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Empowering women for gender equity
ISSN: 1013-0950 (Print) 2158-978X (Online) Journal homepage:
Commission for Gender Equality National Gender
Gray Aschman
To cite this article: Gray Aschman (2014) Commission for Gender Equality National Gender
Summit, Agenda, 28:2, 98-101
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Published online: 16 Jul 2014.
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Download by: [Linköping University Library]
Date: 26 October 2017, At: 22:07
Commission for Gender Equality National
Gender Summit
Downloaded by [Linköping University Library] at 22:07 26 October 2017
Gray Aschman
In April 2014 the South African Commission
for Gender Equality (CGE) held its second
National Gender Summit, entitled ‘Reflecting
on 20 years of democracy in South Africa:
Celebrating gains and strategizing on challenges to attaining gender equality’. The
summit brought together government representatives, members of civil society, private
sector stakeholders, academics and members
of the media from all nine provinces, as well
as local and international donor agencies
to deliberate successes and challenges to
achieving gender equality and equity in South
Africa (SA), and to develop a programme of
action going forward.
Part of the summit focused on celebrating
the gains made towards achieving gender
equality in the last 20 years, although there
was recognition that SA is still a long way
from true gender equity, and that much needs
to be done to improve the lot of women and
gender and sexual minorities before the progressive laws and policies that we have in
place can truly be said to be having an impact
on people’s lived experiences.
Key political, policy and legislative successes in SA’s pursuit of gender equality
include the Constitution’s recognition of the
need for gender equality and protection
against discrimination based on gender; the
establishment of the Ministry of Women,
Children and People with Disabilities; having
attained 45% representation of women in
Parliament; having signed key international
and regional instruments, such as the UN
Convention on the Elimination of all forms
of Discrimination against Women and its
Optional Protocol, the Beijing Platform for
Action, the Millennium Declaration, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and
Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in
Africa, the Solemn Declaration on Gender
Equality in Africa and the Southern African
Development Community Protocol on Gender
and Development; and the passing of
domestic laws that promote gender equality
and protect against discrimination and victimisation based on gender (CGE, 2014a).
These include the Employment Equity Act,
the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of
Unfair Discrimination Act, the Domestic Violence Act, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences
and Related Matters) Amendment Act, the
Protection from Harassment Act, the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons
Act, the Recognition of Customary Marriages
Act, the Maintenance Act and the Choice on
Termination of Pregnancy Act (CGE, 2014a).
However, in practice, major challenges to
true gender equality and equity remain.
Women’s political participation is not always
acknowledged, gender mainstreaming is
inadequately budgeted for, women are under-represented in the judiciary, and there is
no gender parity in the private sector. Patriarchal and sexist attitudes prevail in South
African society, and there has been a resurgence of sexist traditional practices, like virginity testing. Insufficient attention has been
paid to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, women with disabilities and rural women. Further, State implementation of laws and
policies intended to promote equality and
protect women and gender and sexual minorities from discrimination and gender-based
Agenda 100/28.2 2014
ISSN 1013-0950 print/ISSN 2158-978X online
# 2014 G. Aschman
pp. 98–101
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Sixteen key areas to be addressed at the
Summit were identified by the CGE, and over
the course of two days these topics were
discussed and debated in breakaway groups,
which then reported back in plenary for further
discussion. Based on these discussions, a
programme of action was drawn up, detailing
which actions need to be taken to address the
identified issues, who should be responsible
for implementing and overseeing these
actions, and by when they should be completed. The CGE will be making the full
programme available, but some key points
that were agreed upon by Summit participants are outlined below (CGE, 2014b).
Key points (CGE, 2014b)
It was proposed that in order to ensure
the effectiveness of the National Gender
Machinery, the monitoring and oversight
function of the Ministry of Women, Children
and People with Disabilities1 be strengthened,
and that indicators to assess effectiveness be
It was proposed that Government departments should adopt a standardised monitoring framework in order to monitor gender
mainstreaming, and that gender-disaggregated data be collected more rigorously and
regularly. A tool for guiding gender-sensitive
budgeting should also be developed, and
key performance areas (KPAs) should be
developed for departments’ gender focal persons, to clarify their responsibilities and
ensure accountability. Accredited training on
gender mainstreaming and budgeting should
be provided to all Government line managers,
and heads of departments’ performance
assessments should take gender mainstreaming into account.
To address the currently inadequate implementation and enforcement of gender equality legislation, it was proposed that ongoing
South African Qualifications Authorityaccredited training on the relevant legislation and accompanying instructions and
regulations be provided to all South African
Police Service members, members of the
judiciary and other court staff, healthcare
workers and traditional leaders. As with gender mainstreaming, effective implementation
of legislation should be included not only in
individual officials’ KPAs, but also in the KPAs
of the relevant ministers and heads of departments, and they should be held accountable
for shortcomings and failures of service.
violence (GBV) are inadequately implemented, severely hampering access to justice for
victims. Civil society organisations are stepping in to fill the gaps where possible, but are
terribly underfunded and under-capacitated
(CGE, 2014a).
the media should be engaged with in order
to challenge their trivialisation of women
in political leadership and to allocate more
space for women’s issues and voices in
the media
Similarly, SA’s implementation of its obligations under the international and regional
gender equality instruments that it has signed
needs to be monitored. In order to ensure
such implementation, Government officials
should be trained on the provisions of the
relevant instruments, and specific plans of
action for each instrument should be
developed. SA should further ratify important
instruments that it has not yet ratified, such
as the International Labour Organization Conventions on the Rights of Migrant Workers
and their Families and on Maternity Protection, and it should decriminalise sex work, in
line with international precedent.
To ensure gender parity in politics, it was
recommended that the Electoral Act and the
Municipal Electoral Act be amended accordingly, and there was support for the Women’s
Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, in
that it legislates for a 50/50 quota system
for political parties. At a community level,
socialisation initiatives on gender transformation should be run to encourage women’s
involvement in politics, and the media should
be engaged with in order to challenge their
trivialisation of women in political leadership
and to allocate more space for women’s
issues and voices in the media.
The State’s response to the causes and
impact of GBV was highlighted as a critical
area for reform, and several innovative proposals were made: create a system to track
survivors through the system, to ensure that
they receive all necessary services; upscale
training for police officers, healthcare workers, members of the judiciary and social workers on providing a comprehensive response to
GBV; include GBV in school curricula and
develop gender-sensitisation programmes for
Commission for Gender Equality National Gender Summit
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boys to prevent GBV from a young age;
support research, including impact analysis,
on best practices for responding to and preventing GBV; map services to identify duplication and gaps; and partner with cultural
and traditional authorities to ensure the effectiveness of awareness and prevention strategies and campaigns.
Promoting women’s economic empowerment and addressing the impact of poverty on
women was a key priority. In order to do this,
it was suggested that economic policies be
reviewed and revised where necessary, especially to integrate, recognise and support
informal traders, many of whom are women;
legislation be reformed to fast-track women’s
access to and ownership of land; funding
models for female entrepreneurs be developed;
rural women and women with disabilities be
actively included in economic empowerment
training and support interventions; the protection of the labour rights of farm workers and
domestic workers be monitored; and campaigns to curb drug abuse, bullying, crime and
teen pregnancy be run in schools, to prevent
girls dropping out of school and having their
education undermined.
Taking the Millennium Development Goals
into account, it was agreed that a standalone goal of gender equality and women’s
empowerment in the post-2015 development
agenda is required.
To end discrimination against LGBTI people and sex workers, an awareness and outreach strategy is needed to change
communities’ mindsets about diverse gender
identities, sexual orientations and sex work.
Fora to promote and implement such a strategy and to create spaces for dialogue to
foster understanding are needed. Bureaucratic
mechanisms that exclude trans and intersex
people need to be replaced with inclusive
systems and policies, and Government officials need to be trained on gender sensitivity
in order to eradicate stigma and discriminatory and abusive practices. The handling of
cases of discrimination and hate crimes
against LGBTI individuals and sex workers –
including sexual offence cases – needs to be
monitored to ensure that laws and policies are
complied with and that officials who do not
comply are held accountable.
AGENDA 100/28.2 2014
In order to eradicate harmful religious and
traditional practices it was suggested that
dialogues be held to identify harmful practices, as well as to identify and reclaim
positive practices. Mechanisms for identifying, referring and responding to victims of
harmful practices (especially ukuthwala)
should be developed, and the relevant State
officials and traditional leaders should be
trained on how to intervene and assist
To protect women’s health rights and
promote access to healthcare services,
healthcare worker training should aim to
transform attitudes towards gender; the
impact of gender on HIV should be central to
HIV policy; and the specialised needs of
LGBTI patients should be provided for.
To respond to the gendered impact of
climate change, a national climate change
response policy should include the role of
women and vulnerable groups, and a study
should be commissioned to better understand
the impact of climate change on women in SA.
Taking the Millennium Development Goals
into account, it was agreed that a stand-alone
goal of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda
is required. Clear targets and indicators
should accompany this, focusing on eradicating GBV, women’s role in the economy, and
women’s land ownership. Civil society and
women’s movements should be involved in
setting these targets and indicators.
Working with men to end gender inequality was a priority, and suggestions for how to
do this included: integrate gender issues into
everyday life at the community and family
level; engage with the media to promote
positive images of masculinity and create
good role models for boys; engage men in
the gender mainstreaming and gender equality discourse (it should be noted that there
were several men participating in the Summit); and draw traditional leaders into awareness campaigns.
The women’s movement in SA was
powerful and largely united under apartheid,
but has become fragmented post-1994, and
the need to strengthen and reconnect the
movement was identified as a priority. To do
this, all stakeholders (Government – national
and local – civil society, academics, etc.) need
to embed a critical gendered analysis in all
disciplines, and mobilisation needs to happen
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Funding and resources came up frequently
in the discussions, and it was agreed that a
policy framework to guide funding of civil
society organisations is needed if civil society
is to strengthen its role in the National Gender
Machinery, and if civil society is to properly
complement the State’s response to GBV with
victim services. Government departments also
need to devote larger portions of their budgets
to promoting gender equality and meeting
the needs of women and gender minorities.
Increased collaboration with international
donors like the United Nations was encouraged.
Similarly, the need for public awareness
campaigns ran throughout all the priority
areas, as educating the population about
gender issues and women’s and LGBTI individuals’ rights is paramount to achieving gender
equality in SA. Involving traditional leaders
was seen as paramount to the success of
such campaigns, especially in rural areas.
The Summit was an energetic gathering,
with much singing and celebration, but firmly
grounded in the difficult reality that women
and gender minorities face. This seems like a
good basis for moving forward with the
programme of action outlined above, especially given that the final point on the programme is for the CGE to review the impact
of the Summit, and monitor the implementation of the programme.
Subsequent to the CGE Summit, this Ministry was
dissolved, and it was announced that it will
become the Ministry of Women, located in the
Presidency. Functions related to the support of
children and people with disabilities will be transferred to the Department of Social Development.
The relevant sections of the CGE Programme of
Action will need to be amended accordingly.
Commission for Gender Equality (2014a) The Concept
Note: National Gender Summit, 9–11 April 2014.
Commission for Gender Equality (2014b) Summit
Programme of Action: First Draft – 11 April
2014. (Unpublished.)
GRAY ASCHMAN is a researcher in the Gender, Health and Justice Research
Unit at the University of Cape Town. After completing her MSc in Criminology
and Criminal Justice at the University of Oxford, she returned to South Africa to
work on a range of projects, including research on the provision of health care
services to rape survivors and South African women’s pathways to prison.
Recently she has focused on developing a set of monitoring tools to prevent
torture and other ill-treatment in places of detention. Her research interests
include the protection of detainees’ and prisoners’ rights, improving the
response to gender-based violence, and looking at ways of changing societal
attitudes towards gender and gender-based violence. Email: [email protected]
Commission for Gender Equality National Gender Summit
at community level, for example through
inter-generational dialogues and social media.
Feminist values of responsibility and accountability, support and partnerships and organising and mobilising need to be promoted, and
collective solutions need to be sought. The
National Gender Machinery needs to convene
more gender summits like this one to facilitate
reflection, planning and action.
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