Charting the Way Forward

The National Gender Summit, convened by the South African Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) with the support of a number of partners from a variety of sectors, came to an end on Friday with a draft Programme of Action (the “Programme”), and a Declaration.

The draft Programme was pulled together from the discussions and break-away groups over the previous two days, then returned to the delegates to discuss and provide feedback and suggestions. Unfortunately, there was once again not enough opportunity to really get our teeth into more than a few of the seventeen issues, each of which had a number of action points against it, in the short space of time available to us. This left me – and a number of the other delegates I spoke to – with a sense of dismay at not having been as fully consulted as we had hoped and anticipated.

One of the key points to arise from the discussion group I was part of was a strong feeling that civil society should be engaged in a thorough, structured way, which is legislated for, within the national gender machinery (NGM). We felt it important to adopt the principle of working together across the State, Chapter 9 institutions, labour and civil society as a way of strengthening the NGM, which should create an enabling environment and more access to state information for accountability, monitoring and evaluation, and research, as well as reducing duplication, filling gaps, and providing mutual accountability.

A point of concern at our table related to the issue of ‘Accelerating the attainment of 50/50 women’s representation and participation’. A few of us felt that the 50/50 representation and participation of women is not a goal or an outcome, but rather a tactic. There is no obligation for women to represent women, or promote gender equality, and many female politicians are as self-interested as their male counterparts. We therefore felt that it is not constructive to put resources and funding into this area of action.

There were, however, many crucial issues highlighted within the Programme, with meaningful action points such as streamlining the Women’s Ministry to function with an outcome-based approach, aligning its outcomes to those that unlock funding from Treasury. Another key action point is monitoring departmental implementation of legislation, and holding officials to account for failing to provide information requested. As the CGE has previously found accountability within departments lacking, there was a general feeling amount delegates that punitive measures should be legislated for.

The final issue in the Programme was the monitoring of the implementation of the Programme itself, to be undertaken by the CGE and the NGM, with a review of the impact in December 2015. I look forward with keen interest to seeing the finalised Programme, once the suggestions of the delegates have been considered, as well as how effective the implementation will be during the come year and a half. While the responsibility for this lies predominantly with the CGE and the NGM, it is up to us as citizens, and members of civil society, to ensure they are held accountable.


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