Vol 11 No 29

5 - 11 August 2011

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

VIEWPOINT | by Kgalema Motlanthe
Advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality

Viewpoint by Kgalema MotlantheOne of the greatest challenges in working to change patriarchal attitudes and practices is that patriarchy is ingrained in all the structures and institutions of societies. In trying to change these attitudes and practices, therefore, both women and men need to work in partnership at all times. >>> MORE

REPORT BACK | by MILDRED OLIPHANT
Much more still needs to be done to transform the South African labour market

Report Back by Mildred Oliphant The Department of Labour has not yet come across any company that has no challenges in terms of salary disparities. It must be noted that our main goal with this exercise is to ensure that where disparities do exist, companies do commit themselves to address the inequalities by implementing measures to address these disparities. >>> MORE

 

Readers Forum
South African media not on the high road

Readers Forum: Bhekisisa MncubeWe need to have a conversation about the modalities of the Media Appeal Tribunal and the National Assembly as directed by the ANC’s National General Council needs to conduct the hearings in earnest. The wait for the outcome of review by the Press Ombudsman and Press Council is dragging on too long. >>> MORE

VIEWPOINT | by Kgalema Motlanthe

Advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality

Viewpoint by Kgalema MotlantheWomen’s Month is the time of the year that symbolically represents the scar that history has left on the face of our nation on matters of gender and by extension, human equality. At the same time it is a month during which women of our country, black and white, united and driven by common vision, demonstrated that it is possible to overcome oppression. 

Consequently, the month of August marks a period of heightened consciousness in society about the iniquities visited on the women of our country over the years and the pressing need to keep fighting this scourge as a matter of both conscience and a duty to our constitution.

From this point of view flow two most critical implications about women’s month. The first is the need to assess what government and other relevant social partners have achieved since the last time we celebrated this month, or lack of progress thereof, in pursuing the goal of the emancipation and empowerment of women.

Having assessed the efficacy of our efforts in this task, the second and last step is to recommit ourselves to continuing the acceleration of the struggle for gender equality. 

In recommitting ourselves to increased efforts to eradicate oppression of women, we do so fully aware that the scale of this challenge calls for broad mobilisation of society and a sustained momentum of diffusing a new consciousness, especially within the socialising agencies such as families and schools to underpin a new set of norms and values.

From this angle it is clear that this is not a quantifiable task whose goals can be measured by a fixed time horizon. Instead it is a long-term goal which must be assessed from time to time in terms of the impact of policies that do not only seek to level the playing field, but also consciously empower women, and eradicate gender violence and other manifestations of gender disempowerment. 

The theme of this year’s Women’s Month, which states:

‘Advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality: engaging with patriarchy, negative stereotyping, cultural and traditional practices to address gender-based violence and a better life for women.’

As I understand, this theme is asking us to reflect on the conditions handed down to us from history that disempower women, usually justified on the grounds of culture.  These conditions that underpin the dominance of males over women in society are known as patriarchy.

When the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) began the policy of engaging both men and women in the struggle against gender oppression, for the first time the gender issue ceased to be seen as a ‘women’s issue.’

Among United Nations Agencies that spearheaded this development, UNICEF was seeking to encourage positive fatherhood and their approach to this attempt was to try and breakdown gender stereotypes based on reproductive work, including caring for the children, as belonging to women. 

In like manner, the South African organisations working in the violence against women and gender-based violence, initiated the engagement of men and boys in the work of gender equality.  The focus was mainly seeing men as perpetrators of violence. This focus was later changed as it cast men and boys in a negative manner. 

The study of masculinities and how men are socially constructed has fortunately moved from seeing men as perpetrators of violence against women to constructing positive images of masculinities.  

The thinking is that a partnership between women and men can be more effectively built around positive images. The field of masculinities has now developed to include research (mainly in institutions of higher learning), training of men in masculinities, as well as the critical work around prevention and reduction of the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Some of the strategies used to involve men and boys in gender equality work include holding meetings with the traditional leaders to encourage them to ensure that women are not discriminated against in traditional practices and allocation of resources, especially land.

Some work has also gone into training of the police, judges and court officials on how to handle cases of violence against women specifically and domestic violence in general, in a manner that does not discriminate against the victims, who are mostly women. 

One of the greatest challenges in working to change patriarchal attitudes and practices is that patriarchy is ingrained in all the structures and institutions of societies. In trying to change these attitudes and practices, therefore, both women and men need to work in partnership at all times. 

These partnerships should be based on support and respect for each other.  It should also be based on sound principles and theories that support gender equality. The basis for this partnership already exists in the fact that since 2003, the National Gender Machinery integrated the work being done by men’s groups and organisations into the space that previously only mainly recognised women’s groups and organisations. There is now growing experience and expertise in this field.

In South Africa, organisations working with men and boys seek to redefine masculinity and social norms that underpin violence against women and girls. On various local platforms, working with men was accepted as a vital element in dealing effectively and holistically with gender-based violence and HIV and AIDS especially.  

Recommendations for working with men and boys included:

  • Turning men as agents of change and subjects of rights in the gender and HIV and AIDS paradigm;
  • Engaging men as proponents of gender equality and health;
  • Avoiding simplistic gender stereotyping;
  • Recognizing that men are not monolithic and have unequal access to health care and human rights; and
  • Using policy approaches to take gender transformative work with men and boys to scale.

The greatest opportunity currently is that the ANC government is planning to introduce a Gender Equality Bill.  This bill has the added benefit of covering all the issues that have previously fallen through the cracks.

The research and documentation that has come out of work already done by civil society organisations and the National Gender Machinery on men and masculinities and attempts to understand patriarchy should be coordinated§ in a way that would inform the Gender Equality Law, as well as actions that need to be taken to confront patriarchy.

Changing patriarchal attitudes and practices goes to the centre of democracy and the spirit of the South African Constitution. The opportunity is that there is recognition that patriarchy and economic exclusion are the root of discrimination against women and a lot of attempts are being made through policies and legislation at government level, and research and training at civil society level, to change these attitudes. 

Policy and legislation are critical in changing practices based on patriarchal attitudes and behaviour but it is difficult to legislate the attitudes away.  For this purpose, there needs to be work that is focusing on attitudinal change.

The global strategy to transform gender relations should also include continuous education and the creation of spaces to debate issues relating to patriarchy, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

As I am sure you would have reflected in this conference, in spite of these challenging social conditions of women, our society has been gradually moving away from some of these practices since 1994.

Even though we still have a long way to go, we are proud as a country for the many ground-breaking achievements we have made in terms of gender relations.  Over the years government has made strides in correcting the imbalance between women and men in the public sector.  The public sector has taken a lead in making concerted efforts to institutionalise mechanisms for the advancement of women.

The establishment of structures for the attainment of gender equality at different sites of power, such as the Office of the Status of Women in the Presidency, the Gender Focal points in the departments at all three spheres of government, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Improvement of Life and Status of Women and the Commission on Gender Equality, are the case in point.

The recent appointment of the Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities at yet another site of power, the Cabinet, should enhance these mechanisms for advancing women. In addition to these structures government has since 1995 put in place about 14 pieces of women friendly legislation to help prevent gender discrimination and enable women to benefit from the new dispensation. 

These include:

  • The Basic Conditions of Service Act, 1997;
  • The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000;
  • The Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act, 2000;
  • The Home Loan and Mortgage Disclosure Act, 2000;
  • The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, 2003;
  • The White Paper on Affirmative Action in the Public Service;
  • The Domestic Worker Sectoral Determination;
  • The White Paper on South African Land Policy;

The two pieces of legislation that women at grassroots level have used more effectively for their advancement are the Domestic Violence Act, 1998 and the Maintenance Act, of the same year.

At all times, our aim is to ensure that women from all classes benefit from as many as possible of the laws meant to benefit them.  Equally, we are striving to ensure that women at all levels know of the existence of the legislation and its potential benefits for them.

I note that some of the key issues raised in this conference going forward include the following, that:

  • The empowerment of women has to be broad and diverse and should include among others rural women, young women, women with disability, women that are incarcerated and elderly women;
  • Economic empowerment and skills development are key issues in the transformation of the lives of women who live in poverty;
  • Raising awareness of discrimination and inequalities has to start in the home and communities where often the practice of inequality is entrenched alongside norms and values of communities;
  • Labour legislation that protects women needs to be reviewed and where necessary issues of compliance need to be addressed;
  • The science, technology and engineering sector needs to provide mentoring and support for young women and girls;
  • The information on available funding for programmes needs to be accessible to implementers and beneficiaries.

These and other key issues raised by all role players translate into goals and targets to be met by August 2012. The only way to ensure that each year sees progress in the task of fighting unfair gender conditions in society is to keep evaluating our progress regarding the targets we set for ourselves. 

Just like racism, sexism is an acquired attitude of mind, learned through social agency, and manifests its unequal power relations in varied ways. Therefore gender oppression is not a challenge we can put on ice till the month of August, or for particular occasions. It constitutes an unsightly scar on our conscience as a nation. 

Equally, it will take the full force of a common social front to devalitalise patriarchy and overcome economic exclusion. The ANC government will continue to create conditions that empower women of our country, from a very early age, to stand on their two feet against patriarchy and economic exclusion.

I am confident that in this task, we will succeed.

>> Kgalema Motlanthe is the Deputy President of the ANC and of the Republic of South Africa.


REPORT BACK | BY MILDRED OLIPHANT

Much more still needs to be done to transform the South African labour market

Report Back by Mildred OliphantI am disappointed at the progress we are making on the employment equity, particularly at the senior and top management levels. It is disturbing to note that black people accounted for approximately 86% of employees covered in the reports analysed, they only represent 16.9% at top management and 35.9% at the senior management level.

It is discomforting to notice that although the data reflects that we have made some significant progress in creating a critical mass of both black people and women at the professionally qualified level, these people seem to have reached a glass ceiling.

Opportunities that arose as a result of staff movement in top and senior management levels continued to benefit the same groups that are already over-represented at those levels when compared to their demographics of the economically active population.

The data presented here today paints a bleak picture for Africans and Coloureds, in particular African women and people with disabilities whose representation stands at 0.8%. Clearly, this indicates pure resistance by the captains of industries in embracing change to create conducive working environments that are accommodative to all people irrespective of race, gender or disability.

It is important to highlight the fact that data indicates that white females and Indians amongst the designated groups have benefited from affirmative action. This negates the perceptions and debates going around that affirmative action is discriminatory. In fact, the data submitted by employers reconfirm that where there is a will and commitment by decision-makers in the labour market to implement affirmative action, this can be one of the effective tools or ways to address the imbalances and inequalities of the past.

It is thirteen years since the enactment of the Employment Equity Act; this gloomy picture is a call for drastic measures to be taken not only by the government, but in partnership with organised business, organised labour and community as a whole.

I urge all social partners to ask themselves this question:What are we doing about it?From government’s side, in realising the slow progress in transforming the workplaces, the Department of Labour together with the Commission for Employment Equity, identified a need to amend the Act in order to close gaps identified and strengthen both the implementation and enforcement mechanisms of this Act.

The Amendment Bill currently tabled at NEDLAC for negotiation is critical as it is aimed at improving compliance to the Act, including amongst others:

  • Removing bottlenecks and streamlining the inspection and court referral processes;
  • Putting more of the onus on employers to prove compliance;
  • Promoting the principles of ‘Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value’ to eliminate unfair discrimination in salaries paid to employees; and
  • Up-scaling fines sufficiently to deter designated employers from not complying with the Act.

It is important to also highlight that as part of its endeavours to improve substantive compliance with the spirit and objectives of the Act, the Department of Labour has over the past two years, embarked on a project to assess Income Differentials in companies to determine if there are any disparities based on race and gender in as far as salaries are concerned.

This exercise is aimed at ensuring that as a country, we comply with the requirements of the principle of ‘Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value’ outlined under Convention 100 of the International Labour Organisation, which South Africa has ratified.

I want to emphasise the importance of this kind of income differential assessments in the workplaces. It is time that as a country, we shift focus from just concentrating on the composition of companies’ workforce representation, but we put emphasis on substantive transformation.

The Department of Labour has not yet come across any company that has no challenges in terms of salary disparities. It must be noted that our main goal with this exercise is to ensure that where disparities do exist, companies do commit themselves to address the inequalities by implementing measures to address these disparities. This would eliminate unfair discrimination elements not only in their remuneration policies, but practices and procedures.

I have been informed that there are some companies that are resisting submitting the required Income Differential information as requested by the department and the department is interacting directly with CEOs of those companies to ensure that they understand the rationale and the importance of these assessments in promoting equity in the labour market.

I urge all companies to cooperate with the request of the department to ensure that we work together in achieving the objectives of the Act. I strongly believe that both the proposed amendments and the income differential assessments are a step in the right direction and if supported by social partners, will add impetus in expediting the pace of transformation in the South African labour market.

>> Mildred Oliphant is the Minister of Labour


Readers Forum

South African media not on the high road

Readers Forum: Bhekisisa MncubeSince the ANC National General Council in September 2010 a consideration has been made for a public enquiry on an external media regulatory framework to bolster the country's media self regulatory mechanism.

This consideration has been met with fierce resistance from the majority of media houses and some within civil society. I want to argue that the resistance borders on misplaced hysteria, if not simply mischief.

The bulk of the anti-media appeals tribunal brigade's analysis seem to advance a notion that external media regulation is in itself a threat to the right to press freedom as well as individuals' right to freedom of expression. Their mantra seems to be that once media's self regulation is complemented by an external regulatory framework, it will threaten press freedom.

They also pontificate that any external regulation is also a threat to individual's right to freedom of expression. These analysis seem inflated, if not confuted to me. The real question that the media ought to interrogate is who watches over the watchdogs? In my view it ought to be an external body that is democratically constituted such as the considered Media Appeals Tribunal. The self regulation mechanism does not go far enough and is inadequate.

Why We Need an External Media Appeals Tribunal?

To countenance the power of the media that is essentially an independent capitalist enterprise yet it performs a public function.

To promote accountability, fair and truthful reporting, and guard against the hijacking of this important enterprise by people with vested self-interest i.e. anonymous sources, untrustworthy politicians, unscrupulous journalists and editors.

To complement the existing self-regulatory regime that is currently viewed as ineffective and toothless - what with page 'two' apologies?

To promote ethical reporting and respect for people's right to privacy and their inherent dignity.

Powers of the Media Appeals Tribunal

Instead of hysteria, we need to have a conversation about the modalities of the Media Appeal Tribunal and the National Assembly as directed by the ANC’s National General Council needs to conduct the hearings in earnest. The wait for the outcome of review by the Press Ombudsman and Press Council is dragging on too long.

I’m of the firm view that the Media Tribunal ought not to have powers to throw journalists into jail. Frankly such powers belong to the judiciary and such a tribunal should not be part of a judiciary. However, it must have the power to subpoena journalists to testify before it in cases of any alleged breaches of the press code of conduct.

In the nutshell the Media Tribunal should:

Have power to slap fines on media houses and in rare cases journalists for malicious reporting. Fines should be reasonable and justifiable. Perhaps a miniature percent of the media house's annual profit.

Have the power to order front page detailed and prominet apologies in cases of gross untruthful reporting, such prominent apologies should also extend to other papers who syndicated the erronous story.

Tribunal Composition, Funding and Functions

The Tribunal should be chaired by a retired judge appointed by the President of the Republic. The Judge shall be a man or woman of sober habits, with an unblemished record of advancing and defending human rights and knowledge of media law. The President should appoint such a judge on the list submitted by Parliament or the Judicial Services Commission.

At least 50% members shall be drawn from a list submitted by a collective of media houses. The remainder shall be appointed from a list submitted by civil society organisations and members of the public. It should report annually to Parliament. It shall be funded jointly on 50-50 basis by media houses and the taxpayers through funds appropriation in the national budget.

The Tribunal should conduct regular research, surveys, and training in-order to advance ethical reporting. The Tribunal should also investigate controversial stories even if no complain is laid before it. Appropriate sanctions should be dished-out to all deserving transgressors. Persons unhappy with the Tribunal ruling should reserve the right to approach the courts for a review.

In conclusion, I want to argue that media houses should have a register of anonymous sources. Only the journalist concerned, editor and Chairperson of the Tribunal should have access to the register. This will go a long way in minimizing defective stories that appears in the press regularly masquerading as investigative journalism.

No amount of falsehood will deter some of us in advocating for an external regulatory framework. It cannot be that the media continues to be the only institution that is allowed to play referee and player simultaneously. This type of regulatory environment already exists for the health professionals and the legal fraternity.

>> Bhekisisa Mncube is a social media practitioner and managing director of B74 Media Lab. He is also a member of the Book Review Panel at the New Agenda academic journal in South Africa