Workshop unpacks the Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill

The Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) Bill has been introduced in parliament. At this point we are unsure of when parliament will hold public hearings on the Bill. It may be this year or in the first months of next year.

In light of this, the Community Law Centre, Support Action for Gender Equality group, SonkeGender Justice, Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre and the Women’s Legal Centre hosted civil society workshops in Cape Town and Johannesburg on the Bill.

These workshops was aimed at providing opportunities for organisations (both experienced and inexperienced organisations) that want to engage in advocacy of this nature on the WEGE Bill, to participate in content debates and discussions in order to build collective as well as organisational-specific positions on the Bill, its purpose and content.

These organisations hope to identify, through these workshops, a range of organisations or individuals to make written and possibly oral submissions to Parliament on this bill. In addition to the ‘usual suspects’ it encouraged organisations that want to, but do not generally, undertake advocacy of this type to make submissions. A group to lead on media engagement, in particular including organisations who wish to, but do not routinely engage in the media space was established. Organisations were also provided with basic ‘how to make a submission’ tools at the meeting for people present who are unfamiliar with the process.

The main purpose of this is to demystify the process to some extent. These workshops will hopefully encourage support-oriented partnerships between organisations that have experience in preparing submissions, with organisations that would like support.
Generally it is the same organisations that write and present submissions to departments and legislatures on various gender related issues. This is in spite of the fact that there are a number of people and organisations who do not often do this, who indicate that they are interested in doing so. There are many reasons why this is the case.

Perhaps chief amongst those is that many smaller organisations do not have dedicated advocacy capacity, thus it is difficult to find the time while delivering services, to monitor and engage with these processes. In addition, there are a number of people in gender networks who routinely prepare and present such submissions, these organisations tend to have more resources dedicated to advocacy and employ staff who have experience and duties in this regard. For many, the process of preparing and presenting submissions is daunting, it takes practice and support for many of us to start engaging in this way.