Com­mis­sion for Gen­der Equal­ity must be­gin to de­liver to SA women

Cape Times - - INSIGHT - Emily Keehn, Sisonke Msi­mang, Rachel Jewkes, Des­mond Le­se­jane and Dean Pea­cock

THIS week, Par­lia­ment holds pub­lic in­ter­views to fill the long-va­cant seats of com­mis­sion­ers in the Com­mis­sion for Gen­der Equal­ity (CGE).

The CGE has been in dis­ar­ray for years and has failed to de­liver on its man­date to pro­mote gen­der equal­ity. It is an or­gan­i­sa­tion with a bud­get of R60 mil­lion and weighty pow­ers vested in it by the con­sti­tu­tion that should be used to ad­vance the qual­ity of life of women.

It is es­sen­tial new com­mis­sion­ers are ap­pointed with the vi­sion, ca­pac- ity and drive to turn the in­sti­tu­tion around and en­sure that it de­liv­ers on its man­date to the peo­ple of SA.

Nearly 20 years af­ter the first demo­cratic elec­tions, SA women face some of the high­est lev­els of do­mes­tic and sex­ual vi­o­lence against women found any­where in the world. Women in SA are also more likely than men to be un­em­ployed, earn less for sim­i­lar work and en­counter greater bar­ri­ers to their ca­reer ad­vance­ment.

Women also bear the brunt of poor ser­vice de­liv­ery and are dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected by the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In short, there has been far too lit­tle progress to­wards achiev­ing gen­der equal­ity and en­sur­ing that women in SA can ac­cess the rights guar­an­teed to them in the con­sti­tu­tion and laid out in the laws of the land.

The ac­com­plish­ments of the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor over the past year serve as an im­por­tant re­minder of what a de­ter­mined Chap­ter 9 in­sti­tu­tion like the CGE can achieve when it fully ex­er­cises its pow­ers as an in­de­pen­dent watch­dog.

SA needs the CGE to be strong, proac­tive and fear­less in the ex­e­cu­tion of its du­ties.

It needs its new com­mis­sion­ers to be in­spired lead­ers in the strug­gle for gen­der equal­ity.

The CGE’S wide ar­ray of le­gal pow­ers, in­clud­ing the power to sub­poena any per­son, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, and to ini­ti­ate lit­i­ga­tion in its own name, could be highly ef­fec­tive in ad­vanc­ing gen­der trans­for­ma­tion in our coun­try.

In­stead, the CGE has been ret­i­cent. It is mired in fi­nan­cial im­pro­pri­ety, mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion and in­ter­nal power strug­gles, which was doc­u­mented in re­ports of the au­di­tor-gen­eral, the Of­fice of the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor, and by the late Kader As­mal in his 2007 re­view of Chap­ter 9 in­sti­tu­tions (which has yet to be re­viewed by the Na­tional Assem­bly).

In ad­vance of this week’s in­ter­views, gen­der equal­ity or­gan­isa-

Body is mired in fi­nan­cial prob­lems and in­ter­nal power strug­gles

tions are co­a­lesc­ing to de­mand that there be a line drawn in the sand.

The CGE is too im­por­tant an in­sti­tu­tion for South Africans to tol­er­ate its cur­rent paral­y­sis. We need new com­mis­sion­ers who have a deep un­der­stand­ing of gen­der is­sues, a track record of gen­der ac­tivism, a vi­sion for cap­tur­ing the po­ten­tial of the CGE, and skills and ex­pe­ri­ence to en­able them to ef­fec­tively lead the com­mis­sion.

It is cru­cial that the ad hoc committee of Par­lia­ment ap­pro­pri­ately ap­plies it­self to se­lect­ing new com­mis­sion­ers.

SA has a strong his­tory of gen­der ac­tivism. Gen­der ad­vo­cates like our­selves look for­ward to op­por­tu­ni­ties to work with the new CGE com­mis­sion­ers and sup­port all ef­forts to strengthen the CGE.

It is vi­tal that civil so­ci­ety con­tin­ues to mon­i­tor the in­sti­tu­tion’s work and de­mand that its com­mis­sion­ers be held ac­count­able for de­liv­ery on its man­date.

We have put for­ward ques­tions to Par­lia­ment that we sug­gest should be asked of all po­ten­tial com­mis­sion­ers and used to judge their suit­abil­ity. We will fol­low the in­ter­views sched­uled for Jan­uary 25 and 26 with great in­ter­est.

This is a crit­i­cal test for Par­lia­ment. It’s a chance to demon­strate its com­mit­ment to ad­vanc­ing gen­der eq­uity in the coun­try, as well as its sup­port for the con­sti­tu­tion and the in­de­pen­dent role of Chap­ter 9 in­sti­tu­tions. Both of these have been called into ques­tion by ac­tions over the past 12 months.

Keehn, Jewkes, Le­se­jane and Pea­cock are mem­bers of the Board and staff of Sonke Gen­der Jus­tice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.