Women in Water and Forestry: Department briefing

Water and Sanitation

05 September 2007
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

05 September 2007

Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Progress Made on The Advancement of Women in DWAF

Audio recording of meeting

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry briefed the Committee on the latest projects and programmes targeting the advancement of women in water affairs and forestry, seen against the backdrop of the gender programmes being implemented by all departments. Most of the projects had yet to be fully implemented and some were still in the planning phase. The priorities of the Department included the eradication of the bucket system, access to water, training women into decision-making positions, and planting trees for food. All of these impacted upon the lives of women, and provided opportunities for women to play a more important economic role. The Working for Water programme had intended to appoint 46 000 women, but insufficient women were participating, and the jobs did not seem to be sustainable. Two year contracts were given under this programme but people did not appear to be able to make the transition from first to second economy in that time. Other projects included infrastructure development at the dams, which should involve women, and other women-specific projects such as bee-=keeping, nurseries, charcoal production, grass cutting and tree planting and greening. A learning academy was established to offer training programmes. Bursaries for women in the fields that would lead into working in this sector were encouraged.

Members asked questions on sustainability and expressed their concern that although the plans were good, not enough concrete measures were being taken to implement the projects and ensure sustainability. Further questions related to the growing of tress, communication with the public, the link between programmes and policies, women in timber operations, access to water in rural areas, catchment areas and women in forestry projects. The Department said that questions around sustainability could not yet be addressed as many of the projects were too young to show any impact as yet. The Committee stressed that these questions were important, and looked forward to further feedback from the Department. .

Advancement of Women in Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF): Briefing

Ms Nobubele Ngele, Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, informed the Committee that the programmes to address the position of women in the Department (DWAF) were separated into four units, which included, Gender global instruments; Policy and strategic frameworks; impact of priority areas and current projects.

The Gender Global Instruments were the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against Women, the Beijing Declaration Platform of Action, Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg plan of action, which contained a clause that required the examination of the role of women in DWAF, as well as requiring the Department to align, monitor and report on development of women. There was also a strategic framework for gender and women empowerment, which at the moment was in draft from, but the Department planned to implement it soon. The framework examined the notion of information management for women's issues. A gender analysis and audit project to check that programmes were in line with gender global instruments and perspectives was under way in the Department.

The overall impact of priorities for the Department would address eradication of the bucket system, which affects the safety and health of women.  Another priority was access to water, which compromised the security of women, especially those in the rural areas, since they had to travel far to fetch water.  The establishment of institutions would assist in deploying women to positions of decision-making, which in turn opened up participation.  The final priority was planting trees for food, which the Department believed opened up space for women to play an important role in economic terms.

Current projects include the Working for Water programme, which had a few problems. The intention was to appoint 46 000 women per contract period, and 2 236 women contractors, and it was intended to address value making industries such as making of coffins and furniture with removed alien wood, and thus to contribute to skills development and poverty alleviation. Ms Ngele said that she was unhappy with the number of women who participated in the programme, and that it was not bringing about sustainable jobs for women.  She also had a problem with the fact that many people who worked for this programme could not go beyond the allocated two years, and were unable to transition from first to second economy.

Economic empowerment was to be addressed through infrastructure development at De Hoop Dam, where it was hoped to include 50% women on the Board, and at Great Letaba. Existing dam structures appointed 2 949 employees, of whom 534 were women. Women-specific projects included bee-keeping, nurseries, charcoal production, grass cutting, Marula Harvesting, tree planting and greening. The Department had established a learning academy, which was aiming at three programmes, with good representation of females. The professions leading in to the Department were mostly in the engineering, water science and technical fields, and here the Department had set targets for external bursaries, mainly aimed at female students, as well as internships, so women are able to have higher positions in the Department and the workplace on graduation.

Ms Ngele said that in August, during Women’s Month, the Department held a Women’s Ndaba, with the aim of establishing the needs of women in DWAF, as well as looking at key issues and prioritising them.  The Ndaba also examined the development of women in leadership roles, such as getting them involved in economic empowerment.

Ms M Nkompe-Ngwenya (ANC) asked about women specific projects, such as the Forestry Projects.  The sustainability of the projects was important. She asked if the women working there were also being empowered to train others.  She saw no concrete measures being taken.  The Department had good vision, but seem to have a problem with implementation. She added that DWAF needed to have a timeframe for the achievement of its goals

Ms Ngele said that forestry projects were focusing on production, and not on onward-training and management.

Ms E Lishiva (ANC) asked about the number of disabled people in any of the Department's projects

Ms Lishiva asked the Department if it was only concerned with growing fruit trees, and asked what was the situation in places with soil erosion

Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked which mechanisms would be used to communicate with the public about legislation

Ms P Khumalo, Deputy Director: Forestry Capacity building, DWAF, said that the media was used as a form of communication

Mr Mosala wanted to know about sustainability, and asked if the Department was able to create meaningful job opportunities for women, as well as developing women permanently, so they were able to cope on conclusion of the project.

Ms Ngele answered that in terms of sustainability, each contractor in the Working for Water programme had a two year contract. However, the enterprise development projects were longer-term.

Ms Khumalo added that some projects were sustainable.  Women in rural areas were empowered through information campaigns such as Arbor Week, which committed the Department to planting a million trees, which would mostly be fruit trees.

Mr Mosala asked how the DWAF managed to create a link between programmes and policies.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) asserted that the ANC had made great strides in the progress of women in the workplace.  He asked how many women were involved in the bucket eradication system, which should be completed in December of 2007.

Mr Moonsamy wanted more light shed on the planting of trees for food, and asked if there was money to be made from this.

Ms Khumalo replied that the fruit trees would be used to mainly alleviate hunger, but the Department was also planting indigenous trees.

Mr Moonsamy asked how DWAF addressed the issue of women in timber operations

Mr M Swathe (DA) wanted to know what happened to the contractors once their contracts expired

Ms Ngele said that these contracts were basically for training, and did not take people to any other level after they expired.

Mr Swathe said that in certain rural areas, that he cited, there were people who did not have access to water, and he asked how the Department planned to fix this problem.

Ms Ngele stated that she could not answer this question as yet, but would get back to the Committee with an answer once she had investigated the situation.

Mr Swathe asked if DWAF had any awareness programmes in connection with forestry issues such as deforestation.

Ms Manana (ANC) wanted more information on the catchment areas, and asked how many people were there in those areas.

Ms Ngele said that in terms of catchment management, people in DWAF were still being transferred.

Ms Manana asked how women were involved in the forestry projects, and if there were any plans from the Department to provide women with skills, in case they wanted to become entrepreneurs after the expiration of their contracts

Ms Ngele said that that the Gender Analysis and Audit programme had only been started in July 2007, so most of the information the Committee required was not yet available. She stated that she would be able to answer questions more eloquently in the next meeting the Department had with the Committee, when the project would have been running for longer.

Ms Ntsiki Magazi, Director for Gender: DWAF, said that during the last year there was an oversight to Limpopo where she met with women contractors.  As the Department had engaged with the women it found out that they were working in bad sanitation conditions. The Department was still discussing these issues

The Chairperson said that she understood that the question of sustainability could not be answered yet, but the Department should not take the issue lightly.  She stated that the programmes were not bad; but the Department just seemed to have a problem with implementation.  She did not want women remaining in a certain bracket in the workplace where they were working only in menial jobs and could not progress any further. She said that on an oversight visit she realised that there was no consideration for women, children or the disabled.

Mr Mosala asked when the Committee would get feedback from the Department

Ms Nkompe Ngwenya stressed that women must be empowered to rise in their positions.

Mr Swathe stated that people on the ground needed to see tangible things happening. The Department needed to give something concrete, and should not simply talk without showing action.

Ms Ngele promised the Committee to revert with a full report on outstanding issues as soon as possible.

The meeting was adjourned.



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