Speech by Honourable Deputy Minister in The Presidency For Women, Youth and Persons With Disabilities Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize: Debate on National Women’s Day: Gender and institutionalism – towards strengthening the national gender Machinery

3 September 2019, Old Assembly Chamber, Parliament, Cape Town

Honourable Speaker
Chairpersons and members of all portfolio committees
All Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members of Parliament

We are angered by the arrogance of perpetrators who decide to destroy the lives of women within the month when we make a clarion call to gender equality and women’s rights as human rights.

We condemn in the strongest terms, any form of gender based violence against women, children and members of the LGBTQI community. And I would like to invite this August House to be united in fighting the scourge of GBV & Femicide in condemning this atrocity. We don’t have a luxury of divisive or party politics, it cannot be business as usual, and we have to stand together. We cannot perspective on our power and authority as leaders of society.

The scale and magnitude of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in South Africa have reached crisis levels. As minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, she said a lot about the names of people who have been discussed by the media, 30 women were killed. In a matter of a week, the country has been traumatized by the rape and killing of a young university student, Uyinene Mrwetyana; the shooting of Leighandre 'Baby Lee' Jegels; a 14 year old girl found dead in the backyard of the grand-mother’s property; and a 6 year old girl abducted from outside her school. This is just those that have made headlines.

We express our pain not only to the families of those we have mentioned, but to the families of all those going through the same pain and process of grieving due to the loss of their beloved ones because of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.

Acknowledgement of Women’s Parliament And Civil Society

We need to extend our gratitude to leaders of our two houses of Parliament: our Speaker Mme Thandi Modise and Chief whip Mme Pammy Majodina; the Chairperson of the NCOP, Amos Masondo; and the Deputy Charperson, Mme Sylvia Lucas for organizing and hosting a successful Women’s Parliament. This high-level meeting set a clear tone for where we come from to what the Gender Machinery should be doing in the future.

We further express our gratitude to ALL leaders of civil society who have been vocal and active on Gender-Based Violence throughout the month of August.

This debate on Gender and Institutionalism: Towards Strengthening the National Gender Machinery becomes timely and strategic.

Our vision is to realize the South Africa we want, a country where all people, particularly women, children, and gender non-conforming persons are and feel safe, enjoy healthy lives, relationships and social connections,  have access to humanizing quality services, and are fully able to realize and exercise their right to autonomy, and bodily integrity, and equality.

Honourable members, you will remember a statement made by the President, Cyril Ramaphosa during the State of National Address in February 2019. He said … “This Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide has provided a firm basis for a coordinated national response to this crisis.”  He said this after listening to victims of GBV at the Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in November 2018.

As we gather here, we are presented with an opportunity to engage and challenge the patriarchal standards that continue to cripple our society. Each and everyone of us will be asked “What did you do”?

The country has really made great strides, such as the establishment of the South African Gender Machinery, which comprises of four arms: (i) the Executive i.e. the Ministry in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. It also comprises Gender Focal Points (GFP) in National Departments and Provinces, as well as local level, coordinated by SALGA women’s commission (2) the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) as well as the (3) National Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (initially the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Improvement of the Quality of Life and Status of Women). The 4th arm is made up of civil society structures.

Honourable members a lot has changed within the 100 days of the 6th parliament.

The Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities is currently embarking on an ongoing process of strengthening and reviving the National Gender Machinery. As an outcome of the summit, the President signed the outcome declaration and committed all government departments and structures of civil society to work together. This is in line with our aspirations of the women’s movement in general, and Article 10 of the Presidential Summit Declaration on Gender Based Violence and Femicide, which stipulates that, and I quote, the “existing national gender machinery and other mechanisms be maintained, resourced, and strengthened and reinvigorated”.

The work and structure of the steering committee on gender based violence and femicide is aligned to the Spirit of the National Gender Machinery. But given the lessons learnt especially around GBVF it then becomes critical to re-launch this machinery so as to incorporate the work of the consultative processes of the GBV steering committee to its finality.

In reviewing the National Gender Machinery, we must invest in career development and capacity building of incumbents to make them competitive and productive in their roles. Going forward in future there should be clear focal points not only in big cities but also in townships and rural communities, led by tribal authorities. In the spirit of the 6th administration, we have to work in an integrated and coordinated manner across all departments.

We need to look at the schedule of crimes that cannot get bail conditions, this must be done in consultation with colleagues from the Justice cluster. The sentencing should be revisited. We have to revise the turnaround time of these case, from the investigation to prosecution of perpetrators, because cases delayed lead to justice denied. 

Based on the current status of the National Gender Machinery, the next short to medium-term will be critical for defining and deepening approaches to women’s empowerment and gender equality.

In reviving the NGM, as a department we have recommended the establishment of a body to provide oversight and coordination, ensure accountability, and monitor progress against government’s goal to improve the lived realities of women in the country.

Accordingly, a National Gender Machinery Consultative and Accountability Forum is established to respond more effectively and provide oversight. These factors together compel and inform our vision for re-launching the National Gender Machinery.

The impact on strengthening the institutionalization of gender mainstreaming across the state machinery.

Key to the gap between South Africa’s globally revered Constitutional framework which protects women’s human rights, and women’s lived experiences - is accountability.

Whereas gender mainstreaming refers to the insertion of gender perspectives into legislation and policy, it is the imperative that the process of the National Gender Machinery ensures that the implementation of such policy frameworks serves and protects the constitutional rights of women.

The impact of the NGM Forum requires that the multi-sectoral body serves as the nerve centre for effective coordination and accountability of the National Gender Programme; and to broaden sectoral participation by engaging all stakeholders and structures of the NGM.

Strengthening the National Gender Machinery to reflect what is espoused in the framework on Gender- Responsive Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring, Evaluation and Auditing.

Gender mainstreaming and budgeting are significant areas of focus for strategic engagements, effective monitoring and evaluation. Effective gender mainstreaming requires adequate financial and human resources to bare the envisioned results.

The Gender Responsive Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Budgeting Framework presents a multi-sectoral approach to gender mainstreaming within the government.

A strengthened NGM therefore complements this Framework by presenting a platform for accountability which is centered on, and coordinated by institutions and organizations for gender equality.

Chairperson, this will go a long way in giving effect to the National Strategic Plan on gender-Based Violence and Femicide.

Honorable members we are at a tipping point where we must reflect deeply as to whether we are not faced with a circumstance or time at which our nation faces intense difficulty, uncertainty, danger or serious threats to people and national systems and organizations. And a need for non-routine rules and procedures emerge accompanied with urgency, that’s a definition of a national crisis.