The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) launched the Public Sector Woman in Leadership Network on 18 August 2022 as part of the women’s month commemoration.
The event was hosted by the Director General of the DPSA Ms Yoliswa Makhasi attended by the Director General in the Presidency Ms Phindile Baleni and Directors-General and HODs from National and Provincial Departments respectively.
In total 100 Women who occupy different positions, majority at SMS attended the event at the Prestigious Davinci Hotel in Sandton sponsored by the Absa Group.
The aim of the network is to empower and inspire women in leadership in the public sector to become resilient and effective leaders. The network is not an organization but a community of practice that will exist mainly as an online platform supported through activations in different provinces.
Further sessions will be held in provinces and engagements are at an advance stage to prepare the Provincial Networks.
We launched the Public Sector Women in Leadership Network recognizing that women are not a homogeneous group and with the application of 50%/50% representation principle women, we have advanced in all sectors of society.
Sadly, we have not yet reached gender equality in key centers of power in society, including the state, economy, civil society organs, and a range of other institutions.
We also recognize that there are limitations of public service regulations and policies in creating an enabling environment for implementation and advancement of our vision of a non-sexist society.
Women’s Month in South Africa provides an opportunity to pay tribute to the generations of women whose struggles laid the foundations for the progress made in empowering women and achieving gender equality to date. As we gathered to launch the Network and commemorate the historic march by women of South Africa to the Union Buildings on the 9th of August 1956 to demand their social, economic and political rights, we were reminded of an appeal made by these brave women to all progressive organisations, such as liberation movements, trade unions, religious, educational and welfare organisations to join their great and noble endeavor in the struggle for liberation of women.
I was personally reminded of the profound words in the women’s charter for effective equality that says: “The level of civilization which any society has reached can be measured by the degree of freedom that its members enjoy. The status of women is a test of civilization”.
The status of women is indeed a test of civilization, and we need to pose the question – how far have we progressed since this historic march 66 years ago?
As women of South Africa, we have come a long way as we remember the names of women who fought viciously towards emancipation of women such as Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Bertha Gxowa, Mary Lekgoro, Sophia Debryn, Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi, Rahina Moosa and Ray Alexadra. These are women on whose shoulders we are standing. These are women with rich history of participation and leadership in the trade union and working-class movement.
With society dynamic and forever changing, the challenges of women of South Africa today are different but the status quo remains. Looking at the challenges from the perspective of the commitments South Africa made to the UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a declaration negotiated and signed on behalf of women of the world at the 1995 World Conference on Women – the workplace as in public service for women of South Africa has improved. Their rights are protected but more can still be done understanding the principle of progressive realization of rights within the limited resources of the state. 2019 marked 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as well as the twenty-five years of democracy in South Africa.
The Public Service is obliged to provide a safe and healthy working environment especially for women. DPSA developed the Policy and Procedure on the Management of Sexual Harassment in the Public Service during 2013 with first implementation by April 2014. The purpose of this policy is to promote a workplace that is free of sexual harassment, sexual favors, intimidation and victimization, where employees especially women’s dignity, privacy and the right to equality in the workplace is respected.
This policy also provides a systematic and consistent approach to managing sexual harassment and steps to be taken when sexual harassment occurs within the course and scope of the Public Service. As a policy compliance requirement, all government departments annually report to DPSA on the number of sexual harassment cases reported and how they were resolved. It is such information that assists government to monitor sexual harassment in public service and continue to plan and improve on policy imperatives towards total eradication of this scourge.
South Africa’s top 10 priorities are jobs, housing, water, roads, electricity, sanitation, crime, corruption, education and land. The Constitution pledges political, social, economic and environmental rights. South Africa has made significant progress in attaining equality for women in social, economic and political spheres. Women’s representation in parliament, government, the public service, and in the private sector is one measure that illustrates such progress. In 1995 only 5% of Senior Management positions were filled by women. Today we are aiming to fill 50% of Senior Management positions with women and have progressed to 43%.
The public service 8-Principles Action Plan for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality is a measuring tool that monitors the extent to which equality and non-discrimination under the law, access to justice for women, poverty reduction; right to work, career pathing as well as women’s entrepreneurship and development of women’s enterprises are covered within public service.
I am hoping that as Senior Management, over the Women’s Month, this instrument is given consideration to assess how far we have come in improvement of the status of women in the public service.
Looking at unemployment that negatively impacts on the lives of women as primary care givers, the level of unemployment and the number of vacancies in government is not helpful either. Research shows that government workforce is disproportionate with population growth. Lesser number of people are today employed by government at a higher cost.
Gender equality agenda is traced from international women ‘s movement, internal women’s struggles for land, pass laws and social, economic and political injustices in a discriminatory unequal society, (apartheid). Women’s Charter for Effective Equality and the National Gender Policy Framework were regarded as pivotal in gender transformation of South Africa. The demand for 50/50% gender representation principle in the public and private sector cannot be over emphasized. This is in line with Sec 9 of the Constitution of RSA.
As South Africa entered negotiations for a new dispensation, women firstly mobilized to have a seat at the negotiation table and utilized the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality to mirror their vision of a non-sexist South Africa. This is the vision that informed non-sexism, gender parity and empowerment of women in the Constitution and Bill of Rights of South Africa.
The Gender Machinery
South Africa’s national gender machinery laid the institutional and policy foundations for the implementation of women empowerment and gender equality. Conceptualization of the gender machinery is embedded in the institutional mechanisms for advancement of the status of women that includes the Ministry for Women, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women and Women’s Caucus in Parliament, the Commission for Gender Equality and the broad women’s movement that advances the desired social compact.
There is notable Progress made in areas such as Cabinet adopted Gender Responsive, Budget and its Planning, Evaluation and Auditing should be and monitored across government if women are to equal benefit from the country budget.
Cabinet also adopted Sanitary Dignity Implementation Framework aimed at providing norms and standards with respect to the provision of sanitary dignity products and services to indigent women and girls including the adoption by cabinet of National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence and Femicide.
Progress can also be noted in the Increased number of women on the judiciary bench including appointment by President Ramaphosa of first female Deputy Chief Justice, Justice Maya and the appointment by President Ramaphosa of first female Chief of Defence Intelligence Major –General Thalita Mxakato.
What still requires attention is the Gender Segregation of data to have maximum benefit from any analysis executed. Gender Focal Points across government must consistently engage and be part of the gender machinery in government, to ensure that effective implementation and monitoring of gender transformation takes place. Mainstreaming has huge implications in terms of location and level of gender focal points (In Offices of the Premier and as Departmental Appointees at Level 13).
The budget for the Ministry that is inclusive of that of the Commission for Gender Equality must be reviewed to effectively respond to both mandates and we should ensure the re-introduction of the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill in Parliament.
Women empowerment and gender equality project management units in all economic line ministries, such as mining, energy, agriculture, trade and industry, ICT, should be established in order to facilitate entrance to businesses by women.
There should be Improvement of affordability and availability of child-care options for women in both the formal and informal sector, to address the social norms that drive participation of women in the labour market.
Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) should be promoted in schools and institutions of higher learning, with special focus on girls and young women.
There should be improvement of Financial Inclusion and Entrepreneurship of Women by introducing preferential procurement targets, strengthening women-focused Business Development Services, strengthening women’s financial literacy and access to credit.
Clarification of gender mainstreaming competency currently lies with the Ministry for Women and the Department of Public Service and Administration with a policy development mandate. The Commission for Gender Equality should be strengthened to effectively play its role of monitoring gender transformation in South Africa.
The National Gender Machinery should be resuscitated, to create a well-coordinated platform for advancement of the status of women and the resourcing of implementation of the adopted National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence and Femicide should be fast-tracked including the finalization of the three GBV bills in Parliament to beef the justice system’s response to GBV.
More effort should be put in the work with men and boys to understand the dangers that toxic masculinity poses to the security and dignity of women, children and LGBTQI, and may I add, conscious effort should be made not to leave the issue of children behind.
Dr Chana Pilane-Majake is the Deputy Minister for the Public Service and Administration
Watch Promo Video of the Launch Event