As we mark the centenary of the African National Congress, the oldest liberation movement on the continent, we reaffirm our commitment to work tirelessly for a South Africa that promotes and monitors the realisation of the rights of women, children and people with disabilities. At the core of our struggle for liberation was a determination to ensure that all our people are liberated from a life of indignity, discrimination and oppression.
We are celebrating a century of heroic struggles by the women of our country, such as Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophie de Bruyn, Albertina Sisulu, Ruth Mompati, Dorothy Nyembe, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who are an embodiment of hundred years of a relentless forward march to total emancipation, equality, justice and democracy. Unarmed and defenceless, they challenged the might and brutality of successive oppressive regimes in order to ensure that future generations live in a South Africa that truly belongs to all. We are grateful for their sacrifices and inspired by their courage, and will carry the baton towards equality, employment and poverty eradication.
As we start another journey into the second centenary, united in our diversity, our collective focus will be on making further advances and jealously defending the gains of freedom and democracy.
Mandate of the department
During Women’s Month in 2010, President Zuma articulated our mandate saying: “The department was instituted to ensure the mainstreaming of gender, children’s rights and disability considerations into all programmes of government and other sectors. This will help government to respond to issues of these targeted groups in an integrated and coherent manner”.
Thus the responsibility to translate into reality the realisation of the rights of women children and people with disabilities was placed firmly in this department. However, it has to be understood that ours is not an implementing department. In discharging our mandate, we work with other government departments, provinces, municipalities, civil society and the private sector to ensure that mainstreaming actually happens.
Chairperson, correct understanding of our mandate is a critical prerequisite if our public representatives and stakeholders are to make meaningful inputs into our programmes and effectively hold us to account.
Building internal capacity
This department continues to experience funding challenges particularly as we need to continuously consult the three sectors, engage, develop capacity and report on national, regional and international commitments. In this regard, we are currently engaging Treasury to address our resource constraints.
However, I am pleased to inform the House that, as a department, we have responded practically to the employment policy imperatives and our own commitment to empowerment of people with disabilities and women. We have achieved a 5.5% representativity of employees with disabilities and 57.5% representativity of women in senior management positions. Both these achievements exceed the targets set by Cabinet.
To ensure good governance and transparency an independent labour law firm has been appointed to investigate allegations of corruption, nepotism and mismanagement in the department.
Women Empowerment and Gender Equality
In 2011, I made an undertaking to consult women on poverty, food security, economic opportunities, rural development, climate change, health and violence. I am pleased to report that we hosted a successful National Summit for Rural Women; a National Consultation with young women; a summit with women with disabilities; women in media; widows as well as domestic workers. We hosted a four day National Women’s Conference attended by over 1 000 women and addressed by 16 Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers.
Chairperson, we are in the process of finalising consultations on the women empowerment and gender equality policy towards the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill. The national policy is proposing guidelines for promoting women empowerment and gender equality. Consistent with the directive of the President in his State of the Nation Address, we intend to table the Policy and the Draft Bill before Cabinet this year. This will help enforce compliance in both government and the private sector.
Honourable Members, during the course of this year, we will finalise the engendering of the New Growth Path Framework and the Green Fund so that these initiatives are gender and disability responsive and that women and people with disabilities benefit from these initiatives, including the Job Fund.
Working with Departments of Water and Environmental Affairs and Energy, we are facilitating opportunities for women in rural, peri-urban and informal settlements to participate in green economy projects such as solar energy, water purification, agriculture, construction, waste management and tourism. We are also facilitating financial support and training for women farmers and women’s co-operatives with our national and international partners, particularly UNDP, UNWomen and UNFPA. I am pleased to announce that IDC has responded positively to our partnership call. Through its Transformation and Entrepreneur Scheme, the IDC has committed over R200 million towards the Women Empowerment Fund and R50 million for People with Disabilities.
In addition, we are also empowering women in construction in collaboration with the Departments of Human Settlements and Public Works. We are facilitating opportunities for new women to enter the alternative construction technology field. Gombani in Limpopo and Caguba in the Eastern Cape will provide an example of what rural women can achieve if given opportunities. In these two rural communities, women are building houses and women’s development centres using alternative technology. With the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, we are facilitating women’s access to land.
On the 24th of February this year, we launched the Women Empowerment and Budget Initiative in collaboration with the Motsepe Foundation. We understand that mainstreaming gender into department strategic plans and budgets will help promote gender equality. In this partnership, the Motsepe Foundation will conduct baseline research and UNWomen will assist with technical support and capacity-building.
Chairperson, we are currently involved in the co-ordination of women’s consultation on the proposed Traditional Courts Bill. Women have raised serious concerns regarding this Bill and question its constitutionality. Our interest is to ensure that this Bill does not reverse the gains that women have made towards empowerment and gender equality in the past twenty years.
We are also finalising amendments to the Commission on Gender Equality Act to align it to the Constitution and the PFMA.
The techno-girl programme, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, Uweso and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), encourages girl children to pursue studies in Science, Maths, Engineering and Technology fields through job shadowing and career guidance. About 15 departments are participating in this programme. 1829 girls will be part of the June school holidays intake from both the public and private sector. To date, 4 184 girls are participating in phase 1 of the programme.
Violence against women and children
The horrific spate of persistent violence against women and children continues to be a matter of serious national concern. It condemns women and girls to a life of fear and prevents them from being productive members of society. Women and children need our collective efforts to ensure that they can walk the streets without fear of being raped, assaulted or killed.
The Minister of Police’s efforts to strengthen and resource the re-established Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units at police stations. This will expedite responses to these crimes. The NPA has increased Thuthuzela Centres to over 40 around the country to provide an integrated response, care and support to the victims of violent sexual crimes.
We also commend the Minister of Health for recruiting and training forensic technicians to staff a fourth forensic laboratory. This will go a long way in processing vital evidence.
Additional sexual offences, children’s courts and personnel can assist to speed up and reduce the backlog of sexual offences and all cases relating to children. We are engaging with the Department of Justice and advocating for our justice system to impose the heaviest possible sentences and no bail for perpetrators of violent crimes against women and children, including those with disabilities. This would send a clear message that our society will not tolerate people who commit these atrocities.
We need to take collective action as government and communities to protect the most vulnerable in our society. In this regard, Cabinet recently approved the establishment of the National Council Against Gender-based Violence to be led by the Deputy President. This is because Gender-based violence requires leadership at the highest level. This council is a multi-sectoral national response and we commend the interim council for its ground work thus far.
The Council’s first deliverable, among other things, will be to review, facilitate and monitor the implementation of the 365 Days National Action Plan on No Violence Against Women and Children.
Former President, Nelson Mandela said: “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our wealth, those who care for and protect our people.”
The Children’s Rights and Responsibility agenda is informed by this vision, as affirmed in our Constitution and by the international and regional treaties that we have signed namely, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
This year we will engage children; consult parents, communities and civil society on challenges, gaps and opportunities to scale up integrated response to our commitments. As signatories to the UNCRC we are required to develop a National Plan of Action for children. In this regard, we are reviewing and consulting on the 1997 National Plan of Action for Children (NPAC). Consultations are underway with national departments, provinces, municipalities and various sectors.
In pursuit of child survival, we have signed an MOU with the Department of Health and will continue to support the interventions on maternal and child health care services.
Addressing nutritional needs during the first 1000 days of a child’s life, including the 270 days of a woman’s pregnancy and 365 days in the first two years of an infant’s life is imperative if we are to reap the benefits of good health and development. Nutritional support programmes, in addition to ARV interventions, remain vital. This approach has contributed to the successful reduction of mother to child transmission of HIV by 50%.
We continue to provide institutional support to the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector in collaboration with the Department of Social Development, basic education and health. We are also working with the Department of Basic Education on the advocacy campaign on access to inclusive quality education, retention and preventing children dropping out. We also advocate for strengthening the role of social workers in schools towards quality education.
We will also intensify our Sanitary Dignity Campaign in partnership with the Departments of Basic Education, Health, Correctional Services and Social Development to ensure that children are at school daily and their dignity is restored.
Chairperson, in regard to child protection, the recent spate of violence against children has touched the conscience of our nation profoundly. We must together continue to confront child abuse with every means at our disposal.
Based on a review of violence against children conducted with UNICEF, we will release a report which will include the roles and commitments of all government departments in response to this scourge. This report will be presented at the launch of the National Council on Gender Based Violence in August this year. In addition, we will intensify our advocacy work during Child Protection week, which will be launched by the President on 27 May in Kimberley.
Chairperson, as the African saying goes it takes a village to raise a child therefore child protection starts in the home and community, we are pursuing agreements with the City of Tshwane, Ugu District, Port St John Municipalities and Taung to pilot the Child Friendly cities/communities model to create safe spaces for our children where they can live and play safely free from abuse, exploitation and other environmental hazards such as baboons attacking children in NW and sharks in the eastern and Western Cape.
The department continues to create opportunities for child participation. Last year, the department facilitated the successful participation of children during COP17, in partnership with UNICEF. Their participation culminated into the National Children’s day at the union buildings where children demonstrated their understanding of climate change.
Last year we hosted the first Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament together with the Gauteng Legislature and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, where children from all provinces held those in authority to account. The Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament has created an annual platform for children’s voices to be heard and for legislature to support them.
Chairperson, we are continuing to create opportunities for children’s voices to be directly incorporated into the budget vote processes. Last year we engaged children at a skills school in Mitchell's Plain and yesterday we were at Khayelitsha at Joe Slovo High School where children from Matthew Goniwe and Khayelitsha special school among others, participated.
Borrowing from Nelson Mandela’s wisdow I quote: “There is no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children”.
Rights of People with Disabilities
In line with the State of the Nation Address by the President, we will ensure that both government and the private sector meet the 2% target for the employment of people with disabilities by 31 March 2013. We will report to the nation how both sectors have responded to this imperative as we finalise the review of the National Disability Policy.
Chairperson, the concerns of people with disabilities are a priority on governments’ agenda. Recently, the President, the Minister of social development and I, met with Disabled People South Africa (DPSA). The meeting discussed mainstreaming of the rights of people with disabilities into government programmes, providing job opportunities for people with disabilities and funding. Prior to this, I met a delegation from South African Disability Alliance to address their concerns. We will ensure that the issues raised in these meetings will find concrete expression in departmental programmes.
South Africa successfully hosted the 8th Disabled People International World Assembly, the XVI (16th) World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf in Durban and the World Mental Health Congress held in Cape Town in 2011. I am pleased to announce that in August, Down Syndrome of South Africa will host the 11th World Down Syndrome Congress in Cape Town.
International commitments require the department to coordinate extensive consultations and monitor their domestication, at the department’s cost with, among others, women, children and people with disabilities sectors, and attend the annual sessions of the three sectors at the UN, African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) to report on progress in domesticating and advancing the goals in instruments to which we are signatory.
This year I led the South African delegation to the 56th session of the CSW and the theme was “The Empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges”. In line with this theme and our national priority the department will focus on a multi-sectoral approach to the empowerment of rural women including women with disabilities. In September the Deputy Minister will lead the South African delegation to New York to attend the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) conference of state parties.
I wish to acknowledge rural women here present and wish to congratulate Ms Yvonne Chaka Chaka for the Crystal Award she received from the World Economic Forum in February 2012.
Chairperson, allow me to express my appreciation to my staff, the Portfolio and Select Committees. They provided support and diligent oversight to ensure that the rights of women, children and people with disabilities are advanced.
I would also like to express appreciation to international agencies such as UNDP, UNWomen, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNAIDS and United Nations Population Fund (UNEP) and our partners such as the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Xstrata, ACSA, BIDAIR, Uweso and the Films and Publications Board.
Sincere gratitude to government departments, our provincial governments, municipalities and civil society for the collective response to the needs of women, children and people with disabilities.
Let’s take heed of the founding President of the ANC Women’s League, Charlotte Maxeke who said:
“This work is not for yourselves — kill that spirit of self, and do not live above your people, but live with them. If you can rise, bring someone with you’’.
I thank you
Province Or State