Office on the Status of Women: Budget Vote Hearing

Monitoring Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women

23 May 2008
Chairperson: Ms M Morutoa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee received a briefing on the OSW Budget and Strategic Plan 2008/9. Members raised concerns about the lack of OSW participation in rural provinces at the expense of women and children in those areas. Another matter of concern was the fact that experts who had been given the responsibility of dealing with women’s’ issues were impractical and their efforts not visible, except at conferences and symposiums. OSW cited insufficient funds as the barrier to the implementation of programs.

Meeting report

The Chairperson apologised for opposition members who could not be present due to other commitments regarding legislation and community service. She stated that the agenda of the meeting was the OSW budget debate.

Presentation by the Office on the Status of Women
Ms R Reddy, Director in the Office on the Status of Women(OSW), briefed the Committee on the OSW Strategy and Operational Plan, noting that the Office had been closed for eight months before she assumed the directorship in November 2007 and thus no operational plan had been available before then. She tabled the strategic objectives of the office which had been broken into units including Policy Coordination and Advisory Services (PCAS) and a Gender Unit.

She stated that OSW was a coordination structure for the national machinery on gender equality with various functions mainly gender mainstreaming, capacity building and advocacy. Ms Reddy stated that the above mandate guided the 2008/9 strategy and operational plan. She added that the office had an external strategy to monitor the implementation of national programs.

Ms Reddy said gender mainstreaming was done through key activities like research, with focus on harmful traditional practices. She noted that Austria wanted South Africa to drive research which would help identify harmful traditional practices. She added that the Canadian government had granted R2.5 million to the South African Management Development Institute (SMDI) to produce a training manual for gender sensitisation.  She added that capacity was also built through pilot training processes.

In relation to strategy, Ms Reddy said the office facilitated gender equality and women’s empowerment through key advocacy activities. These included liaison with government and civil society in activities, national, regional and international. She said the office monitored and evaluated indicators of progress relating to women’s empowerment and gender equality. Key activities in this regard included the introduction of a framework to help departments’ accountability in producing reports and report compilation in compliance with international instruments.

Ms Reddy noted that the office had developed a marketing strategy to communicate with relevant
stakeholders for networking and liaison. Se quoted the Constitution and how it guided activities, adding that the Office had requested R3.5 million in 2007 to run its program. She stated that R1 million would have been used to run the Office’s gender program in municipalities and the rest would be used to run ORC and OSDP. According to Ms Reddy the office got R2.3 million and this made it a challenge in terms of how to make it work. From the allocated funds, R200 000 was used for gender mainstreaming, R100 000 for planning and coordination, R600 000 for advocacy; the Department of Arts and Culture received R600 000 for its activities. Ms Reddy also noted that the CEDAW Report had also cost a lot and that there was still a lot that had to be done. She said the challenge was insufficient funding.

Mr F Maserumole (ANC) said South African women were highly organized, adding that he saw no reason why they should not deliver. He noted that every workshops, symposiums and conference were all about theorising. Plans and programs were made but they were never implemented. He said that experts were impractical though they spent taxpayers’ money. He cited a successful women’s program though they were illiterate and asked what the OSW was doing for rural women.

Ms Reddy agreed that OSW was not visible adding that grassroots programs had to be initiated by relevant government departments.

Ms B Ntuli (ANC) said the documents presented reflected expert compilation; tools were available but gender mainstreaming was not implemented though a lot of discussions were held. She added that rural women were waiting for OSW and asked what the Office was doing for them in terms of capacity building. Ms Ntuli noted that issues are discussed in boardrooms while women were faced with gender related situations like violence. She said the OSW was not active in provinces. She asked which women were targeted for OSW programs.

Ms Reddy responded by saying that provincial OSW were in the process of being brought together, and noted that they had different provincial problems.

The Chairperson stated that there had to be a focus on the government’s HIV program, and the justice department’s role in dealing with gender violence. She asked what the plan for home based care was for HIV victims and early child development. The Chairperson cited previously agreed measures to deal with gender issues and said it was no longer possible to for a distinct allocation for OSW. She said that what had come out of previous meetings was the frustrations of dealing with women’s issues. The Chairperson stated that the issue of gender mainstreaming had not been properly dealt with and asked what was being done to ensure that it was.

Ms Reddy said there was lack of understanding on gender mainstreaming by public officials which made program implementation difficult. She said the manual produced by SAMDI taught gender mainstreaming but that the effect in rural areas was not yet felt.

Mr Maserumole asked if OSW could choose one province and embark on a pilot program that targeted women for the financial year. He added that urban centers gave a wrong picture about what was going on in South Africa and that the reality in rural areas was disturbing as women and children were affected by social problems. He noted that priorities were not identified and thus services were not delivered.

Ms Reddy said women’s programs were ongoing in places like Limpopo province. She said progress was slow due to the envisioned structure of gender machinery in 1994. She added that it would take time to see improvement.

The Chairperson said the Committee had to go on oversight trips and prepare a report for Parliament. She said that the budget should be gender responsive as that was not the case, and the Committee had to identify gaps and concerns to be dealt with. The Chairperson noted that gender focus was lacking in departments and that had to change.

The meeting was adjourned.


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