Parliamentary media briefing by the Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities Ms Lulu Xingwana, Cape Town
17 Nov 2010
Thank you for joining us this morning.
The starting point for this relatively new department is to outline its mandate and core-functions within the government system.
This Ministry is responsible for protection and promotion of interests of women, children and persons with disabilities. You will understand that the issues affecting these three groups cut across various service delivery government departments and other sectors of society.
Our core-function is the mainstreaming of gender, disability and children’s rights consideration into all programmes of government and the rest of society. Mainstreaming is defined as a strategy for making concerns and experiences of women, children and persons with disabilities an integral dimension of the policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women, children and persons with disabilities benefit equally as the rest of the population and inequality is not perpetuated.
Our department is responsible for monitoring and evaluating that the rights of these groups are protected and promoted in all programmes of government and across all sectors of society. We are responsible for advocacy and coordination of an integrated programme for protection and promotion of rights of the three groups. We have to provide policy guidelines and implement capacity programmes for the three groups.
We also participate in multi-lateral engagements related to the three groups and facilitate reporting and compliance with international and regional protocols that South Africa is party to.
Impact on the lives of women, children and people with disabilities
We are not a department that delivers direct services to the public. The output of our mainstreaming function is prioritisation of the interest of women, children and persons with disabilities in all development programmes in the country. For instance, crimes against women and children should receive same level of attention as business robberies or hijacking. Health needs of women, children and persons with disabilities should be a priority. Transport plans should accommodate the mobility needs of persons with disabilities.
What this means is that we will be interacting with each of the service delivery departments to ensure that their programmes are responsive to the needs of the three groups and we will monitor whether progress is made in this regard. We also report such progress and challenges to the United Nations, African Union and other regional and multi-lateral organisation responsible for protocols that SA is party to.
Where there are gaps in the realisation of rights of these groups, we advocate and lead the initiation of appropriate interventions. We should be able to mobilise various departments, spheres of government, business and civil society partners into integrated programmes to improve the socio-economic status of women, children and persons with disabilities in our society.
Coordination of commemorative days relating to women, children and persons with disabilities is also assigned to this department. We will be using these commemorative days for advocacy and mobilisation around key issues affecting each of the groups. National Women’s Day, for instance, should not be just an event but an opportunity to highlight specific issues that are of interest to women at that particular point.
The most urgent priority is to capacitate the department so that it effectively carries out the mandate assigned to us by government. The proposed organisational structure of the Department has been reviewed to ensure that it is streamlined and geared towards achieving the mandate and its core-functions. The revised structure has been finalised and is now subject to approval by Cabinet.
We need to immediately mobilise the necessary expertise to capacitate the department. This should combine both recruitments into vacancies based on the new structure and better coordination of our relationship with various departments, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders.
We now have a Director-General (Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize) and have also secured the services of a Chief Financial Officer (Ms Unathi Ndobeni) assigned to us by National Treasury. Together, they are going to ensure that spending of our limited budget is aimed at fulfilling our mandate. Part of the brief for the CFO is to cut down expenditure on subsistence and travel and make sure that all financial and procurement procedures are followed. We have to act strictly in line with Public Finance Management Act.
Over the past two days, we have held a strategic planning session where all our department officials engaged with the mandate and core-functions with the aim of coming out with measurable indicators for our performance.
On coordination of our relationship with stakeholders, I have already started consultations with some women’s groups. I will soon be consulting with child rights’ groups and on 2 and 3 December , we have a Disability Summit where we hope to agree on a common programme with the disability sector. Our approach is – as the Disability sector will express it –“Nothing about us without us”.
The following are issues that are clearly a priority:
- Development for women in rural areas
- Development of the Gender Equality Bill which is already underway
- Achieving the country-targets with regard to gender equality and two percent employment equity for people with disability
- Issues of access for people with disability particularly public transport in rural and peri-urban areas
- Gender based violence particularly the rape and murder of women and children which will be the key focus of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign on No Violence Against Women and Children that we will be launching here in Parliament next week (23 November). The planning of the 16 Days Campaign has involved direct interaction with stakeholders in this area through a structure called the National Coordinating Committee.
We will also ensure that the Ministry is more visible and clearly communicates and acts on its mandate. It should be out there interacting with the people, various stakeholders, parliament and other government departments for it to achieve its objective of mainstreaming gender, disability and children’s rights.
We have hit the ground running both in terms of strengthening internal capacity while at the same time building the profile of this department amongst our stakeholders and the three constituencies we represent. With determination and focus, we will be able to deliver on our mandate to protect and promote the interest of women, children and persons with disabilities.
Background notes about Minister Xingwana involvement in gender issues
Minister Xingwana has been a gender activist for almost all her adult life. She brings to the portfolio a vast experience on gender accumulated over the years of working in civil society structures, parliament and government.
From 1981, she was a member of the Federation of South African Women. She worked for Learn and Teach, a literacy organisation, where she taught domestic workers how to read and write. She also organised literacy programmes for rural women in various provinces. She joined the South African Council of Churches (SACC) where she worked as the Director of the Women Development Programme.
From 1991 to 1994, she headed the Development Section of the ANC Women’s League and was the Chairperson of Malibongwe Rural Development Project for women (1998 to 2000)
She was very active on gender issues as a Member of Parliament. As chairperson of Sports Portfolio Committee in Parliament, she promoted woman’s sports programmes in all sports codes. From 1999-2004, she was the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Women Caucus and from 2002-2004, she chaired the Joint Monitoring Committee on Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women.
She was elected in Angola in 2002 as Chairperson of the SADC Parliamentary Woman’s Caucus.
In all the portfolios occupied within government, Minister Xingwana has ensured that there is a greater
focus on issues affecting women in every department she has been in charge of.As the Deputy Minister of Minerals and Energy, she engineered the development of Women in Energy (including nuclear energy) in South Africa (Woesa) and Women in Mining (SAWIMA) encouraging women participation in these two sectors.
As the Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs, Minister Xingwana spearheaded the establishment of Women in Agriculture and Rural Development (WARD) and South Africa’s hosting of the World Congress of Rural Women in 2007.
At Arts and Culture, Minister Xingwana highlighted the role of women in various forms of art and encouraged development and empowerment of women in this sector. Together with the South African Heritage Resources Agency, Minister led the process of declaring the graves of women’s struggle icons
Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi and Charlotte Maxeke as national heritage sites in August this year. She also inaugurated the first Memorial lecture for Dulce September at the University of Western Cape, a humans rights and gender activist who was murdered in Paris by Apartheid forces
In the same August month, Minister Xingwana unveiled the Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance Architectural Concept Design as part of the efforts to reaffirm the marginalised history, heritage and culture of the Khoi and San people and African women. She led the celebration of Women’s Day at the Shanghai World Exhibition in China and launched the woman in the Arts concert at the State Theatre, where she also honoured women who had distinguished themselves in the Arts with an award.
In September Heritage Month, Minister Xingwana launched the South African Businesswoman in the Arts – SABWA, an association that aims to promote and support women artists.
Issued by: Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities
17 Nov 2010
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