Report Back on Women's Charter for Accelerated Development

In the past two years, Parliament embarked on a nationwide provincial 1994 Women's Charter Review session that took stock of the progress made in implementing the 1994 Women's Charter for Effective Equality, and assessed its impact since the country's advent of freedom and democracy.

The Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms Sylvia Lucas, and and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, led the review sessions across all nine provinces, 44 districts and eight metropolitan municipalities.

The Women’s Charter for Accelerated Development (2021) 

The 1954 and the 1994 Women’s Charters, respectively and jointly, represent the culmination of women’s active participation and contribution in South Africa’s liberation movement, towards the realization of freedom and democracy. Both Charters represent critical building blocks in history, further signifying women’s commitment to challenge the status quo in an unequal society and subsequently constructing a body of socio-economic, civic and political rights based manuscripts, to advance gender equality. Drafted by the Federation of South African Women and the National Women’s Coalition Structures respectively, these manuscripts have successively set the agenda for extended periods of time in history, uniting women around a common set of aspirations and goals. It is also imperative to emphasize that the preceding strata of charters were developed outside the auspices of a functional democratic system, thereby signifying key access points to commence gender equality discussions and to establish defining policy positions (with the 1954 charter as a construct of socio-political activism during a tumultuous time and the 1994 charter as a demand document asserting the need for equitable provision within South Africa’s broader, developing human rights and gender equality agenda).

The Women’s Charter for Accelerated Development (2021), therefore represents the third strata of gender equality manuscripts in South African history, where women were once again emboldened, to assess within the context of a democratic and developmental state, (and guided by Parliament’s prescribed mandate), whether the state has effectively given expression to the ideals and provisions encapsulated, in the agenda that was set by both preceding charters.

The 25-Year review intentionally leaned towards assessing the state’s internal arrangements, institutional processes, development policy, statutory, legislative, intergovernmental fiscal arrangements and institutional and systemic arrangements, in order to assess whether the state machinery had been appropriately restructured since the advent of democracy, to enable substantive progress in giving expression to the provisions of the 1994 women’s charter for effective equality.

The women’s charter for accelerated development is therefore a strategic manuscript, constructed within the ambit and enabling context of a developmental state. It asserts the legitimacy and rights of women to enjoy an improved quality of life and that effective equality can only be realised if the state machinery, in all its facets, is functionally mainstreamed. It furthermore demands that a theory of change be embedded in all facets of the state machinery’s functional and operating systems, as guided by the accepted precepts of equality in the constitution and other prescripts of equality, which South Africa’s democratic system is based on. As encapsulated in the Women’s Charter for Accelerated Development (2021), some of the key issues for priority action hence include: effecting specific gender sensitive amendments to development policy design, budget policy and legislative framework design, including all government’s strategic development programmes (which are key for anchoring mandatory, gender sensitive state actions and processes). Furthermore, the Charter emphasizes the imperatives of mainstreaming gendered perspectives and priorities into government’s planning and state machinery arrangements, including across the three spheres of government (so as to improve the state capacity to implement gender sensitive policies and programmes). The charter further stipulate (as articulated through strategic objectives and priority actions), which are also (informed by the gendered and poverty impact of the COVID 19 Pandemic on the economy and other pre-existing challenges). All aspirations, strategic objectives and priority actions, can only be addressed through effective and sustained, outcome based oversight. The Women’s Charter for Accelerated Development (2021) was developed by Parliament, leading the process (through its constitutionally mandated oversight, public participation and law making mandate), asserting its constitutional mandate, as the custodian of South Africa’s democracy and an assertion of women and people’s power. The Women’s Charter for Accelerated development is therefore replete, in its embodiment of the perspectives and aspirations shared by women’s formations, civil society organizations and interest groups across all the 9 provinces, 8 metropolitan municipalities and 44 districts of South Africa.

The charter also embodies the qualitative and analytically synthesized perspectives of chapter nine institutions and statutory bodies, including Statistics South Africa, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Financial and Fiscal Commission and the South African Law Reform Commission. The perspectives of the three Spheres of Government, the Legislative Sector (all nine provincial legislatures), the United Nations Development Programme, the South African Medical Research Council, the South African Women Lawyers Association, including various academics and economists. The thematic areas arrived at and stipulated below, are put forth for the accelerated and overall development of women.

The key features of the charter were developed and emanate from a 20-month public participation and consultation process, as led by the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, the Hon SE Lucas, MP and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, the Hon SL Tsenoli, MP. The commitment of all strategic partners demonstrates the successes in formulating a social compact with key stakeholders, enjoined by a unity of purpose and committed to address the challenges faced by South African women.

Thematic Areas of Concern: 

  1. Gender Equality
  2. Inclusive Economic Growth
  3. Gender Sensitive Workers Rights
  4. Equitable Access to Justice
  5. Education and Training for Women and Girls
  6. Infrastructure and Environment
  7. Social Protection
  8. Political and Civic Life
  9. Family and Partnership
  10. Custom, Culture and Tradition
  11. Access to Land
  12. Violence Against Women
  13. Human Settlements
  14. Healthcare
  15. Media