SPEECHES

Speech by Minister for Public Service and Administration, Honourable Lindiwe Sisulu, at the MPSA Women’s Day Celebrations, Heartfelt Arena, 30 August 2013

Date: 30 Sep 2013

Programme Director

Heads of Portfolio Institutions

Executive management and staff, and

Our Esteemed Women Guests

Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for your invitation to address you. Today as we celebrate this special day for all women within the MPSA family, we are also compelled to reflect on the progress we have made as a country in the advancement of the course of women's rights. At the centre of our reflection should be the question of whether we are succeeding in achieving the major concerns that have underpinned the struggles for women's rights in South Africa, and indeed if whether those achievements are filtering down to our workplace within the MPSA fraternity. The question is how far has the Government traversed in implementing gender transformation, how far have we implemented gender equity in the public service and what are the measures we have introduced to alleviate the working conditions of employees, in particular women.

Historic Struggles for Women's Rights

From the ideological perspective that underpins all forms of struggles in South Africa, one cannot begin to talk about women's rights without reflecting on the heroic foundation laid down by our fore-bearers, those women of steel, that laid down their lives in pursuit of the course of struggle against apartheid. Programme Director, the struggle for freedom in South Africa had its centre the fight for universal suffrage, democracy, justice and civil liberties. In the midst of all these stood out the struggle for women's rights which was taken to prominence by such gallant women leaders such as Lillian Ngoyi, Charlotte Maxeke, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Mandela, Sophie De Bruin, and many others – the list is endless. That today we are able to talk about gender parity and enjoy the rights provided by the Constitution is because of the work of these heroines. Our duty is to ensure that we continue with what they started until there is gender parity in our public and private spaces, until all women enjoy full protection by state the against violence and sexism, until all of us have equal access to all socio-economic and political benefits provided for by the Constitution, and until all of us enjoy the fruits of a better life for all.

What do we mean by "A Better Life for All", especially for Women

Programme Director, the struggle for women's rights is not only about the fight against injustice wrought by apartheid, but it is also a fight for a better life for all of us. What we mean by a better life especially for women are, amongst others the following:

    • Gender equity at all levels, be at a social, political and economic level and most importantly in the family and the workplace.

    • Enjoyment of freedom, liberties and all rights offered by the Constitution

    • Access to basic services such as water, sanitation, housing, roads and electricity

    • Enjoyment of social welfare protection in the form of grants

    • Maternity benefits at the work place

    • Quality healthcare provision, and

    • Protection by the state against gender based violence.

What the Government has done so far for Women

Distinguished guests, in his letter to public servants this year on 8 April 2013, President Zuma reporting on the progress that the Government has made in realizing key developmental objectives, indicated key achievements that have direct bearing on women. He reported that in the health sector, life expectancy is now firmly on an upward trend. Infant and under-five mortality rates have improved significantly, the maternal mortality ratio has started to decrease and mother-to-child transmission of HIV has declined sharply -a remarkable 60% reduction from about 8% in 2008 to 2,7 in 2012. He further reported that there has been a huge increase in the number of people living with HIV/Aids who are receiving antiretroviral treatment. Similarly, there has been a significant decrease in overall serious crime, due to hard-working police officials who risk their lives at times to make our communities safer. In basic education there has been a huge increase in the number of children attending Grade R and there have been improvements in the matric pass rate.

In addition to these improvements, Government has led the way in promoting the advancement of women, in particular on gender equity. As you know, South Africa has one of the highest numbers of women members of Parliament in the world. At an executive level the South African Government has a total of 13 women Cabinet Ministers constituting 38% of the total ministers. There are 16 women Deputy Ministers constituting 48% and 60% women Premiers. Out of nine premiers, five are women, which means that women govern the majority of provinces. However, when we measure other sectors, i.e. the economic sector, only 4.4% of chief executive officers and managing directors of listed companies are women and 25% of the CEOs of State Owned Enterprises are women.

It is pleasing, Programme Director, that there has also been steady improvement in the implementation of gender equity in the public service. Before 1994, white males occupied 100% of DG posts and there was a similar trend of white male domination in the ranks of Deputy-Directors General (98%), Chief Directors (92%), Directors (89%), Deputy Directors (84%) and Assistant Directors (70%). The representation of white females only emerges at the level of Chief Director (1%) downwards and peaks in the Assistant Director positions (25%), while a smattering of Asian, African and Coloured representation comes at an average of 1% from the positions of DDG right down to ADs. Black female representation at the level of AD was 1%, in contrast to the 25% of white females. As for disability, no records were kept, so it is very difficult to get past records of how people with disabilities were represented in the public service pre-1994.

After 1994, Programme Director and as of 31 December 2012, the picture above has changed and racial transformation has been achieved to a larger extent. DG positions are 56.86% (African males), 2.61% (Coloured male), 5.23% (Asian male) and 9.8% (white male). The figures for female employees at this level are 20.61% (Africans), 1.31% (Coloureds), 3.92% (Whites) and 0% (Asians). Overall, the representation of women in senior management positions in government has moved up from the 1995 baseline of 5% to the current 38.6%.

As Government we have also established legislative foundation that provides largely for the needs of women. This includes amongst others, the Human Rights Commission Act of 1994, the Commission on Gender Equality Act, the Divorce Courts Amendment Act, the Domestic Violence Act, the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act and the Employment Equity Act. We have also published regulatory mechanism that advances the women's cause. Added to these are the supporting structures that help advance women's rights. These include, amongst others, the Gender Commission, the Women Ministry and many other women rights organisations.

Government is finalising work on the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which will enforce gender equity compliance within both government and the private sector. We have also passed into law the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, which aims to stop this practice that in the main victimizes women.

Challenges Faced by MPSA Women

Programme Director, we may talk in broad terms about the good work that has been done for women in this country, but it would amount to nothing if these achievements do not resonate with our experiences as women here in the MPSA family. The question is what is it that the Government has done to benefit women in workplaces such as the MPSA, what initiatives are there in support of their course, and what is being done to address the daily concerns that are facing women in the workplace.

I have been informed that you as our women employees have raised a number of concerns and challenges you face in the work place, chief of which are:

    • Lack of childcare facilities

    • No breastfeeding support from the employer

    • Doing overtime and travelling while breastfeeding

    • Short maternity leave

    • Improvement of conditions of service

    • Parity of opportunities

    • Concerns around appointments

    • No flexible working hours

    • Need for family friendly policies, practices and structures

    • Need for a pool of skilled women at management level, and

    • Sustaining the fight against HIV/AIDS

I am informed, Programme Director, that management is attending in varying degrees to these issues, that there are policies that are in the pipeline and specific measures that are being taken to address these concerns. I would like to emphasise though that the resolution of these issues is not only a management concern, but also a matter, which women should themselves wrestle with. I cannot say more, Programme Director, that change in this regard is what you are given in a platter or on the palm of your hand, but fundamental change is what you yourselves have to fight for, to wrestle it until it is in your hands.

Government has laid out the foundation for the realization of our goals, but it is us women who should champion transformation. If we ourselves do not lead in mainstreaming gender issues, if we do not lead in creating gender focal points in our institutions, if we do not lead campaigns that affect women's issues, who else can. The struggle for the emancipation of women and the placement of women's agenda on the public discourse did not come about at the goodwill of men. It came about because women of courage took it upon themselves to participate and lead in the political struggle for freedom. Some took up arms and others paid up with their lives to ensure that today we can enjoy the fruits of their labour.

As women within the MPSA fraternity we cannot betray what our fore-bearers have bequeathed us. We need carry on with what they have started. We need to be the drivers of change both in our individual capacities and through organized structures, and we need to participate in any discourse that affects women. We need to give insight and direction on the following topical debate issues that affect women generally in South Africa:

    • Discrimination against females in the work environment

    • Sexual harassment in the workplace

    • Career laddering opportunities for women including mentorship and other work exposure programmes

    • Representativity of women in technical and executive positions overall

    • Striking a balance between work family roles

    • The abuse and rape of women in the society, and

    • Domestic violence against women

These are the issues we should always be engaged on. These are issues we should lead on both in discussions and in implementation.

Current Initiatives by the MPSA which Benefit Women

Minister's Priorities

Programme Director, allow me at this point to talk a little about what I have done upon assumption of office as the Minister for the Public Service and Administration. You would be aware that I announced a number of key reforms in the public service which include:

    • Professionalizing the Public Service for higher productivity and value for money,

    • Transforming PALAMA into a school of Government, to produce a cadre of government,

    • Finalization of the Constitutional requirements of Chapter 10 in respect of uniform standards, prescripts and values.

    • Prohibition of public servants from doing business with government,

    • Establishment of an Anti-Corruption Bureau, and

    • Establishment of an Office of Standards and Compliance in the Public Service to ensure compliance with regulations and rapid reaction to provinces in distress.

These reforms were put in the public domain, and have by and large been received positively by many. These reforms are aligned to the National Development Plan which represents the vision and aspirations of our government and, as public servants, especially women; we must all gear ourselves to lead in the implementation of this Plan as this will move the gender agenda forward for us and women in our communities. I know I can depend on all of you because I am continuously encouraged by your tireless commitment and contribution towards the realization of an effective, efficient, cable and development oriented public service. We should be mindful though that our commitment does not mean we should ignore the challenges that come with the task, but we should pull our resources and do our best to be the drivers of the change we desire for the public service.

What the Salary Negotiations have Achieved for Women

Programme Director, I want to share with the gathering the progress that we have made since the pronouncement of our public service reforms. On the wage negotiations we were successful in averting a public service wide strike and agreed with labour on a multi-term wage agreement, which was historic for the public service. The outcome of the wage negotiations resulted in Resolution 1 of 2012 that brought about many changes for all employees in the public service, especially women. The salary adjustments, long service recognition, recognition of improved qualifications and provisions for family responsibility leave all benefit public servants immensely as they give women the power to have financial freedom and to better their own lives in the workplace. In particular, the pre –natal leave have allowed pregnant women in the public service to have enough time off to attend pre natal clinics and take care of their health better.

What the National School of Government mean to Women

We are currently in the process of transforming the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA) into a School of Government in order to professionalise and instill a culture of efficiency and effectiveness within the public service. Through the school, we will be able to build and instill professional ethos and competence in our public servants across all spheres of government. The training offerings of the School of Government will allow women to advance their skills thereby increasing a pool of women with relevant skills to continue to occupy decision-making positions in the public service. Programme Director, we aiming to launch the School in October this year.

What GEMS is doing for Women Employees

In realising the health needs of our employees, the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) continues to offer free health screening and massage for public servants throughout the year, and it has been noted that women have been the larger number of users of these services. The provision of health care screening services have given public servants the power to take charge of their health and get treatment for chronic diseases in time, thereby allowing them to have a quality of life while in the workplace. The telephonic advice given by GEMS on various health issues has also proven to be valuable in increasing the quality of life of public servants. As a Ministry, we must agree that a healthy, skilled and motivated public servant is in a better position to provide quality services to our people, and that is what we aim for.

The Service Charter and What it Means for Women

Programme Director and distinguished guests, I believe by now we all know about the Service Charter for the Public Service. The Service Charter, which flows from the "African Charter on the Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration", defines the principles and values that underpins the conduct of public service employees and also serves as a statement of commitment by public servants to uphold those principles and values in rendering services to the citizenry.

The Charter commits public servants to contribute towards a professional public service by serving the public in an unbiased and impartial manner in order to create confidence in the public service; to provide timely services to promote the development and upliftment of all South Africans; to respect and protect every person's dignity and rights as contained in the Constitution; to not engage in any transaction or action that is in conflict with or infringes on the execution of official duties; to act against fraud, corruption, nepotism, maladministration and any other act which constitutes an offence, or which is prejudicial to the public interest; and to demonstrate professionalism, competency, excellence, transparency and impartiality in the performance of official duties. The Charter also provides a basis for government institutions to develop service standards.

I am glad, Programme Director, to inform you that the Charter has been adopted as Resolution 1 of 2013 by Government as the employer and labour unions in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council in June 2013. For the first time in years the Charter enjoys 100% support from the employer and labour unions in the Bargaining Council. Like the negotiations we have concluded with labour, the adoption of the Charter illustrates how far we have progressed with unions in our efforts to transform public service practices. We have just launched the Service Charter together with unions yesterday. It will soon be a requirement that all public servants sign the Charter and commit to its provisions.

What is important for me is that the Charter puts life to the implementation of Batho Pele in the public service. For too long I have been raising concerns about how we as public servants treat the clients that we serve on a daily basis. I have raised issues with the lack of courtesy shown by officials, the lack of identification at the frontline service delivery points and the way we dress.

I am happy that the DPSA is working on a dress code policy which I will soon authorise for implementation. I seem to be in agreement with its draft proposals on what kind of dress we should be allowed and not allowed to wear at the work place. For women employees the Code prohibits the following forms of dress, and I quote,

    • Strapless blouses or dresses without a covering jacket/shirt

    • Mini-length skirts and dresses which prohibit decent movement

    • High leather boots which cover the thigh areas, usually worn with mini-skirts,

    • Halter neck (head collar) dresses without a covering jacket/shirt.

    • Excessively tight-fitting trousers/pants

    • Midriffs, Bermuda shorts, ski pants, ordinary shorts, track-suit trousers or tights

    • Tackies, running shoes, beach sandals, sand shoes, stokies or similar footwear.

    • Revealing, low-line and ill-fitting clothing that exposes the midriff areas both front and back, as well as clothing which exposes undergarments

    • Any clothing that depicts offensive or insensitive slogans and wording, or indecent pictures

    • Any visible facial piercings other than earrings

Programme Director, for me the first point of measurement of professionalism is the manner in which public officials dress. It is for this reason that I demand officials to dress properly, to wear their name tags at all times, to be courteous to clients, to answer calls and queries on time and to behave in a professional manner. I expect our women employees to lead on this matter and to show their male counterparts how this is done.

Further Regulatory Initiatives to Benefit Women

Programme Director, last year I approved two critical guidelines that enable the public service to create a conducive work environment especially for women. These are the Guidelines on Gender Sensitive and Rights Based HIV/AIDS STI's and TB Mainstreaming and the Guidelines for Child Care Facilities in the Public Service. The goal of these guidelines is to provide technical assistance to departments to establish childcare facilities and to sensitize departments to render their services on HIV/AIDS, TB and STI in a gender sensitive and rights based manner. These guidelines will go a long way to support the lives of women in the workplace and make their work life easier. On labour relations matters, the DPSA has also developed the Policy on Prevention and Management of Sexual Harassment for the Public Service, which I will be approving soon. This policy will provide guidelines for the prevention and management of sexual harassment in the public service, and women are the primary beneficiaries as they are the largest group that experiences sexual harassment in the workplace.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Programme Director, I would like to urge women to take leadership in advancing the course of their own struggles. We should not betray those gallant women who set the foundation for our struggle, who took it upon themselves to oppose pass laws and all forms of oppression. Leaders like Charlotte Maxeke did not have to wait for men for them to organize themselves and take the struggle to the apartheid regime. Similarly, you cannot sit and wait for the Department, your institutions, and your men managers to chart ways for the solution of your challenges. You need to lead at the forefront. You need to take leadership in devising women-friendly policies. You need to be most concerned in monitoring departments that they are indeed implementing policies and programmes that benefit women. You cannot be apologetic about what are essentially your hard-earned rights.

Programme Director and esteemed guests, attainment of better working conditions is however not an end in itself, but a springboard from which we are propelled to tackle the myriad challenges facing our people. As we come to work everyday, we need as women, to be concerned about what we could do to serve our people best. Government has set the pace by introducing public service reforms that benefit women. As women we need to define our role in this. As we do this we need to be constantly preoccupied with the desire to address the concerns and plight of our people, especially the downtrodden, those who do not have the means to irk a living on their own. As women we should be concerned about how we alleviate their plight especially the plight of the old and sickly, some who die in queues waiting for their pensions, and also the plight of retired public servants who struggle to speedily access their pensions once they leave the public service, amongst others.

It is women sitting in this room who are expected to live and defend women's values, whilst empowering those who are less fortunate to vindicate these rights. In short, Programme Director, it is women gathered here today who are challenged to drive the gender transformation agenda and ensure that never again there should begender-based discrimination, sexual harrassment and violence against women.

Malibongwe igama la makhosikazi.

I thank you.


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