SA reviews report to the UN Commission on the status of women

On 2 March 2015, Professor Ebenezer Durojaye, the project head of the socio-economic rights, was part of a delegation convined the Department of Women Affairs within the Presidency. This was for an interactive session with members of civil society groups and government departments regarding South Africa’s report to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

This was meant to be a final meeting with relevant stakeholders as part of South Africa’s preparations for participation in the upcoming 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women scheduled for 9-20 March 2015 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women, the Department of Women MS Chabagu thanked participating for attending this important meeting. She explained that the meeting was necessary so that both government and civil society groups are on the same page regarding the report that is benign submitted to the UN CSW. While she admitted that the whole process leading to the drafting of the report might not have been participatory enough due to lack of time, she however, expressed the view that the report to a great extent has reflected the true situation of South African women.

Ms Chabangu then provided a summary of the content of South Africa’s report. According to her, the report was prepared in accordance to the twelve themes agreed upon during the Beijing Declaration in 1995. She noted that as one of the participants at Beijing, she is of the view that South African women have come a long way in terms of realizing their fundamental rights and reducing gender inequality. She noted that some important strides have been made (particularly in areas of political participation) but much more still needs to be done in the areas of business and socioeconomic rights of women. She mentioned that after the CSW meeting the Department would try to engage more with civil society groups and other stakeholders on various issues still affecting women in South Africa. Ms Chabangu informed the meeting that cabinet is currently considering the report and should get feedback in the next few days. She also mentioned that South Africa will be seeking election to be a member of the CSW executive.

In response to her presentation some questions were asked and clarifications were sought by some civil society groups present. One of the issues that came up related to the fact that some people, particularly government delegates, have turned attendance at the CSW to a jamboree. Thus, they tend to see it as an opportunity to go for shopping rather than ensuring that the rights of South African women are properly protected. Other questions relate to the appalling high maternal mortality ratio in the country particularly in rural areas and informal settlements. Also, questions were raised about the persistent high rate of sexual violence in the country despite the array of laws enacted by the government.

This meeting is no doubt a good exercise as it afford members of civil society groups and other stakeholders to make necessary in[put into the report being submitted by the government to the UN CSW. However, as rightly admitted by the Minister the meeting is coming a little late in the day. Consultations with civil society groups should not be an after-thought but must be conceived by the government from the outset. The meeting did not afford civil society groups to make the necessary inputs they would have loved to make into the report being submitted by the government. It is hoped that in future this lapse will be corrected.