Efforts by the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus in Parliament to lobby for amendments in the country’s electoral laws to make the equal representation of men and women in Parliament and provincial legislatures a legal obligation, received a major boost with the launch of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Chapter, whose mandate is also to campaign for gender equality in the legislative sector.
During the launch of the CWP Chapter at Parliament recently, the Chairperson of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, Ms Rosalia Morutoa, called the lack of legislation on gender quotas “a surprise”.
“It is surprising that at this time of our lives in South Africa we still do not have legislation mandating gender quotas for national and provincial elections. We only have discretionary legislation for local government elections like the Municipal Structures Act, and for national and provincial elections we are at the mercy of voluntary gender quotas set up by political parties, the African National Congress to be specific,” she said.
The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus is planning on having an engagement with Salga (the South African Local Government Association) women’s commission on women representation in local government.
“We are also going to engage the IEC (Electoral Commission of South Africa) to lobby and advocate for possible review of the Electoral Act in preparation for the 2019 national and provincial elections. I would like to encourage all women in this Parliament from both Houses to stand up with one voice and fight for 50-50 representation and participation. We need to ensure that there is proper legislation in place compelling all political parties to ensure that there is 50-50 representation and participation in all party activities and party lists,” said Ms Morutoa.
Also speaking at the launch, Ms Thoko Didiza, who was elected Chairperson of the CWP Africa Region in August last year, assured members of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus that one of her main focuses and plans was to see an increase in women participation in provincial legislatures and Parliament in South Africa and the African continent.
Ms Didiza, who is also National Assembly House Chairperson: Internal Arrangements, said the CWP will drive its programmes to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (now called the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs) and together with the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, as well as the Portfolio Committee on Women, will continue to advocate for more women in provincial legislatures and Parliament and municipal councils.
“Looking back at the work of the CWP, it is clear that through the advocacy and engagement of political parties, progress is being made in increasing women representation in parliament. Noting this progress does not mean we should relent, but rather work even harder to ensure that mechanisms are found to ensure that we make progress all the time,” said Ms Didiza.
She also said it was important to acknowledge that the perspectives on issues and legislation brought by women have ensured inclusivity and also represented the interests of all.
“It is also encouraging that women have been appointed into positions of power, as Chairpersons of Portfolio Committees, as well as in the Executive – and they have performed well in these roles,” she said.
Ms Didiza said the presence of more women in Parliament and provincial legislatures brings a particular dimension into law-making and resource allocation.
Members of the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus called for the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which lapsed at the end of the last parliamentary term, to be reintroduced. They argued that the Bill will enforce compliance with women representation in both private and public sectors.
The Launch of the CWP Chapter in Parliament happened in the same week when the world celebrates the International Women’s Day (8 March).
The theme for this year’s international Women’s Day is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. Ms Morutoa said this theme speaks directly to the mandate of the CWP, of ensuring that there is 50-50 women representation and participation in Parliament and provincial legislatures.
Ms Didiza said: “In 2015 we formed part of the community that assessed programmes made by countries in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. In our assessment it was clear that a number of countries had attempted to meet one or more of the set goals, however a number of goals were not met for a variety of reasons.”
She said one of the concerns for women was to ensure that going forward, the Sustainable Development Goals must explicitly ensure that they are inclusive – and that at least one of the goals talks to gender equality.
“It is with pride that women were able to have Goal 5 on the Sustainable Development Goals list, as it talks to gender equality. Interestingly so, almost all the goals do have an impact on the lives of women,” she said.
By Sam Khetheng
9 March 2017