Institutionalise accountability to accelerate, amplify efforts to ending the scourge of GBVF

Monday, November 7, 2022

On 01-02 November 2022 the Second Presidential Summit on Gender Based Violence and Femicide took place at the Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg. The summit was convened under the theme: “Accountability, Acceleration and Amplification NOW”.

The summit comes at a time where there is increasing distrust of the government because of a steady decline in livelihoods due to fragmented responses by the government on issues including increasing food and fuel prices, unstable energy supplies, increasing unemployment, domestic violence, and increased violence targeted at children, writes Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities.

All these factors become catalysts in the increasing social instability and prevalence of GBVF in our communities, schools, places of worship, work and homes. Therefore, the summit provided a platform for engagement on the practical steps in place and those envisaged to strengthen political, administrative, and societal leadership to respond to the crisis of GBVF and other intersecting social ills in South Africa.

A lot has unfolded since the First Presidential Summit four years ago. The summit was a realisation of one of the #24Demands submitted to the President by #TheTotalShutdown movement on 01 August 2018. Each demand makes recommendations on actionable steps needed to strengthen the state’s response, prevention and accountability in addressing GBVF. 

Over the past four years we have witnessed the power of women’s collective action and commitment as catalysts in several developments aimed at responding to GBVF. These include the signing of the GBVF Declaration in 2019, the adoption of the National Strategic Plan on Gender Based Violence and Femicide (NSP-GBVF) in 2020, the establishment of the #EndGBVF Collective in 2020, the launch of the Private Sector led GBVF Response Fund 1 in 2021, the signing into legislation three GBVF Bills in 2022 and the recent publishing of the National Council on Gender Based Violence and Femicide (NCGBVF).

Despite these critical developments and many others over the past four years, the scourge of GBVF continues to plague our society.

The continued prevalence of GBVF is influenced by the absence of clear accountability frameworks across each sector of society. This often manifests in fragmented responses, poor resource allocation and coordination, as well as limited channels to hold each other accountable from individuals to the institutions we serve.

The call for strengthened accountability across all sectors of society is not a new one.

The first 10 articles of the 19 articles of the Presidential Summit Declaration against GBVF confronts the issue of accountability and this is further entrenched in Pillar one: Accountability, Coordination and Leadership of the NSP-GBVF. At the heart of this call is cultivating a culture and ethics of accountability at a national, provincial and local level through a coordinated and multi-sectoral approach in responding to GBVF.

Accountability is a nuanced process and it is largely informed by one’s proximity to resources and power. The standards and criteria for accountability will vary from the state, private sector, civil society, development partners and society more broadly. Promoting accountability could be the necessary catalyst we need to cultivate cross sectoral collaboration to address GBVF. I believe through accountability and embracing the diversity and strength each sector brings that we can challenge the narrative that different sectors of society cannot work together towards a common agenda.

Equally, it is critical that the state takes the lead in the process of accountability. As the custodian of the NSP-GBVF, the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities’ (DWYPD) contribution to the process is aligned to the department’s overall vision to “provide strategic leadership, coordination and oversight to government departments and the country in mainstreaming empowerment programmes on women, youth and persons with disabilities”.

Part of this mandate locates the department at the helm of steering the coordination and institutionalisation of the NSP-GBVF across government and society at large. The department provides operational support to the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on GBVF that was established in June 2020 to advance the national GBVF agenda through the legislative framework. Beyond the IMC, government’s accountability to the delivery on the NSP-GBVF is facilitated through; the commitment and monitoring politically of reports by the Presidency, Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (PC on DWYPD) and the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC); and programmatically by the DWYPD, by Cabinet, Ministerial and DG Clusters.

Moreover, in my capacity as the Chairperson of IMC, I am calling on the government to do more to institutionalise and implement the NSP-GBVF. We are witnessing the strategic frameworks of government departments including annual performance plans (APPs) at national and provincial levels, and Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) at the municipality level are integrating the NSP- GBVF at a slow pace. This needs to change, fast.

The slow integration of the NSP-GBVF in government and across society is largely influenced by the absence of an institutionalised cross sectoral accountability body. This absence has far reaching consequences on driving a societal approach to addressing GBVF. If we understand GBVF to be a violent manifestation of gender and structural inequalities, then structural responses need to be made - which the National Council on Gender Based Violence and Femicide (NCGBVF) seeks to do.

The publishing of the NCGBVF Bill on 30 September 2022 is a critical development. The publication informs the public that I will be introducing the bill in parliament in terms of section 73 of the Constitution. It further promotes public engagement across sectors on the mechanisms needed for an effective, coordinated and well-resourced institution to drive accountability in the implementation of the NSP-GBVF.

On that account, the call for the establishment of the council cannot be separated from the demand for the institutionalisation of the Gender Responsive Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring, Evaluation and Auditing Framework (GRPBMEAF). If we understand the process of accountability to be largely influenced by access and proximity to resources, then effective operations of the council require financial commitment. In the 2021 Budget Vote, I informed the House that the department will undertake an analysis of the draft National Department APPs. In this context, the 2021 M&E Report showed that less than 50% of departments were implementing the GRPBMEAF. However, the analysis of the 2022/23 draft APPs points to steady improvement in inclusion of priorities of women, youth and disability in these plans. The call to institutionalise and adequately resource responses to GBVF must be supported by the necessary institutional mechanisms including GRPBMEAF.

As we close out year two and move towards year three in the implementation of the NSP-GBVF, we must prioritise optimising the policy and legal frameworks of our country for the establishment, and consolidation of systems and processes.

The summit is convened because the uncomfortable reality is that there are very few practical shifts in the lived realities of women and children in our country. We are still faced with weekly reports, and disturbing social media content of horrendous acts of violence that we are subjected to in our country. We owe it to the thousands of women, children, and LGBTQIA+ persons who have lost their lives and sense of dignity to the scourge.

Until fundamental changes happen, there will always be a need for us to come together across sectors of society to strengthen collaborative efforts in responding to GBVF. Let us work together for the institutionalization of accountability to accelerate and amplify efforts to end the scourge of GBVF.

*Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is the Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities.