting gender equality. The Men in Partnership Against AIDS (MIPAA) then gave a presentation on the role of men in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It focused on encouraging men to test for HIV and encouraging safe sex and the sensitising of men towards their reproductive health. Oxfam presented on the African Union Research Report on the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women.

Members’ concerns surrounded the NGM plans to improve its public visibility, the exclusion of the rural men from the 16 Days of Activism activities, and the reason why the MIPAA was concentrated in KwaZulu-Natal. Members also wanted clarity on the role of MIPAA in the distribution of antiretroviral drugs. What had been the effect of only 11 countries ratifying the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women?


Commission for Gender Equality briefing
Rev Khumalo, Commissioner for Gender Equality, briefed the Members on the SA National Machinery programme, and on the constructive involvement of men in promoting gender equality. The objectives of the NGM were to engage men at all levels of government and civil society, in efforts to promote gender equality. Some of the roles and responsibilities of the NGM were to develop support for activities through the media. The NGM planned to conduct an audit and assist government to implement and integrate gender strategies.

Some of its activities included participating in the 16 Days of Activism and recruiting gender equality ambassadors, especially high-profile personalities. Men controlled sexual relations and coercive sex was the norm - that attitude needed to be changed. Up to 77% of South African HIV-positive women aged between 18-24 years, had been infected by older men. Their plan was to change the attitude of boy children through education.

Ms N Morobi (ANC) asked how far the NGM had gone in reaching its goals. How much commitment had come from other partners, such as the private sector? Rev Khumalo replied that the private sector was already on board with other groupings such as traditional leaders and churches.

Ms Ngele (ANC) asked what type of plans would be used to raise the visibility of their organisation. Rev Khumalo replied they had held talks with the SABC for publicity around activities of NGM. At the Men's Summit to be held in Durban, the focus would be on rural men and the launch of the National Action Plan.

Ms Dori asked about the racial composition of the grouping, and whether they worked with gay and lesbian people and sex workers.

Mr M Botha replied that the composition of his organisation was largely black African. Other racial groupings assumed that only black African people were prone to violence against women. White Indian and ‘coloured’ communities tended to be in denial about HIV/AIDS and violence against women. One way of overcoming the denial was to target school children because they were less likely to resist change. HIV/AIDS infection cut across classes, races and religions. He acknowledged that not much work had been done with sex workers. Rev Khumalo added that Gay and Lesbian population were highly active Gender issues.

Ms Tshwete asked whether the planned march in December would also happen in rural areas. Rev Khumalo said that marches would be held countrywide because they had structures even in rural areas. He acknowledged that more work still had to be done in rural areas.

Ms Rwexana asked for clarity on the role of the organisation. Was it only dealing with HIV/AIDS or did it also deal with other partnerships with women? Mr Botha replied that men largely made decisions about sex and condoms because most men felt that they ‘owned’ their partners. There was a very strong relationship between HIV/AIDS and violence against women.

Men In Partnership Against AIDS briefing
Mr R Gobind, MIPAA Chairperson, said the organisation had been launched in 1998 by the Department of Health. It was a collaboration of government structures, business, labour unions and community organisations. The goals of MIPAA included the reduction of the impact of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) on individuals, communities and families. They were planing to organise and support capacity-building workshops on HIV/AIDS and TB. MIPAA's achievements included the sensitisation of some men towards reproductive health through workshops. The "Feed a Child Campaign" would be spread to all provinces. There were some constraints and challenges, such as a lack of resources and dependency on the Department of Health.

Ms P Tshwete (ANC) asked why MIPAA had focussed on KwaZulu-Natal, and about the National Task team. Mr Gobind replied that his organisation was represented in every province. Each province had three delegates who would then elect the National Executive.

Mr D Mabena (ANC) asked about the relationship between Men In Partnership Against AIDS and the Department of Social Welfare. Mr Gobind replied that his organisation had established relationships with different departments in the Health and Social Welfare cluster.

Ms Tshwete asked about the role of MIPAA in the use of antiretrovirals (ARVs). Mr Gobind replied that MIPAA did not distribute ARVs, but their role was to mobilise men to access ARVs. They had negotiated with traditional healers to encourage their patients to accepting ARVs.

Rev B Khumalo said that men in general did not often test for HIV infection, but would only for testing when they were sick. They however encouraged their partners to test for HIV. His organisation had been encouraging employers to train their employees to test themselves in a "non-threatening environment". Nurses at clinics were mainly women and therefore some men felt threatened. Ms Tshwete added that the attitude of some health workers was a problem as result confidentiality was not respected.

Mr Gobind said that the MIPAA had been targeting racial minorities because the latter tended to think that HIV/AIDS only affected black Africans. MIPPA campaigns also targeted schools children. Fathers had to influence their boy children to share household chores and do away with the notion that women could be forced into sexual intercourse. Parents in the Indian and black African communities often did not talk about sex with their children because it was regarded as a taboo subject.

Oxfam Great Britain: briefing
Ms Ayanda Mvimbi, Oxfam SA Programme Manager: Gender and Development, gave a brief history of Oxfam and it's past activities in South Africa. They were involved with humanitarian work through partnerships with local community organisations. Their mission was to overcome poverty through initiatives such as the free trade campaign. Her presentation focused on research started in 2003 into awareness of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women among policymakers and civil society.

Their Research Report highlighted threats, challenges, best practices and lessons. South Africa had made three reservations in terms of the Protocol. One was Article (4) that stated that South Africa did not promote the death penalty. Other Articles were on violence against women, health and reproductive rights. Challenges included the weakness of women's movement in Africa to lobby for gender issues. The level of awareness about the Protocol was low in the media and among community organisations. It was highest in government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The strength of African patriarchal systems, traditions, religions and culture, continued to restrict women's emancipation.

Mr Mabena asked about the services provided by Oxfam. Mr Gobind also questioned the extent to which Oxfam networked with other organisations on the ground. Ms A Mvimbi replied that Oxfam had been working in partnership with different organisations such as Umthatha Women’s Group self-help scheme.

Ms Dori (ANC) asked the reason Oxfam had left South Africa during the height of apartheid. Ms Mvimbi replied that they had been harassed by the apartheid government while Oxfam operated from Lesotho. They had then moved their offices to Oxford in the UK.

Ms Mabe (ANC) enquired why only eleven countries had ratified the Protocol, rather than the 15 countries that had agreed to it, and what would be the effect. Ms Mvimbi replied that the Protocol could not yet be enforced because other countries have not ratified it. If less than 15 countries ratified it, it could not be enforced. A group of NGOs were lobbying countries to ratify the Protocol, and this group would be meeting in Addis Ababa in the near future.

Mr Mabena asked how Oxfam shops were run, and to whom they donated goods. Ms Mvimbi replied that the shops sold donated clothing and the money was channelled to Oxfam programmes.

Mr Tshabalala asked what type of monitoring and evaluation tools were used by Oxfam in their projects. Ms Mvimbi replied that they were using the ‘African Model of Monitoring and Evaluation’.

The Chairperson asked the reason they were named ‘Oxfam Great Britain’. Ms Mvimbi replied that Oxfam was represented in three regions in Africa: the Southern Africa, East and the West Africa regions. They were a British organisation based in Oxford, and Oxfam in Africa fell under Oxfam Great Britain. There was Oxfam Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, United States, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Ms Rwexana asked about Oxfam's involvement in the OR Tambo District Municipality. Ms Mvimbi replied that they were working with Umthatha Women's Group in that district.

Ms Tshwete wanted to know the reason why Oxfam had been showing pictures of malnourished children and use them for fundraising purposes. Ms Mvimbi replied that her organisation did not publicise this kind of picture, and invited Members to view their records.

The Chairperson said she would appreciate if Oxfam would forward all the campaigns they had undertaken in the past, and the names of the organisations that had worked with them.

The meeting was adjourned.


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