Commission on Gender Equality briefing

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14 September

Ms M Morutoa (ANC)

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The Commission on Gender Equality had asked for a meeting with the Committee, so that the Commission could forge stronger links with the Committee, and try to use combined efforts to enhance strategic interventions. The five focal points were outlined, and it was noted that a primary mandate was to monitor legislation and check its impact on gender equality and the status of women. Problems in this mandate arose since the Commission was not informed in advance of legislation being drafted, was unable to make input at the drafting stage, and found itself short of time to compile a full public submission, as it needed to consult with other civil society groups and individuals. It would like to be warned of forthcoming legislation in advance. The second mandate involved ensuring that departments were streamlining gender in their policies, but the problems here lay in departments inadequately performing this function. The Commission was already investigating some of the review indicators from the recent Review of the Chapter 9 institutions, and would report back to this Committee. Members commented that this Committee also was not advised of pending legislation in advance of its publication, cautioned that the Committee and the Commission should not duplicate efforts nor overlap functions, but agreed that monitoring was vital. Members asked what methods of research were being used, the problems hampering its effective fulfillment of mandate, how outreach was done, and how report-back to departments was made. Members commented that it would be useful for the Commission to check whether sufficient advocacy work was being done, and to look at training. It was pointed out that the mandate already gave the Commission power to demand information. Members suggested that a further workshop should also address possible areas of overlap between the component parts of the gender machinery, and seek to establish the precise role and function of the Commission and other bodies. The question was posed whether oversight of the Commission belonged more properly to this Committee or the Justice Portfolio Committee and it was noted that this issue would be debated on 17 September.

Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) Briefing
The Chairperson began the meeting by apologizing on behalf of the members who could not make it to the meeting due to the various reasons ranging from being on sick leave, being sick and attending other committees.

Ms Joyce Piliso- Seroke, Chairperson, Commission on Gender Equality (CGE), thanked the Committee for agreeing to meet with the Commission, and said that the purpose of this meeting was to forge stronger links with the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) to try to achieve combined efforts in strategic interventions. She wished formally to introduce the two new Commissioners, Ms Roshieda Shabodien and Ms Janine Hicks,  and the new Provincial Coordinator, Ms Nolitha Mazwai.

Ms Piliso-Seroke informed the Committee that the CGE had five focal points to help it fulfill the mandate, being Gender and Poverty, Democracy and Good Governance, Gender and HIV/AIDS, Culture and Tradition and Religion and Gender based violence.

Ms Janine Hicks, Commissioner, CGE could not emphasize enough the importance of this meeting, and the need to begin a process of dialogue between the Committee and Commission.

Ms Hicks noted that one of the mandates under Section 11 of the CGE Act was to monitor legislation before parliament, to check its impact upon gender equality and the status of woman. A major concern was that the CGE would normally learn of pending legislation only after it had been published and the three-week cycle for comment was often too short for the CGE to have effective influence. The influence would be far better used in the formative period of the legislation. It would be useful if CGE could be warned by the JMC of any legislation in the loop, so that CGE could make a head start and engage with the limitations of the legislation in its drafting stage.

The second monitoring mandate was around ensuring that departments were streamlining gender in their policies. This was being inadequately pursued. CGE wished to share their findings and the obstacles in order to be able to bring about joint strategies to address the issue.

The Chairperson commented that even though the Committee was part of the gender machinery she was of the opinion that the Executive was the arm of government that could most effectively help the CGE. The Committee had its own mandate, and she was not sure how the JMC could assist the CGE in getting a head-start on legislation when the Committee itself did not have a legislation monitor. She cautioned that the two bodies should not allow their mandates to overlap.

Ms Piliso-Seroke replied, on the point of duplication, that such meetings were crucial in that they could identify what were possible areas of duplication, and what were areas of collaboration. This would in turn assist the CGE in envisaging its mandate.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) commented that their issue about monitoring was crucial. Several departments were sitting on monies allocated instead of using it properly to bring about gender equality. She wholeheartedly agreed that in this area there must be collaboration between the JMC and the CGE.

Mr F Maserumule (ANC) applauded their initiative to come and interact with the Committee. He then asked what methods of research CGE was using and what was the main focus area of the research.

Ms Hicks replied that on the point of methodology CGE conceded that the starting point should be the departments themselves. She wanted to inform the Committee of the combination of policies CGE wanted to use. In its democracy and good governance committee CGE had created a sample of departments and municipalities and had monitored how they implemented gender equality and improvement of women policies and legislation. Data collection was ongoing. The other strategy CGE was looking to use was to monitor the impact of the legislation on women by going directly to the women, in collaboration with the civil and church societies. On the one hand CGE was concerned with policy input, and on the other measuring the impact of the legislation and initiatives on the target audience. Part of the advocacy work was bringing these pieces together.

Ms F Maserumule asked what problems CGE was encountering that hampered the effective implementation of its mandate

Ms Piliso-Seroke replied that CGE was firstly concerned that it would receive legislation only once it had been drafted, because before a proper CGE submission could be put together, information was needed from the various civil societies and the communities. Sometimes by the time this process was done it would be too late to influence the legislation effectively. If the JMC was unable to inform CGE of the proposed legislation, then the gender focal points could perhaps advise the Office on the Status of Women (OSW), which in turn could inform the CGE.

Ms D Morobi (ANC) asked how CGE was conducting its outreach to provinces, especially to the rural woman.

Ms Piliso-Seroke replied that CGE had embarked on an exciting Civil Society Advocacy Programme, where it was working into reaching the rural areas. The programme was initiated by the European Union and it identified three areas to begin the outreach work, in Limpopo, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The outreach would not only encompass establishing offices in the area, but also reaching the heart of the rural areas by using mobile centres. She said that in the next meeting she would fully divulge the plans for this programme.

Ms B Ntuli (ANC) said that she wanted to reiterate Mr Maserumule’s question, asking at which stage the Commission went back to the departments to ensure that they were implementing the legislation and policies.

Ms Hicks replied that after looking at the policy implementation and noting its impact on women,  CGE would go back to the departments and point out the shortfalls in their legislation and policies.

The Chairperson told the CGE that they were free to submit any research to the Committee.

The Chairperson remarked that it would be useful to hold a large workshop and look at whether CGE was doing enough advocacy work. Additionally it should look at how it was training the gender focal point personnel,  and if the Executive perceived their task with sufficient seriousness.

Ms M Meruti commented that this Committee was not part of the drafting of legislation, and reiterated that the Committee was in the same situation as the CGE. This Committee was further advocating for establishment of the OSW in other provinces. 

The Chairperson remarked that it was necessary to exercise caution over the veracity of some information. She further commented that perhaps the name of the Chairperson of a Committee should not be used to describe the report of that Committee.

Ms Piliso-Seroke apologised for the reference to the ad hoc Committee established to review the Chapter 9 institutions by the name of its Chairperson, Prof Asmal. It had been customary in the past to refer to committees by the name of the Chairperson.

Mr D Mabena (ANC) asked if CGE faced any challenges when they interacted with previously disadvantaged people, who were mainly blacks, and if they had any challenges especially in the rural areas.

The Chairperson asked if CGE was operating in all the provinces.

Ms Piliso-Seroke replied that she was happy to inform the Committee that the CGE was fully operational in all the provinces, with the last two offices in Mpumalanga and Gauteng opening last year. Currently it was working on filling all the posts in these two provinces.

Mr Maserumule commented that CGE’s mandate gave it power to go and demand any information it needed to carry out their work and he recommended that they start doing this emphatically.

Ms Hicks replied that it had come out in the review process that the CGE was not making full use of its powers. This was something the Commission was presently dealing with, and would make use of in future.  Its approach to the JMC was to explore collaboration,  realising that the two bodies were seeking similar information in some respects. CGE could certainly acquire the information they needed from the departments but enjoyed a collaborative approach with their sisters in the gender machinery.

Ms Hicks added that the CGE had been conducting dialogue with the civil societies but these plans were new interventions. She stressed that research would encompass more than sending someone from the national office to go and interact with the people. That was why she had said that CGE needed to work with civil societies that already had knowledge, and were part and parcel of the community. CGE also had provincial officers who knew the local culture and people.

Ms Hicks then moved to a second short presentation, to bring the Committee up to date on the review process. In 2006 there was a review process conducted on the CGE by civil society. Recently there had been a review of all Chapter 9 institutions by an ad hoc Committee appointed for this purpose. She wanted to point out that CGE welcomed the reviews and had already established a committee that was analysing all the review reports and assimilating some of the recommendations made. At the moment CGE was synthesising the reviews and would report back to the JMC on how CGE had tackled the weaknesses highlighted in the review process, and the results. She also enquired when the JMC was going to hand over the finalised report of the CGE assessments, so that CGE could just make a single response to all the review comments.

The Chairperson replied that this Committee was conducting any CGE assessment.

Ms Piliso-Seroke formally introduced the Deputy Chairperson of the CGE, Dr Tebogo Maitse, who would take over from Ms Piliso Seroke when she left the CGE at the end of the month.

Ms Ntuli remarked that CGE needed to measure their work in terms of their objectives,  which were to make a better life for women in South Africa. CGE must ask itself if it was meeting the aims.

Ms Hicks replied that CGE welcomed this suggestion of measuring the outcome against objectives, as this showed CGE that it had a long way to go. However she wanted to point out that it was unfair to put the weight of achieving gender equality solely in the hands of the CGE. It was in fact only a part of the gender machinery, and it had its own particular role and function to fulfill.

Ms X Makasi (ANC) and Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) remarked that a workshop that detailed how the gender machinery was going to work together, and clear up objectives so as not to have overlaps, would be useful. Members agreed with this suggestion.

Ms Hicks replied that CGE welcomed the suggestion of a workshop and thought that the starting point should be clarification of roles between the various parts of the gender machinery, and joint reflection on the duplication and collaborations of the respective roles.

The Chairperson remarked that CGE’s stance was giving the Committee great hope. 

Dr Tebogo Maitse commented that although the CGE welcomed the reviews, as these gave an indication of what needed to be overhauled in the structure, the measuring tools used were, in her opinion, questionable. It was impossible to measure something without being able to compare it with anything else. The suggestion had been made that the CGE should be subsumed in the South African Human Rights Commission. Human Rights commissions were common to many countries but the CGE was unique to South Africa. If a workshop was to be held, the CGE would like to engage with this the JMC before any engagement with any other stakeholder.

The Chairperson remarked that this was the reason why the JMC had decided not to go into recommendations, as the Committee had its own views as to how the reviews were conducted. She hoped that there would not be a retrograde move to subsume the CGE into another body, especially in view of the fight people had put up to ensure that gender equality became a reality.

Ms S Camerer (DA) asked if ever the CGE felt that that oversight should come from this Committee, as opposed to the Justice Portfolio Committee.

Ms Piliso-Seroke replied that this was going to be deliberated at the plenary sitting on 17 September. She did not wish to pre-empt the report, but stated that the CGE would report to this Committee.

Ms Camerer remarked that the Justice Committee was partly responsible for the late appointment of commissioners.

The Chairperson agreed with Ms Camerer. She added that it was unfair that the CGE should be criticised for some of its work when for part of the time it had not enjoyed a full complement of Commissioners to do the required work.

The meeting was adjourned.


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