Gender Machinery proposes Ministry for Women

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pretoria - The National Gender Machinery (NGM) has met in Pretoria to discuss the possibility of establishing a Ministry for Women and Gender Affairs to advance the empowerment of women.

A decision is expected to be made on Tuesday after a concept paper is to be presented to the multi-party Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement to the Quality of Life and Status of Women for last inputs and recommendations in the setting up of the ministry.

The NGM started its deliberations on Monday where delegates, including Minister in the Presidency, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, representatives from South African Women in Dialogue, traditional leaders and other groups dealing with women empowerment, are discussing the necessary guidance needed to form and structure such an institution.

Delegates are expected to debate on the name of the ministry. Possible names include the Ministry of Women and Gender Affairs, Children, Youth, People with disabilities or the Ministry of Women and Gender Affairs located in the Presidency.

Discussions will also centre on what the ministry would be mandated to do, what government programmes would fall under the ministry and the way forward towards its administration.

Minister Tshabalala-Msimang described the establishment of such a ministry as an opportunity for women to find a mechanism that will truly address their challenges, which have been articulated by women over the past years.

These include inadequate financing for gender equality, violence against women, poverty eradication and early childhood development.

"What we decide today must be sound, practical and achievable as it is going to have long term ramifications for all women in our country now and in the future. As is the practice, there must be room for regular reviews in order to ensure that we plan collaboratively to meet the needs of women in our country," Minister Tshabala-Msimang said.

Director of the Office of the Status of Women in the Presidency Ranji Reddy, said the ministry would be tasked with continuing advocating women's rights, providing leadership and stewardship in domesticating international conventions as well as protocols and agreements acceded to as the country.

The proposed ministry would also lead policy formulation and legislative development, coordinate development and implementation of gender programmes and strategies.

"The ministry will look at capacity development and training, monitoring and evaluation of implementation of gender programmes to better the lives of women and other target groups and we also need to look at selective programmes and continuous evaluation," Ms Reddy said.

Other programmes the ministry will be expected to oversee include the elimination of gender-based violence through the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign and the 365 days Plan of Action; labour and shared equal responsibilities, poverty eradication including promoting cooperatives and monitor effective implementation of national programmes on gender equality.

The ministry would have its own corporate and financial unit as well as research unit including Deputy Director General for youth affairs, children's right, disability issues and corporate finances.