ATC120917: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children, and People with Disabilities on the Study Tour to Norway, dated 21 June 2012

NCOP Women, Children and People with Disabilities



The Portfolio Committee on Women, Children, and People with Disabilities (the Committee), having undertaken a study tour to Norway , reports as follows:

1. Introduction

The Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities undertook a study tour to Norway from the 26 November – 3 December 2011.

2. Background

In responding to its oversight mandate over the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities and the Commission for Gender Equality, and in focusing on issues relating to children, youth and persons with disabilities, the Committee devised a business plan for the current parliamentary term. The thematic approach taken was to engage with issues relating to its target groups in an integrated manner. The themes are as follows: violence and socially vulnerable groups; survival and development (Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 3 and 4); education and skills development; poverty and economic empowerment and lastly a review of the Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Government Machineries and Government Programme of Action for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities.

As part of its oversight mandate, the Committee undertakes domestic site visits and international study visits, to track progress, as well as learn from best practices from other countries on issues pertinent to its sector. For this particular study tour, and after reviewing a number of potential countries, the Committee selected Norway . This selection was based on the work within the Norwegian government departments, and comprehensive programmes for women, children, youth and persons with disabilities. As such, the Committee was keen to engage with ministries, departments and human rights bodies similar to that in South Africa to learn from best practice, and ascertain from parliamentary structures how to improve on oversight over the aforementioned. Specific departments, programmes and agencies were identified within Norway in relation to the work being done for women, children and persons with disabilities.

3. Objectives and identified stakeholders

The following objectives were identified for the study tour to Norway :

· To engage with the relevant government departments responsible for addressing the issues impacting on women, children and persons with disabilities;

· To observe how a country such as Norway is ensuring a better life for all its citizens, particularly women, youth, children and persons with disabilities;

· To enable the Committee to develop sound recommendations to the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa in relation to its findings to improve the lives of the aforementioned target groups;

· As part of its intergovernmental relations with the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, this study tour will assist the Committee in sharing knowledge of best practice models, which could enhance the work of the Department of Women Children and Persons with Disabilities. This is particularly important as the Department of Women, Children and Disabilities is a new department;

· In terms of proposed legislation such as the Gender Equity Bill and a bill specifically focusing on disability, the Committee will gain important insights from legislatures that have developed laws in this regard; and

· The Committee was also interested in engaging with legislatures to determine how oversight on international obligations, is conducted.

The following government institutions were identified to engage with as a means for achieving the said objectives:

· Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion;

· The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud;

· The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal;

· Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs;

· Ombudsman for Children; and

· Anti-Discrimination Ombud.

4. Delegation

The delegation comprised the following:

South Africa

Members of Parliament

Ms DM Ramodibe (chairperson) (ANC);

Ms MF Tlake (ANC);

Ms GK Tseke (ANC);

Ms P Petersen- Maduna (ANC);

Ms D Robinson (DA); and

Ms CB Diemu (COPE).

Support Staff

Ms N Nobatana (Committee Secretary);

Ms K Abrahams (Researcher: Children, Youth and People with Disabilities); and

Ms C Levendale (Researcher: Women).

South African Ambassador to Norway

Ms BR Sisulu


Ms A Hole, Director General, Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion;

Ms E Vigerust, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion;

Mr O Bringa, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion;

Ms I Rusnes, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion; and

Mr M Stephansen, Head of Division, Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs.

Standing Committee on Family and Cultural Affairs and Labour and Social Affairs

Mr P Myklebust, International Coordinator, Norwegian Directorate for Labour and Welfare;

Mr R Hjermann, Ombudsman for Children;

Ms K Oftung, Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and Tribunal;

Ms K Buckman, Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and Tribunal;

Ms I Karlsen, Oslo Women’s Shelter;

Ms L Brenna, Women’s Panel on Discrimination;

Ms J Skei, Leader of the Norwegian Association for the Disabled; and

Ms H Witsoe, Advisor for the Development Aid Work, Federation of the Organisation for the Disabled.

5. Meeting with the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion

5.1 Welcome and introduction

The Director–General of the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion welcomed the delegation from the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities. An overview on the role of the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion was provided. This role involved the following:

· To strengthen consumer rights, interest and safely;

· To allow children and young people to grow up safely and to participate in public decision making process;

· To promote economic and social security for families; and

· To promote full equality of status between men and women.

The Committee was informed that a significant component of the budget of the Ministry goes towards the benefits for families with children. The three main benefits are child benefit, maternity/paternity benefit and cash benefit to the parents of young children. The Ministry implements several programmes that relate to the following areas – adoption, child welfare, children and youth, consumer affairs, ethnic discrimination, family finances, homosexuality, marriage and cohabitation, parents and children, persons with disabilities, as well as violence and abuse in close relationships

Of particular relevance to the Committee was the Ministry’s position insofar as family finances are concerned. Parental leave and related benefits are tied to giving birth and caring for small children in the family while child support regulations aim to provide a sufficient level of care when the family unit breaks up. In addition, the Ministry has a responsibility to ensure that persons with disabilities have the opportunities for personal development, participation and self-realization on par with other citizens. With regard to violence and abuse in close relationships, the Ministry has an action plan to combat domestic violence. It includes efforts to strengthen knowledge and collaboration within the public support system, to highlight and prevent violence within close relationship and to provide help, protection and advice to victims of such violence. The range of treatment services available to perpetrators of violence will also be strengthened.

The Ministry of Children and Equality is responsible for multi-sectoral policies directed toward children and youth. The goal of the Norwegian policy is to secure good, safe environment in which children and young people can grow to adulthood. The importance of the programme is to combat marginalization, equalise living standards and promote equal opportunities for children and young people to influence social development. The Ministry comprises five departments and several directorates . The Committee had the opportunity to engage with the Department of Family Affairs and Equality as well as the Ombudsmen for Children and the Ombudsmen for Equality and Anti-Discrimination.

The Department of Family Affairs and Equality reported to the Committee that Norway had very strong gender equality law which is discussed hereafter. To this end, public and private sectors institutions are expected to report to the Department in terms of compliance with the law, particularly around the 40% gender quota, which has proved to be a successful strategy.

In terms of fostering family life, Norway ’s policies provides for a longer period of maternity leave but also paternity leave (12 weeks). This arrangement would enable the women to then reinter the work force and contribute to the economy. Early childhood centres are available for all children living in Norway to enable parents to pursue employment or further education. A family allowance per child is also available until the age of 18 years. The municipality is vested with the responsibility of establishing early child care centres. Notwithstanding all the services available, the divorce rate in Norway is quite high, despite mediation and counseling services being available to couples prior to separation free of charge. Care and contact arrangements for children are equally divided between both parents. Maintenance is recouped through deduction of 11% of the annual salary and there are tax deductions for single parents.

The Committee enquired as to whether Norway had to contend with teenage pregnancy and children living on the streets. In both instances, the Committee was informed that there were adequate preventative and early intervention service in place and as such if such instances occurred, it was very rare. The relevant authorities would be notified immediately of a child living on the street and immediate intervention would take place.

5.2 Presentation of the Anti-Discrimination and Accessibility Act

Ms Elizabeth Vigerust of the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion provided an input on the Act. The purpose of the Anti-Discrimination and Accessibility Act is to promote equality and ensure equal opportunities for and rights to social participation for all persons regardless of disabilities, and to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability. The Act was implemented on 1 January 2009. It covered all areas of life such as public and private sector, working life, social services, health, restaurant and other goods and services. The main elements of the Act are:

· Prohibition of discrimination on the ground of disability;

· Accessibility;

· Active measures to promote equality; and

· Monitoring and enforcement.

Of interest to the Committee in the Act was the prohibition of discrimination (direct and indirect) on the ground of disability, and the emphasis on enforced recruitment and burden of proof. Moreover, employers had a duty to make efforts to ensure equality through:

· Active target and systematic efforts to promote equality and non-discrimination irrespective of disability; and

· Private undertakings with more than 50 employees and all public undertakings.

The Committee was also informed that there was an overall high compliance with the legislation. There is a positive obligation on the public and private sector to report on an annual basis. In terms of universal design, the Act stipulates that it is an obligation for public and private undertakings to make active, targeted efforts to promote universal design. A duty to ensure universal design has also been included on public and private undertaking, as well as goods and services to the general public. This duty to ensure universal design is done by designing or accommodating the main solutions with regard to physical conditions, so that undertaking of normal function could be used by many as possible. Universal design pertains to buildings, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), public transport. Provision is also made for individual accommodation, such as, kindergartens, schools and education, labour market, social and health services. These should be universally designed in term of the Act. Of importance, is that the Equality and the Anti-Discrimination Ombud monitors the implementation of the Act, and deals with statements of offences. The Equality and the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal Complaints may issue an injunction or order to act and may impose a coercive fine in order to fulfil the requirements.

The Committee enquired about the employment of persons with disabilities within the public sector and social security provisions for persons with disabilities. The Ministry responded and indicated that children with disabilities are eligible for a disability pension (grant) and additional surplus for persons with disabilities until the age of 26 years. The Department of Labour also provides for persons with disabilities that are unable to be accommodated in the open labour market through sheltered employment and day time activities. The Ministry indicated that a provision of 45% of person with disabilities is required within the workplace, and that a person with a disability has the right to individual accommodation.

5.3 Presentation of the Action Plan “ Norway universally designed by 2025”

Mr Bringa, Senior Advisor to the Ministry presented on this issue. The action plan is intended to support the implementation of the new Anti-Discrimination and Accessibility Act, new Planning and Building Act and other new legislation dealing with the universal design. It is also intended to help meet the Norway ’s obligations when Norway ratifies the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The Norwegian Government had developed key strategies to realise universally design goals by 2025. These strategies include integrated and cross-sectoral efforts that place emphasis on cooperation between various administrative stages and levels. Moreover, programmes have also been included to support the work of local authorities. Other strategies include the use of legal instruments and non-legal instruments (e.g. public market powers); economic instruments (e.g. funds earmarked for universal design and accessibility in several sectors) and lastly a focus on four areas of commitment namely outdoors areas/planning, buildings, transport and information and communication technology.

The delegation was also informed that 15 Ministries were involved and reports were received for 2009, 2011 and 2013. Individual ministries were expected to review its area of responsibility. A reference group has also been established comprised of academics, non-governmental organisations and experts in the area that provides expert opinion to the Ministry on relevant matters insofar as the Ministry’s mandate and delivery of core functions is concerned.

5.4 Presentation of the new Action Plan “Gender Equality 2014”

The Norwegian Constitution is gender neutral in its formulation. It contains no explicit provision of gender equality or prohibition against gender discrimination. These areas are regulated by the Norwegian Gender Equality Act. The Act relating to Gender Equality was adopted by the Parliament in 1978. The Act came into force in 1979, has been amended several times, most recently in 2005. The Act promotes gender equality and aims in particular to improving the position of women. Women and men shall be given equal opportunities in education, employment, cultural and professional advancement. The law is based on the principle of non-discrimination which is the cornerstone and basis for promoting gender equality.

6. Meeting at the Oslo Women’s Shelter

The Committee was briefed by the director of the shelter on the development of shelters in Norway . Norway was the first country to have initiated legislation on shelters for women. The initiation of shelters came about as a result of broader women’s movement and protest on violence against women internationally as well as the fight for women’s liberation. During 2010, the shelter accommodated approximately 350 women and children and the day centre received 2030 visitors. Only 1 in 3 women were said to be motivated to do something about their situation. 90% of women at the centre are immigrants. The director noted that majority of the immigrant women are unaware of what their rights are, are isolated and alone with no family support living in Norway .

The Committee enquired about the incidence of domestic violence amongst Norwegians that were not of foreign descent. The presenter noted that no studies have been conducted recently to establish whether such prevalence exists. Furthermore, the director noted that the majority of Norwegian women seek support from family and friends, hence very few access the safe house service, but will utilise the counselling services during office hours. Individual counselling and group therapy is provided to all the women at the shelter. Moreover, therapeutic intervention is also provided to the children.

Women seeking help at a shelter may themselves decide if they wish to stay for a night or two, or over a longer period. They may also choose to just visit and speak to a shelter worker for a few hours, or only seek counselling over the telephone. Shelters work on the principle of help to self-help. All women residing in the shelter have a mobile panic button which can be used to summon police assistance.

7. Meeting with Women’s Panel on Discrimination

The Women’s Panel on Discrimination was established in September 2010 and collaborates closely with the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion. It aims to gain insight, become involved in and setting the agenda for Norway ’s gender equality political challenges. The Women’s Panel consisted of 31 well known and unknown women from different groups in society, different age levels, backgrounds, ethnic groups and working environments. The Panel worked independently of the Ministry with no specific mandate other than to work with current challenges in gender equality and to bring constructive reports to the Minister. The Panel focused on health and labour issues. The Panel found that women are paid less salary than men and found that more women were in leadership positions. In relation to police and defence issues, the Panel found that males were dominating with regard to leadership positions.

The Committee was informed that the majority of the clients were foreign nationals with children and that Norwegian women tended to utilise the services during the day. All women and children living at the centre receive counselling and assistance with regard to finding employment and alternative accommodation once they leave the shelter.

8. Meeting with the Norwegian Association for the Disabled (NAD)

The Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD) is an independent advocacy organisation working for equal rights and social participation for the disabled. Its main target group is people with physical impairments. The organisation is an active participant in the area of international aid as well as doing work related to combating all forms of discrimination.

Social development has always been a challenge to NAD regarding innovative thinking and the ability to readjust. NAD was established before the social security and welfare systems were developed and in a period where people with impairments to a large extent were made invisible and excluded from participation in social life. During the 20 th century, NAD struggled to gain acceptance as regular members of society. They fight against exclusion and promote inclusion. The organisation acknowledges that while a lot has been achieved, there is still a long way to go before they reach their goal of full social participation and equal right.

Disabled people are the real experts when it comes to knowing what living with disabilities is like; hence their inclusive participation at all levels is a prerequisite for success. By anchoring their projects in local communities, they facilitate empowerment and sustainable projects that can carry on beyond the period of NAD’s support. Although NAD is an organisation of physically disabled people, their programs involve people with all types of disabilities. NAD also strives to promote the interests of women with disabilities, who are often doubly discriminated against.

9. Meeting with the Federation of the Organisations for the Disabled (FFO)

The Norwegian Federation of Organisations of Disabled People (FFO) was founded on September 21 st 1950, and is a central co-operative body of organisations of disabled people in Norway . The Norwegian government and FFO have, by agreement, established a Contact Committee. The Committee is headed by the Secretary of State of the Ministry for Health and Social Affairs. Current questions and problems are discussed in this Committee, e.g. FFO’s comments on the annual governmental budget proposals. FFO, along with the Norwegian retired persons association and the Trade Union Congress (LO) in Norway , participate in the annual social security negotiations with the government. FFO is represented on boards, councils and committees, and participates among others, in the State Council on Disability, The Norwegian Biotechnological Committee and the Board of Including Education (Norwegian Directorates for Education and Training). FFO is organised centrally with branch organisations/offices on both county and municipality levels.

10. Meeting with Norwegian Directorates for Children, Youth and Family Affairs

The Committee received a briefing and presentation by Mr Berger Hareide on the key functions and responsibilities of the Directorate, as well as an overview of adoption in Norway , presented by Karin de la Cour and Varin Jarnaess.

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Children and Family Affairs is the central government office under the Ministry of Children and Equality. It is responsible for implementing programmes and objectives as outlined by the Ministry. The main objective of the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs is to provide services of high and accurate quality to children, young people and families in need of assistance and support regardless of where in Norway they live. It is responsible for the following:

· Child welfare;

· Family counselling;

· Adoption;

· Matrimonial cases;

· Ex gratia compensation payments;

· Administration of grants;

· Youth exchanges; and

· Youth information.

The Directorate regards family and home-based programmes as very important and tries to use these as means for addressing challenges within families – institutions are only considered as a last resort. Mr Hareide also indicated that institutions are mainly used to house youth experiencing problems and challenges as children are primarily placed in foster care.

Furthermore, social workers visit foster care homes, as well as the homes of families experiencing problems to assess the situation on a regular basis. It was also highlighted that legislation exists in Norway which obligates any teacher or public servant to report any incidents or suspicion of the abuse or neglect of children.

Members highlighted that they too were concerned about the disintegration of the family unit and welcomed the practice of sending social workers into homes to assess families experiencing challenges on a regular basis.

In terms of the methods used for assessments and the interventions offered, Norway makes use of cognitive programmes including Parent Management Training, Multi-Systemic Therapy (used in the youth programme) and Functional Family Therapy.

It was indicated that Norway has a comprehensive municipal health care system which plays a key role in identifying and intervening in problems and challenges with regard to children. As part of this system, there are also nurses linked to every school.

Members enquired about the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Norway and were informed that the country does not have a high incidence. Children with HIV/AIDS are treated in the mainstream healthcare system.

In terms of the provision of support services for parents who have children with disabilities, Norway has a special programme called “What about us?” It is a national programme of courses on special needs parenting for parents of children with disabilities. The programme is also a forum where parents can share experiences, the latest insights and facts of family life. ”What about us?” courses are also offered to lone providers who have a disabled child.

With regard to adoption services in Norway , the Committee was informed that since the inception of adoption legislation in 1918, the situation in the country has changed with very few domestic adoptions taking place at present. Currently, most adoptions are international in nature. Legislation allowing adoption by same-sex couples was passed in Norway in 2009.

In terms of the process, with the exception of applications to adopt step-children, the adoption process starts in the applicant’s own local authority. The local authority assesses applicants and writes a social report. In the case of an inter-country adoption, the application will then be forwarded to the relevant Regional Office for processing. If the application is granted, it is forwarded to one of the three accredited adoption organisations in Norway : Children of the World - Norway , InorAdopt or Adopsjonsforum. These organisations are responsible for finding children for the applicants. It is important to note that the processing time may vary considerably from one country of adoption to another. In cases where consent for adoption has not been granted, applicants may appeal to the Directorate for Children, Children and Family Affairs.

The Directorate indicated that in 2010, approximately 300 children were adopted from various countries including Korea, China, India, Kenya, Ethiopia and parts of Latin America. The Directorate also indicated that at present, 117 South African children aged between 2 and 8 years have been adopted by Norwegian parents – these children are hosted by the South African Embassy for an “SA event” on an annual basis.

11. Visit to the Norwegian Parliament (Storting): Joint meeting with the Standing Committee on Family and Cultural Affairs and the Standing Committee on Labour and Social Affairs

The Committee was met by Mr Bjornar Hotvedt and Mr Erik Christensen who gave an overview of Parliament and Norwegian politics.

Since 2009, the Norwegian Parliament is a unicameral national assembly. The Storting has legislative powers, considers and approves budgets and has an oversight responsibility. Currently, there are 169 members of Parliament representing the 19 counties in Norway . There are 12 Standing Committees, roughly corresponding to the (17) ministries in Government.

The Committee then met with the Standing Committee on Family and Cultural Affairs and the Standing Committee on Labour and Social Affairs.

Standing Committee on Family and Cultural Affairs: The Committee’s responsibilities are matters relating to families, children, youth, gender equality, consumer affairs and cultural affairs.

Standing Committee on Labour and Social Affairs: The Committee’s responsibilities are matters relating to the labour market and the working environment, work related benefits, social benefits and policy regarding persons with disabilities.

Discussions with these committees centred on women’s representation in Norwegian society, as well as the discrimination of persons with disabilities.

The Chairperson of the Standing Committee noted that having a stable democratic status has allowed Norway to cope well with change and take issues forward. She indicated that for the last 5 years, she had been actively focusing on anti-discrimination of persons with disabilities. She also noted that key to achieving a gender balance and equality is the economic empowerment of women – in Norway , more than 80% of women with small children are actively participating in the labour force. In addition, the sharing of care responsibilities between men and women is high on the agenda in Norway . At present, fathers receive 12 weeks of paternity leave; however, there is a process underway to increase this. The chairperson noted that they have seen the positive impact the involvement of fathers has had on children in Norwegian society. The education of women and the provision of care support for children are therefore important for achieving economic independence of women. There is however still a wage gap between men. Challenges facing women need to be addressed at societal, cultural and religious level.

In terms of achieving a gender balance in Norway , it was highlighted that the 40% representation of women is ensured through legislation. However, it was also indicated that challenges still existed in terms of getting adequate numbers of women in public office, particularly at local government level.

In terms of persons with disabilities, the Standing Committees highlighted that accessibility is still a challenge in Norway . The Committees however highlighted the important “purchasing power” that Government had in that it has the ability to drive change, for example, if a conference needs to be hosted and the venue does not provide for universal access, Government should “take its business elsewhere”. The Committees indicated that accessibility issues were also being taken very seriously at local government level. It was stressed that people will often identify discrimination on the basis of race as serious, but that discrimination on the basis of disability was not seen in the same light. There was therefore an urgent need for both people’s mindsets and the built environment to be changed to see real change and acceptance of persons with disabilities.

12. Meeting with Directorate for Labour and Welfare

The Committee received a presentation from Mr Peter Myklebust on the work of the Norwegian Directorate for Labour and Welfare.

The Directorate of Labour and Welfare is under the authority of the Ministry of Labour. The directorate works on all of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service’s (NAV) policy areas, and runs nationwide support functions for NAV. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service was established on 1 July 2006, and is a comprehensive welfare reform programme. NAV aims to help more people find employment or other meaningful activity.

NAV also provides financial security to individuals through arrangements such as unemployment benefits, family allowances, cash benefits, sickness benefits and pensions. NAV receives more than a third of the state budget making it the largest state agency.

In Norway , persons aged 15 – 74 years old constitute the labour force. Labour force statistics as at October 2011 indicate that 2.2 per cent and 2.6 per cent of men are totally unemployed. In terms of youth unemployment (i.e. persons aged 15-29 years), 7.5 per cent of youth are unemployed.

Approximately 700 000 persons in the Norwegian work force receive different kinds of benefits. Statistics show that this number is on the increase, especially among young people. An extensive reform is required to reverse this development. Mr Myklebust informed the Committee that for the past 8 to 9 years, more young men than women have been dropping out of school. In Norway , schooling is compulsory up to the age of 19 years, however if young people do not complete their schooling, they are still entitled to a financial guarantee/subsidy. Youth measures to combat unemployment focuses on the age group 16 to 24 years.

Every municipality in Norway has a NAV office, and the largest cities have NAV offices in each city district. The NAV office collaborates with the state-run Labour and Welfare Service and the municipality’s social services.

13. Meeting with Ombudsman for Children

The Ombudsman for Children in Norway is charged with promoting the interests of children in both the public and private spheres, and with paying close attention to changes in the conditions of childhood development. The Act, relating to the Ombudsman for Children in Norway was adopted in 1981, and the first such ombudsman in the world was appointed the same year. The office of the ombudsman may initiate action on its own or respond to issues referred by others.

The Ombudsman for Children is appointed by the King of Norway and serves a six-year non-renewable term. The Ombudsman indicated that personnel employed in the Ombud offices comprised a multi-disciplinary team including among others criminologists, lawyers, social workers, sociologists and child workers.

The Ombudsman (Mr. Reijar Hjermann) highlighted that due to the child rights focus and participatory nature of the office, the Ombudsman for Children in Norway enjoys a high standing in the Norwegian society.

Currently, the Ombudsman is lobbying to lower the voting age in local government elections from 18 years to 16 years of age. In addition, the office has also successfully lobbied the administrative head of parliament to start a “youth parliament” which will be represented by two youths from every county to speak to and highlight issues faced by children and youth in Norway .

It was highlighted that children’s participation is very high on the agenda of the Norwegian government. To this end, children also (informally) participate in the recruitment and appointment process of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman indicated that following the short-listing process, a focus group of children also had the opportunity to interview and engages with candidates and give input/feedback to the recruitment agency. Following this, the recruitment agency reduces the shortlist and forwards it to the Ministry for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion who then makes a recommendation and proposes it to the King for appointment. The Ombudsman indicated that they were lobbying that the child/youth participation in the recruitment process be formalised.

14. Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and Tribunal

The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud operates independently within his or her field of expertise but is administratively integrated within the Ministry of Children and Equality. The Ombud fights discrimination and promotes equality regardless of factors like gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and age.

The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal handles complaints and appeals regarding recommendations and actions by the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud. The tribunal deals only with matters that first come before the Ombud.

15. Findings and Recommendations

The Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities, having undertaken the study tour to Norway, was able to gain valuable insights and knowledge, in particular in relation to legislation and policies for women, children and persons with disabilities, as well as programmatic responses to challenges faced by these target groups.

The Committee recommends/finds as follows:

· There is a need to look at the synergies between the current disability, anti-discrimination and gender equality legislation in Norway, and the proposed disability and gender equality legislation in South Africa;

· In terms of Universal Design, Norwegian legislation places a responsibility on both the public and private sector to promote universal access. In addition, universal access is a transversal issue and included in all departmental policies and programmes. Therefore the issue of universal design is utilised more as a strategy;

· An early intervention and prevention approach is implemented at a municipal level. Therefore if a citizen requires any form of assistance or support, this can be identified at the onset and the appropriate service can be rendered – in most instances free of charge. Such a holistic approach is aimed at keeping families together, with any form of institutionalization being seen as the last resort;

· There is a high regard for child participation – this was evident in the engagement with the Ombudsman for Children, as well as the Ministry for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion. An Ombudsman for Children should be explored within the South African context; and

· In terms of promoting safety and combating domestic violence against women, all women living at shelters have a mobile panic button and police in the area are aware of each individual case.

Report to be considered.


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