ANC Central number - 011 376 1000


Beijing + 5

Submitted by:
The Women's League of the African National Congress of South Africa

New York: June 2000


A: Preamble

B: Introduction

C: The Twelve Critical Areas of Concern

C1 The Feminisation of Poverty
C2 Education and Training of Women
C3 Women and Health
C4 Violence Against Women
C5 Women and Armed Conflict
C6 Women and the Economy
C7 Women in Power and Decision- Making
C8 Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women
C9 Human Rights of Women
C10 Women and the Media
C11 Women and the Environment
C12 The Girl Child

D: Conclusion

" It is vitally important that all structures of government, including the President himself, should understand this fully. That freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. All of us must take this on board, that the objectives of the Reconstruction and Development Programme will not have been realised unless we see, in visible and practical terms, that the condition of the women of our country has radically changed for the better, and that they have been empowered to intervene in all aspects of life, as equals with any member of society."

South Africa's first democratically elected President, Mr. Nelson Mandela, in his first speech at the opening of South Africa's first democratically elected Parliament.

" ... (We must) continue to focus on the vital question of the development and emancipation of women, as well as to further integrate this issue within all government programmes"

South Africa's second democratically elected President, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, in his first speech at the opening of South Africa's second democratically elected Parliament.


The African National Congress (ANC) is the ruling party in the Republic of South Africa. The Women's League on the African National Congress (ANC-WL), established in 1954, is, as the name suggests, the Women's Movement within the political party. We mobilise the women within and around the ANC manifesto and its aims and objectives, but our primary aim is the overall empowerment of South African women.

The ANC-WL participated in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, which took place about one year after South Africa's first democratic elections. We can state unequivocally that the majority of South African women were deeply inspired by the Fourth World Conference on Women, or the Beijing Conference, as it became more commonly known. Five years later, we once more bring greetings to all in New York, and all who read this report, from the women in South Africa.

Given the background of the legacy of discrimination and inequality entrenched in Apartheid South Africa, we find, at this point in time, that we can report on a great many significant achievements. Although we already had a rich history of women's struggle in South Africa, nevertheless, women felt that the Beijing Declaration and the Platform of Action based on the Twelve Critical Areas of Concern, provided them with a concrete agenda to tackle and shape their own empowerment. The twelve critical areas of concern in particular, have provided South African women with a focus, and the necessary international leverage, to bring pressure to bear on government, the NGO sector and the private sector, or civil society, to begin to make real, substantial changes to improve the status and the lives of women in South Africa.

The ANC-WL fully supports the official South African government delegation, present at the Beijing + 5 meeting, and their report. And, as a women's political movement within the ruling parties that holds a practical two-thirds majority, we see our inputs as complementary, rather than alternative. We see ourselves providing a de facto perspective on the status of South African women five years after Beijing. We believe that the ANC-WL, more than any other organisation in SA, can attest to the achievements and obstacles on the long journey toward empowering women in SA.

In 1956 the ANC-WL mobilised women against the extension of Pass Laws to women. We collected 100 000 signatures from women around the country, and 20 000 women presented this petition to the government of the day, on the 9th August 1956. The unifying slogan on that day was: "You have struck the women, you have struck the rock," and it remains the rallying cry of women in South Africa to this day. And, as a result of that historic event, the 9th August is now deemed National Women's Day, a national public holiday.

Although the ANC-WL cannot claim that we have sustained a deliberate programme to advance the Beijing Declaration and the Platform of Action, given our history as a Women's Movement, we can nevertheless claim to be a real and representative voice for South African women.


Participation at the Beijing Conference in 1995

1. Immediately after our first democratic election in 1994, the demands and expectations for a fundamental transformation of our society were enormous. And, at the same time, the resources were limited. During the first five years (1994-99) of democratic governance in South Africa, government made its number one priority the development of a sound legislative and institutional framework. We believed that this would ensure the eventual transformation of our society as well as an environment for appropriate social and economic development.

2. It was fortuitous that the dawn of our democracy in South Africa coincided with, and could have been influenced by critical international events such as the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing); the World Conference on Social Development; and the World Food Summit, amongst others.

3. As a result of this international contact, and our own sense of urgency to transform our society, we approached the implementation of our commitments and obligations to these international platforms with enthusiasm, and we were pleased either to be able to include them in our national Reconstruction and Development Programme, or to find them already reflected there.

4. The Beijing Conference identified Twelve Critical Areas of Concern and developed strategic objectives and concrete actions to address them. They became known as the Beijing Platform for Action. For the sake of brevity, this report will not repeat the definitions and principles of the Twelve Critical Areas of Concern. Instead, we will simply reaffirm, by means of this document, our sincere commitment to them.

Our Report

5. The structure of our report will be simple. We will, after these introductory remarks, examine the current picture for women in South Africa in the light of each of the Twelve Critical Areas of Concern, and under each we will detail our:

  • Achievements, and our
  • Challenges.
The South African Constitution

6. The Constitution of South Africa was finalised in February 1997. Throughout, the document refers to 'he and 'she'. It is thus gender inclusive, and sets an example for all other laws. It is, without doubt, one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, and entrenches a number of different rights that are very significant for women.

Section 9: Freedom from unfair discrimination on the basis of marital status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, age, disability, and a number of other grounds, and the right to equality

Section 12: Freedom and security of the person, which includes the right to be free from all forms of violence, either from public or private sources, and the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to make decisions concerning reproduction

Section 15: Freedom of religion, belief and opinion which recognises that some religious or customary practices may be recognized, but these must be consistent with the Constitution

Section 16: Freedom of expression does not extend to advocacy of hatred that is based on gender

Section 25: The right to property

Section 26: The right to adequate housing

Section 27: The right to access to health care services including reproductive health care, sufficient food and water, and social security

Section 29: The right to a basic education including adult basic education

Section 30: The right to a language and culture of choice, as long as it is consistent with the Bill of Rights

Section 31: The right of cultural, religious and linguistic communities to enjoy their culture, use their language and practise their religion, and to form, join and maintain associations, as long as they are consistent with the Bill of Rights

Section 34: The right to access to courts

7. One of the most significant features of the Constitution is that the right to equality has been held to be the cornerstone of the Constitution. All other rights must be interpreted to give effect to equality.

8. The Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, has also determined that the right to equality must be substantively, rather than formally interpreted.

9. In addition, the Constitution provides:

  • In Section 231(4), that international agreements become law in the Republic when they are incorporated into law by national legislation; and
  • In Section 233 that 'while interpreting legislation, every court must prefer any reasonable interpretation of legislation that is consistent with international law, over any alternative interpretation that is inconsistent with international law.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), is therefore relevant to the interpretation of all SA laws.

Gender and Development

10. In 1998 Kofi Annan, The General Secretary of the UN reminded us that: "... Development is not merely a matter of projects and statistics. It is above all a matter of people, real people with basic needs: food, clothing, shelter and medical care . . ." In addition to this, we of the ANC-WL believe that gender too, is a development issue.

11. We believe that gender equality and gender equity are not just human rights issues, and are not just an aspect of democracy but are in fact, preconditions for democracy. This is particularly the case in a contemporary democracy which requires the full participation of all sectors of society, not just in casting votes, but in all decisions-making processes and especially in the allocation of resources.

12. We believe that it is only because the notion of democracy itself has expanded in the past few decades to include the voices of some women, that there have been increased demands for real power sharing, and for the promotion and protection of women's basic human rights.

13. Gender inequality hampers, or even halts, the development process by excluding, undermining, or limiting the contribution that women are able to make to the economy, through inequitable policies in, particularly, education, employment, health and the justice system. We believe that all development processes that ignore or sideline gender issues will either fail, or at best, only partially succeed.

General Human Rights Provisions

14. During the last three years, South Africa has implemented two significant general human rights initiatives that, although they are not gender- specific, will nevertheless play a significant role in women's lives.

15. The first is the development of the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, a new human rights instrument that was lodged with the United Nations in December 1998. It sets targets for government to implement human rights, including socio-economic rights, requires that a monitoring system be put in place, and that delivery be evaluated, continuously, over the five-year period. After the five years, government will be required to report comprehensively to the United Nations on its progress, and then, on the basis of its achievements and shortcomings, it will draw up a new five-year plan.

16. The second is the enactment in February 2000 of an overarching Equality Act. This piece of legislation is aimed at ensuring that all forms of discrimination in South African society, both direct and indirect, both overt and covert, are eliminated. This new legislation, together with the equality provisions in Section 9 of the Constitution, will go a long way towards the attainment of gender equality and gender equity.

The Operation of Human Rights in South Africa

17. It is also important to note here that the human rights contained in the South African Constitution, operate both vertically and horizontally. In effect this means that not only may the government not discriminate against its citizens, but its citizens may not discriminate against one another. This broadens the basis for the creation of a human rights culture in South Africa and puts the rights of women and girl children into the mainstream of human rights discourse and practice.



18. The Beijing Conference identified the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women as one of the Twelve Critical Areas of Concern requiring special attention. It also introduced a wider definition of poverty, one that not only takes into account minimum basic needs but also includes the denial of opportunities and choices.

19. Women in South Africa welcomed this definition of poverty. For us poverty is not just about the income. It is about people's lost creativity and their stunted potential to contribute to society. It is about the denial of access to opportunities and choices to lead a decent life; to achieve a better standard of living; to gain more freedom, dignity and self- respect. It is about being able to feed, clothe and send children to school - all things that are important, for human existence generally, and for women in particular.

20. Women and men experienced poverty and dispossession differently during apartheid and the legacy of past restrictions, still remains for many women today.

21. Gender poverty is often measured by comparing households headed by women with those headed by men. People understand the term 'woman-headed household' in different ways. Sometimes it means there is no adult man in the household. Sometimes it means that there is a man, but he is absent for much of the time. Sometimes it means a woman is the main income-earner, or has the most power. There are also big differences among woman-headed households.

22. Overall, however, a household headed by a woman is more likely to be poor than one headed by a man. And women, especially rural African women, suffer more from poverty than men do.

23. In judging whether a woman or man is poor, it is not enough to look only at the household's income because family members do not always share household income equally. Usually those who earn income have more control over what is done with the money. Because men are more likely than women to earn money, and more likely to earn higher amounts, unequal sharing disadvantages many women.

24. South Africa has, for decades, had one of the greatest income differentials in the world. While South Africa was rated an upper-middle-income country, the vast majority of our people during Apartheid lived in abject poverty. A minority enjoyed levels of wealth equal to those of any developed country, while the majority of households had no access to clean water, energy, health care and education. These inequalities have led to the two-nation theory: one rich, one poor; one white, one black. We are tempted to add a gender dimension to that theory: one man; one woman.

C1.1 Achievements

25. The Constitution of South Africa enshrines the attainment of socio-economic rights. The ANC argued at the time of writing the Constitution: " . . . What do those classical rights mean if the majority remain landless, are poor, hungry and jobless?" Hence, the highest commitment a country can possibly make to the eradication of poverty is embraced in the Constitution of our country.

26. Since 1994 our government has served 9.2 million people with basic water supplies and many people have access to clean, running water for the first time.

27. Electricity and telephone connections have been provided to people in previously under-resourced parts of our country.

28. There are now Child Support Grants that target 20 percent of the poorest households in our country, and which will reach three million of the poorest children by 2003. Reports from our branches in impoverished areas, attest to the impact that the provision of such basic infrastructure and services has had on the lives of the poor. Because women no longer have to spend four to five hours a day collecting water and firewood, the very poor women in our country feel less poor. Frequently, these Grants mean the difference between malnutrition and starvation on the one hand, and having the means to provide a child with food on the other.

29. In 1998, government released the Poverty and Inequality Report. This has contributed significantly to our understanding of poverty in South Africa. This lead to the "War on Poverty" and "Speak out Against Poverty" campaigns. The Poverty Hearings concluded, among other things that 29 percent of the adult population was illiterate and that 20 percent of African women have no formal schooling.

30. Nor is government the only organisation that is attempting to address poverty in South Africa. These are many NGOs that are working in the same field. For example, a Homeless Peoples Federation has been established by poor homeless people, as a self-help initiative. The Federation has established partnerships with the Pavement Dwellers Association in India and similar organisations elsewhere in the world. It provides the homeless with a support network and a safety net, and they believe that it will eventually provide a lasting solution to their personal experience of poverty.

C1.2 Challenges

31. We believe that South Africa has yet has to refine and mature its management of public-private partnerships, especially government-NGO partnerships, especially in relation to alleviating poverty.

32. The ANC-WL supports the government's initiative to improve service delivery in the public sector. We also acknowledge that government has recently candidly reported, that despite legislative and institutional transformation, several shortcomings persist in the public service, and that these hamper service delivery, especially to the poor, the majority of whom are women. Our view is that some civil servants are uninformed, and that additional training will go a long way toward improving service delivery.

33. The challenge that still awaits us is integrating lessons from our successes and failures on an ongoing basis. While we can learn from models elsewhere in the world, the ANC-WL believes that our answers are closer at hand.


34. The Beijing Platform for Action identified the need to ensure women's full and equal access to education and training. It is a pivotal building block for women's empowerment, and an essential tool for achieving the goals of gender equality, gender equity, development and peace.

35. The race and gender dimensions in access to education in South Africa sharply reflect the political history of our country, hence in this area of our report, it is important to view achievements alongside the historical imbalances our country has to overcome.

36. The ANC-WL believes that the educational profile of adult South Africans continues to reflect the race and gender inequities of Apartheid. Historically, there were few educational opportunities for African people, particularly for African women and this has left an indelible mark. For example by 1994\5, only 6 percent of African women 20 years and older, had graduated from tertiary institutions; only 12% of African women had matriculated; and 23% of African women had no formal schooling at all. This is in stark contrast to the fewer than 1% of white women that had no formal education.

C2.1 Achievements

37. Government is clearly committed to providing lifelong education and training for all our people. The White Paper on Education and Training acknowledges that the state has an obligation to protect and advance this right to education, and acknowledges that the state must take reasonable measures to make education progressively available and accessible.

38. In the past the government and some parents thought it was less important to educate girls than boys. Today, however, there are slightly more girls at school than there are boys, and overall there are more African girls at school than ever

39. The Minister of Education established the Gender Equity Task Team October 1996 to develop a draft proposal on the establishment of structures for gender equity in the national and provincial Departments of Education and legislative measures on sex-based violence and harassment in the education system.

40. The White Paper on Education and Training (1996) established government's commitment to the provision of early childhood development and learning, and recognised the issues of gender inequality that are manifest in the education system.

41. Curriculum 2005, which makes provision for eradicating gender stereotypes in teaching materials, classroom practice and school experience, has been launched and is being implemented incrementally.

42. With regard to science and technology education, all major projects have a gender focus and are designed to ensure increasing the access of women to science and technology.

C2.2 Challenges

43. Historically early childhood education and adult- basic-education (ABET), have largely been catered for by the NGOs and the private sector institutions. It is only relatively recently that government has committed itself to extending ABET provision. This is a clear move in the right direction but it is still problematic that much of the contents of ABET programmes simply reinforces gender stereotyping and traditional gender roles, without questioning them. It is possible to teach literacy, numeracy, reasoning skills, and problem-solving while at the same time, educating women about their rights, and helping them to become aware of their equal rights as citizens. We believe that every effort should be made to achieve this.

44. In addition, the hours of teaching and the location of teaching venues for ABET often suit the teachers rather than the learners. Also. transport (both availability and costs), safety and childcare, are seldom adequately considered when deciding on the location of adult centers of learning.

45. Many of the inequalities that persist in Early Childhood Development (ECD) pertain to the perception of childcare as woman's responsibility, rather than a social responsibility. Government has now recognised that the years between nought and nine are a crucial developmental phase and is making plans to deal with the situation, but the responsibility for this age group has been split between the Departments of Health, Welfare and Education, and this could cause problems in implementation.

46. We believe that in addition to the Constitutional advances in terms of the right to education, South Africa has to strengthen the ECD and ABET environment. There is a strong correlation between the poverty of women and their literacy rates. Moreover, poor women and children are most vulnerable to adverse social, economic and political forces, and ECD and ABET programmes can go along way in breaking the cycle of disadvantage and poverty.

47. Social relationships for many children in South Africa are formed within a context of poverty. Many children live in situations characterised by domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse, continuos threats on personal safety, high rates of crime, unemployment, lack of housing and sanitation facilities, overcrowding, lack of transport, lack of adequate food, absence of domestic water and so on. What is taught, and how it is taught, at all levels of the education system, has to address this reality.


48. Good health and well-being continue to elude the majority of the world's women, and this was true also for the great majority of South African women under Apartheid. The ANC-WL believes that every woman has the right to the highest standard of physical and mental health, and since 1994, we believe that significant advances have been made in this regard.

C3.1 Achievements

49. A Patients' Rights Charter has been published and training programmes are being conducted to ensure that all patients, including women, know what their rights and responsibilities are in terms of medical interventions of any kind, and can insist that their rights are respected in both the public and the private sector.

50. The implementation of notification in cases of maternal mortality came into effect in December 1997. Since then, in all cases, health professionals are compelled to note and record the causes of death of pregnant women up to six weeks after delivery.

51. A confidential inquiry into maternal mortality has been conducted and the results of the research have been published. Of all the women who gave birth in 1998, 676 died during or soon after pregnancy. Out of every 100 000 live births, 150 women in South Africa die. The information in this report will help health professionals to concentrate their efforts on ensuring that the problems that lead to maternal deaths are addressed at source, and ultimately to ensuring that there are no unavoidable maternal deaths.

52. The Department of Health has developed a card for women's reproductive health in order to promote health-seeking behaviour, improve continued care and encourage healthy lifestyles. The card, retained by the woman, will also facilitate communication among health service providers.

53. A national strategy for preventing elder abuse has been published. This will be of direct benefit to women, since they are the bulk of the elderly population.

54. At the primary health care level, reproductive health services have been expanded to include family planning, counselling and free access to contraception.

55. Legislation is in force to ensure termination of pregnancy on request for all women over the age of 16 in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, and in some cases, the first twenty weeks. These services are provided free of charge.

56. Government has implemented iodised salt initiatives to reduce anaemia, particularly in pregnant women.

57. A Women's Partnership Against AIDS has been formed to promote awareness and prevention among women, as well as to support home-based care and counselling.

58. The Integrated Nutrition Programme assists pregnant women to maintain good levels of nutrition.

59. Breastfeeding is promoted and guidelines have been drawn up and implemented.

60. Health care is free for pregnant women and children up to the age of six.

61. Primary health care is free for all South Africans, and clinics have been built in order to ensure delivery, especially in rural areas.

62. A pilot programme to encourage the use of the female condom has been launched.

63. A model for female mental health care at primary health level is being developed.

64. Legislation has been amended to provide for the least intrusive forms of sterilisation for women with mental illness, and special panels that include members of the public, have been set up to limit abuses such as unsolicited hysterectomies being performed on women in institutional care.

C3.2 Challenges

65. To overcome resistance among health professionals towards termination of pregnancy.

66. More training for health section workers on gender related issues.

67. More resources for health care services in poorly- resourced areas, particularly rural areas.

68. Information campaigns for all women on breast cancer and cervical cancer.

69. School curriculums to include sexual and reproductive health education.


70. In South Africa the principal forms of violence against women include domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, witch burnings, rape-murders, sexual serial killings, and forced prostitution.

71. Domestic violence is understood to include physical abuse; sexual abuse; emotional; verbal and psychological abuse; economic abuse like withholding money needed to survive, or the confiscation of wages; stalking; damage to property; entry into a woman's home without consent and "any other controlling or abusive behaviour, where the behaviour harms or may cause imminent harm to the safety, health or well-being of the woman" [Domestic Violence Act of 1998].

72. Sexual harassment is understood to be "unwanted conduct of a sexual nature" that includes coercing someone sexually to get a job; keep a job; be promoted; enjoy better working conditions or pass examinations. [NEDLAC Code of Good Practice] It includes the concept of "hostile environment" harassment and can take verbal, physical and nonverbal forms.

73. We believe that these broad and comprehensive definitions can, through dissemination and discussion, contribute significantly towards a better understanding of the nature of violence against women, and ultimately towards its eradication.

C4.1 Achievements

74. The passing of the 1998 Domestic Violence Act extends the range of relationships that are protected and places obligations on law enforcement agents to actively assist women to assert their rights under the Act.

75. The South African Law Commission has almost completed its project on law reform regarding rape and other sexual offences. The aim of the project is to motivate for and draft new legislation that will substantially alter the definition of rape and greatly improve the actual court process so that secondary victimisation is minimised or eradicated.

76. The Department of Health will intensify and roll out specialised training for forensic nurses and doctors during 2000. The aim of the training is to enable health professionals to collect and record evidence, provide medical and some psychological support for victims of rape and other sexual offences, to understand how their evidence fits into the criminal justice system. This will greatly improve the conviction rate of sexual offenders.

77. The Department of Health has started a men's programme for promoting men's participation in the prevention of domestic violence.

78. Primary health care workers are being trained to identify, counsel and treat victims of domestic violence and rape.

79. Nationwide, "One-Stop Victim Empowerment Centres" are being set up as part of the National Crime Prevention Strategy. These include the services of law enforcement and health professionals.

80. A Victim Empowerment Programme has been initiated to reduce the effects of crime on people's lives, and a Victim's Charter in the final stages of development.

81. South Africa is a signatory to the SADC Declaration on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children.

82. A conference on witchcraft violence was held in 1998 to examine the seriousness of the problem and to attempt to find solutions.

83. A resource manual for journalists has been published on violence against women. The aim is to promote a better understanding amongst journalists about the nature and scope of violence against women and to improve media coverage on the subject.

84. Legislation on minimum sentencing for serious crimes including rape has been enacted.

85. Twenty-five specialist Sexual Offences Courts will be set up during 2000 and all personnel who work in the courts will receive specialised training.

86. A national Men's March against violence against women and children took place in 1997.

C4.2 Challenges

87. Further training for law enforcement, justice and health workers is essential if the policies and laws are to be implemented effectively.

88. More media coverage around domestic violence in order to "break the silence and stop the violence".

89. More state funding for services such as shelters for women seeking safety.

90. More resources and support services for women in poorly-resourced areas, particularly rural areas.

91. More public education on violence against women, including information on women's human and legal rights and how to access support.

92. School curriculums to include gender violence prevention programmes, and there should be an intensification of the life-skills programmes in the primary and secondary schools.

93. Parents and caregivers to have access to information on gender violence and to raise their children to view violence against women as unacceptable.

94. For religious and faith-based organisations to condemn violence against women and to participate in preventing and dealing with the problem.


95. There are two important aspects to this. One concerns the effect that armed conflict has generally on the lives of women, and the second concerns the roles that women play in situations of armed conflict or potential armed conflict, whether as members of a defence force or as civilians.

C5.1 Achievements

96. Currently, the Deputy Minister of Defence is a woman. We believe that this is a significant step towards ensuring the participation of women in issues of defence and armed conflict at a decision- making level.

97. In the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), the career paths of women are theoretically the same as those for men. They undergo the same training and can apply for the same posts, including combat posts.

98. Approximately 26% of women in uniform in the SANDF hold the rank of lieutenant or higher.

99. The Department of Defence has formulated a policy to prevent violence against women in situations of armed conflict. All SANDF members will receive specific training in this regard.

100. Accelerated training programmes are being initiated in the public sector, and in many large private corporations, for capacity building aimed at promoting women into new areas of employment in which they have been excluded. A practical example of a support programme can be found in the Department of Defence. Traditionally a male- dominated environment, it established a gender forum after a conference on 'Women in the Defence Force'. It has since established a Defence Hotline through which women can have access to counseling and advice. The attitudes of male colleagues, violence against women, sexual harassment, divorce and relationship issues are some of the questions being addressed to the Hotline.

C5.2 Challenges

101. The majority of female senior officers are still concentrated in either personnel posts or in the medical service. We must encourage women to apply for posts in other branches of the armed services, and we pressurise decision-makers to appoint women into posts in other branches.

102. We must mobilise our resources to overcome the idea that women should not be used in armed conflict situations, and that mothers are not an asset to the military.

103. There is a need for increased gender-sensitivity training in the SANDF because most of its personnel still exhibit a strong patriarchy.


104. The Beijing Declaration expressed concern about the barriers to economic empowerment and entrepreneurship faced by women, and identified the economic disparities between men and women as one of the critical areas of concern.

105. As in other countries, South African working women are concentrated in certain sectors of the economy, and in particular occupations, such as the community, social and personal services sector, (many of these women are domestic workers); wholesale or retail trade, catering and accommodation services; and manufacturing.

106. Only 3% of all South African women are classified as managers or senior officials and 4 percent as professionals. A high proportion of the women professionals and are employed by the state as teachers and nurses.

107. While Apartheid institutionalised gender inequalities across all racial groups, African women were the most severely discriminated against. They were, and still are, predominantly located in rural areas, whereas white women are urban-based. More than 40 percent of African households are headed by women who have many dependants.

108. Just over half the South African population lives in rural areas. Women and children dominate the population in the poverty-stricken rural areas and have neither industrial nor commercial jobs, nor land on which to support themselves. A key contributing factor to women's inability to overcome poverty is the lack of access to, and rights in, the land.

109. A general profile of female workers in South Africa includes the following:

  • African women constitute 75 percent of workers in the informal sector, and 82 percent of these women are in elementary activities (street vending, domestic work and scavenging).
  • Women predominate in the low skill and low paid occupations.
  • Women workers are generally paid less than men workers.
  • Women are more likely to be self-employed than men.

110. South Africa has high rates of unemployment. While women and men, and people of different races, have the same right to work, in practice the opportunities open to them differ and their rates of unemployment differ. Among all racial groups unemployment is higher for women than men. Unemployment rates are highest for African people and lowest for whites, and higher for women than men in any race group.

C6.1 Achievements

111. Within one year of the establishment of the national job creation programme it created 288 972 person-months of temporary employment, and employed 13 055 people.

112. All over the country there are examples of economic empowerment programmes initiated by government, the private sector, NGOs and community-based organisations.

113. There has been a very successful government- initiated programme, called the Flagship Programme for Unemployed Women with Children under Five. The 15 pilot Flagship Projects employ approximately 1 400 women, and provided 133 484 person working days to poor women.

114. The Community-Based Public Works Programme established 599 projects between 1994 and 1998. The programme has achieved the following provided five million worker-days of employment of which 40 percent were worked by women; one million days of training to communities involved in the programme, of which 40 percent of the recipients were women; and created 1 200 assets such as community facilities (schools, clinics, creches and community halls), water infrastructure, roads, safe sanitation facilities and assets which provide environmental protection.

115. Over 60 percent of the people employed in the 20- year Working for Water Programme, which uses labour intensive methods for programme of clearing water catchment areas of invading and alien vegetation, have been women.

116. There are several specific job creation initiatives that are ongoing. The Botshabelo Vegetable Project in the Maraba Village in the Northern Province is thriving, and so is the Barrydale Brickmaking Project in the Western Cape. The full impact of these and other projects like them can clearly be seen in the story of the Phutuma Project in the Northern Province. In this project, a group of previously destitute women now make clothing, fences and bricks with equipment purchased through our government's Poverty Eradication Fund. The women now earn approximately R300 per month, which is a significant improvement in their lives.

117. A number of targeted small, medium and micro enterprises have been established to ensure that businesses, and women-owned enterprises in particular, get access to information, training counseling, markets and technology.

118. We welcome the new labour legislation, and the protection it offers to women. For example, the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act have been extended to cover agricultural workers and to cover domestic workers. This is a significant step because women predominate in these sectors. We are also encouraged by the Skills Development Act and the Employment Equity Act which stipulates particular targets, and set out incentive and penalties in respect of the employment of women, young people and people with disabilities.

119. Government has introduced a comprehensive land reform programme which makes specific provision for women's ownership of land, and the Communal Property Associations Act makes provision for non- discrimination between women and men in the ownership and use of communal land. These initiatives are monitored and evaluated by means of a range of gender-disaggregated indicators.

120. The official definition of 'farmer' was radically altered to include previously disadvantaged farmers. The new definition makes specific reference to women, as well as to resource-poor producers more generally. This shift established the basis for focusing attention on the specific conditions faced by female producers. In addition, the principles of agricultural policy were examined to ensure that they were both gender-sensitive and non-discriminatory. The review includes ongoing development of, for example, the Food Security Policy.

121. The Presidential Job Summit in October 1998 adopted an Employment Strategy Framework to be implemented by a social partnership between government, business and labour. The aim of the Employment Strategy is to put South Africa on a job-creating path and to bring the majority of South Africans into the economic mainstream, and to lay the basis for growth through redistribution of assets and resources. In terms of this initiative, gvernment undertook that 60% of the salaries paid on the Special Employment Programmes would be paid to women. In addition this Programme will provide child-care facilities at all of the sites of the Programme to ensure that the obstacles that prevent women from participating in the economy are removed.

C6.2 Challenges

122. We believe that there is still insufficient gender analysis in economic development initiatives, and hence women's concerns and contributions is ignored or barely understood.

123. South Africa has a poor, and often dangerous, system of public transport. Women are more likely than men to rely on public transport. Women also need public transport when they take themselves or others to health services and schools, and when they shop for the family.


124. The Beijing Declaration expressed concern about the fact that women continue to be the minority in national parliaments, with an average of 13 percent worldwide despite the fact that in most countries women comprise the majority of the electorate. The Platform for Action identified two strategic priorities: firstly to ensure women's equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making, and secondly, to increase women's capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership.

C7.1 Achievements

125. This is the on area of the Beijing Declaration where South Africa is proud to report significant progress. Even before the Beijing Conference, the ANC had driven a strategy to ensure 30 percent representation of women in national and provincial parliaments. This led to a dramatic change in the representation of women in parliament.

126. Women occupy the posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker in the National Assembly, that of Speaker in one province and Deputy Speaker in four others.

127. There has been a steady increase in the number of women ministers and deputy ministers in Cabinet. Prior to the 1994 elections there was only one woman minister and one deputy minister. During the 1994-99 period, four out of 25 Ministers were women, and eight out of thirteen Deputy Ministers were women. In the present cabinet, eight of the 27 Minister are women (almost 28%), and eight of the thirteen Deputy Ministers are women (almost 62%). . It is also important to note that these women have been appointed to high-profile Ministries like Health, Foreign Affairs, Public Service and Administration, Housing and Agriculture and Land Affairs. One of the nine provincial premiers is a woman.

128. A symposium on "Entrenching Democracy and Good Governance through Women's Empowerment", held in October 1998, gave women in leadership an opportunity to review and reflect on their experiences in the new democracy; to highlight the significant challenges facing women in various fields; to discuss gender gains and losses since 1994; and to review the established gender machinery.

129. The impact of women in parliament has been significant. For example, in the Constitutional Assembly which ushered in the new Constitution, women ensured specific provisions for gender equality, affirmative action, freedom and security, socio-economic rights and the provision that equality takes precedence over contradictory provisions in customary law. And, despite divergent views between women from different political parties, it is this lobby which influenced the passing of the Termination of Pregnancy Act, and the inclusion of gender considerations in the criteria for the Film and Publications Act.

130. Women's participation has meant some changes for Parliament. The working hours have changed to make it easier for parliamentarians to combine their jobs with their child-care and domestic responsibilities. There is now a creche for the children of parliamentarians and parliamentary workers. There are more toilet facilities for women. The language used in debate and legislation must now be non-sexist.

131. A Multi-Party Parliamentary Women's Caucus has been set up to help women members in their work. The Speakers Forum has established a Women's Empowerment Unit. This unit trains and assists national and provincial representatives to do their work better. There is a portfolio committee in Parliament on the Improvement of the Quality of Life and Status of Women.

132. Ten of the Portfolio Parliamentary Committees are chaired by women.

133. On a local government level, the figures for the representation of women are lower than for national and provincial levels, but still compare well with global statistics.

134. In the judiciary, none of the 18 judges in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court are women, two of the eleven in the Constitutional Court are women, there is one woman in the Land Court, and the representation is very low for other the Supreme Courts. There are 182 judges in South Africa and only twelve of them are women. In order to address this issue, a position paper on the Transformation of the Judiciary has been developed.

135. Women are heading thirteen os South Africa's foreign missions. These include key missions such as the United Kingdom, the United States, France, India and South East Asia.

136. The Deputy-Governor of the Reserve Bank is a woman.

137. The over-arching vision for the public service has as its primary objective the creation of 'genuinely representative public service', and has set itself a target of recruiting women for at least 30 percent of its middle and senior management echelons.

138. The Commission on Gender Equality is producing a book on women in politics, in partnership with the Parliamentary Women's Group, the Committee on the Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women, and others. This publication will evaluate the roles that parliamentarians at national and provincial level during the time of the first democratically elected government, highlighting the importance women's rights for the future of South Africa. In addition, it will outline the commitments of the present parliamentary political parties to gender equality, thus creating an awareness in voters of the importance of this issue when deciding to vote.

139. The ANC-WL provides a support base for our members who are parliamentarians and ensures that they remain accountable to their constituency and continuously seek new mandates. We attempt to capture the lessons learned and to strengthen women to deal with the challenges. We are also building a second layer of leadership to ensure that we always have a cadre of capacitated women to put forward for senior positions.

C7.2 Challenges

140. Sadly though, we must admit that moving on to a leadership position in politics, the public or private sector is a career that only a minority of women can aspire to.


141. The Beijing Platform for action identified the creation and strengthening of national gender machineries to support government-wide mainstreaming of a gender equality perspective into all policy areas as one of the critical areas requiring attention.

142. As soon as the new government took over, prior to the Beijing Conference, an office on the Empowerment of Women was set up in the President's Office. The mandate of that Office was to develop a Women's Empowerment Policy for the new government. The research from this office resulted in the emergence of some consensus on the nature of national machinery we needed for South Africa.

143. Government also set up a coordinating secretariat for the Beijing Conference to coordinate both the pre- and post-Beijing activities of government. Another secretariat, was charged with the responsibility of coordinating the compilation of the CEDAW report. We are proud to report that South Africa did not adopt the attitude that we cannot continue with the work that needed to be done before the national gender machinery was in place.

C8.1 Achievements

144. To actualize the Constitutional requirement with respect to gender, men and women embarked on an extensive consultation aimed at mainstreaming gender into a transforming society. Central to this consultation was a review of the best mechanisms and best practices that could be applied in the South African context to ensure gender transformation. These best models were used to set up the 'national gender machinery' and to indicate what should be done as programmes of action.

145. The "national gender machinery" is composed of a variety of structures that operate from the premise that transformation and reconstruction cannot be successful unless gender relations are transformed.

146. The national gender machinery consists of structures inside and outside government. The structures within government are composed of the Office on the Status of Women (OSW) situated in the Presidency; Gender Units in government departments and the Committee on the Quality of Life and Status of Women, in Parliament. The structures outside government include the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) and the Human Rights Commission.

147. The location of these structures was very carefully thought through. At the request of the women's movement, the OSW is located in the Office of the Deputy President with a mandate to undertake internal and external transformation of government. The Commission on Gender Equality is charged with changing the culture and mind set of all members of society.

C8.2 Challenges

148. There has been legitimate concern raised about the capacity and resourcing of the OSW. There are not enough members of staff at the national office and this is reflected in the provincial offices as well. Also, some of the people holding positions in the gender machinery do not fully understand gender issues, despite the fact that they know a lot about politics and sectoral issues. A number of women's and gender studies courses have begun to offer training for women and men in these positions. We surmise that this is the main reason why the National Gender Policy has not been released yet.

149. The OSW and the CGE were only established three years after the 1994 elections. The OSW has so far failed to provide much-required direction to the government departments. Some departments established gender units before this, but these units did not have the backup of a central body. Even after 1997, the OSW has focused mainly on the national gender policy and provincial OSWs.

150. In our experience, many government departments still look only at gender equality issues only in terms of their personnel and internal workings. Many do not think about how their policies affect ordinary women and men.

151. The national gender machinery, as a whole needs to be better resourced. Some provinces have not allocated any budget for their OSWs. Many departments rely on donor funds for gender- related activities, rather than allocating money from their main budget. These activities are then in danger if donor priorities change.


152. The Beijing Conference reaffirmed that the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by women and girl children, is essential for the advancement of women. It stressed that governments must not only refrain from violating the human rights of women, but must work actively for the promotion and protection of their rights. This idea of positive action in relation to human rights is echoed in the Preamble to the South African Constitution.

C9.1 Achievements

153. The Mediation in Certain Divorce Matters Act of 1987 made provision for the appointment of family advocates and counsellors to guide parents through divorce procedures and to look after the interests of children. This service, that offered real help to many women, was under-utilised and under- resourced. Since 1995, there has been a significant increase in the number of family advocates and this has directly benefited women who are, and always have been, disadvantaged under the adversarial legal system that operates in South Africa.

154. The Department of Justice has established five pilot Family Courts. Each Family Court consists of a Divorce Court, a Maintenance Court, a Children's Court and a Family Violence Court. This type of 'one-stop' service will be of great benefit to women, particularly once the pilot phase is completed and the courts are extended over the whole country.

155. The new Maintenance Act allows courts to grant maintenance orders in the absence of defaulters, and to make deductions directly from the wages of defaulters. This has made it much easier for women to collect the maintenance money that is due to them.

156. The status of women married under customary law is now recognized in South Africa. This is of significance to the hundreds of thousands of women, particularly, rural women who were married according to customary tradition and whose marriages were not recognised within the legal system, thus visiting great financial hardship on them when the marriage broke up.

157. In some prisons, special mother and child units are being established for female prisoners. These facilities are especially designed to interfere in the least degree with the normal functions of motherhood, despite the mother's incarceration. They also allow for contact visits with the prisoner's older children.

158. The rights of elderly women now receive additional protection in terms of the Aged Person's Amendment Act of 1998

159. The rights of disabled women now receive additional protection by virtue of the fact that an Office on the Status of Disabled People has been established in the South African Presidency.

160. The Department of Agriculture's Land Tenure Reform Policy has a special component that extends land tenure rights to women, particularly rural women in a significant way.

161. All national government departments now have gender units and many have published gender strategy documents, as well as guidelines on a number of gender-related issues like sexual harassment.

162. With regard to the employment of women, specific affirmative action policies are applied throughout the public service, and the new Employment Equity Act makes provision for the employment of women in the private sector. [See Women and the Economy in this document]

163. The Department of Justice has established a National Women's Justice Programme to promote access to justice for women. Under the auspices of this programme, national open court days are held to enable women to familiarise themselves with the courts and court procedures, and to obtain information about their basic human rights.

164. Scores of books and pamphlets have been published to familiarise women with their legal and constitutional rights. In 1999, a comprehensive and user-friendly manual called "Making Women's Rights Real" was published. The book is written in plain English and can be used as for self-study or, with an additional facilitator's manual, for group or community workshops. It must still be translated into the other ten South African languages.

C9.2 Challenges

165. To allocate additional resources to organisations that promote and protect women's rights and the rights of girl children.

166. To promote legal literacy for women in ways that take into account the language issues in South Africa as well as the comparatively low levels of literacy, particularly amongst rural women.


167. With the ongoing revolution in global communications and the introduction of new information technologies, the potential now exists for the media to make a significant contribution to the advancement of women. This is especially significant in light of the fact that in general, the media does not yet provide a balanced picture of the diversity of women's lives or their contributions to society.

C10.1 Achievements

168. The national broadcaster has adopted a policy on women which aims to use gender-neutral language; to ensure increased coverage of issues that directly affect women's lives, like rape and domestic violence, and that are frequently sidelined or ignored unless they are being sensationalised; to reflect the variety of roles that women play in society in a non-stereotypical way; and accurately reflect women's cultural and historical circumstances.

169. The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), has formulated and is implementing a Gender Equity Policy.

170. The Advertising Standards Bureau has completed a policy document on the susceptibility of consumers in order to take measures to bring advertising in line with the South African Constitution, and to eradicate racism and sexism in advertising.

171. Donor funding is being used to promote the participation of women in the media industry and to address issues of gender stereotyping. The project focusses on public service broadcasting, community media, print media and media research, in order to create the critical mass that is necessary to increase access to and influence in the media by women.

172. Government is providing dedicated training for community radio stations to ensure that women are used as broadcasters and that women play an active role in the selection of content.

173. Two licences for broadcasting have been awarded to women-owned companies.

174. The Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) has recently publishes a resource manual for journalists, of women in various sectors, who are experts in various fields, and who can be consulted on gender issues.

175. An Internet site called Women's Net has been established in South Africa. It consists of a series of websites and on-line discussion groups on a variety of gender-related issues, and aims to use the new information technology to promote and protect the interests and rights of women.

176. Most of the print media is independently owned and is characterised by self-regulation. Gender is beginning to feature more prominently in the mission statements of media organisations.

177. A Press Ombuds' Office provides an avenue for women's organisations to lodge complaints over the manner in which women are portrayed in the media.

178. The Film and Publications Act (1996) allows adults access to a wide range of material which would previously have been forbidden. However, it protects children and the dignity of adults, women in particular. It prohibits the showing, distribution or advertising of material judged to be pornographic, sexually explicit or degrading.

C10.2 Challenges

179. The promotion of more women in high-level decision-making positions in all sectors of the media. There is still not one female editor-in-chief of any South African newspaper.

180. Increased access for all women, including rural women, to computers and the new information technology.

181. More education and training for women in the use of the new information technology, to enable us to network, mobilise and organise cheaply and more effectively.

182. More vigorous promotion of a balanced and non-stereotypical portrayal of women in the media, and of a more accurate reflection of the variety of roles that we play in society and of the contribution that we make.

183. Finding resources to mount and sustain vigorous watchdog mechanisms to root out gender stereotyping in the media and make proper use of the Press Ombud's Office.

184. Systematically ensuring that media professionals are exposed to gender sensitivity training.

185. Advocating a significant increase in the number of programmes and published articles on women's issues, particularly at community radio stations and in community newspapers.


186. The Beijing Platform of Action identified the need to actively involve women in environmental decision-making at all levels, and to incorporate a gender perspective for all strategies in sustainable development as an area for critical concern.

187. South Africa is often described as being on a path between 'traditional' and 'modern' environmental health concerns. 'Traditional' environmental health concerns may include, for example, inadequate housing, a lack of access to sufficient quantities of safe water, indoor air pollution from the use of solid fuels for household purposes, and inadequate sanitation services. 'Modern' environmental health concerns, on the other hand, may refer to chemical exposures from industry and ambient air pollution from vehicles. The implication for the South African population is that they may be exposed to the health risks associated with either scenario, either independently, or simultaneously.

188. Overall, the poorest people tend to be amongst those suffering a "double" burden of ill health from environmental hazards . For example, those living in squatter settlements in close proximity to industries. The fact that more women than men are unemployed, and that more women than men are poor, means that women are more likely to suffer an elevated burden of ill health from associated environmental conditions.

189. In addition to poverty, the multiple roles and low status of women in society and at the household level, lead to environmental exposures that differ from those of men or other social groups. For example, in poor households, women usually have responsibility for water and wood collection. These duties entail carrying of heavy loads over increasing distances, with implications for the musculo-skeletal health of women, and also minimises their time for rest, relaxation, education and care of children, and participation in economic, family and social activities.

190. The quality of housing and the living environment is one of the most powerful determinants of public health. Factors such as housing location, design, construction, building materials used, access to sanitation and water supplies, etc may all impact on health status and quality of life.

191. Health concerns associated with the living environment are particularly concentrated in South African informal and squatter settlements, where housing structures may be particularly risky, and where living environments at large may be extremely degraded.

192. A national census conducted in 1996 indicated that around 30 percent of dwellings in South Africa were of an informal or traditional nature, posing concomitant health risks to the occupants.

193. In 1992, only 35 percent of dwellings in South Africa were supplied with electricity , the major portion of which were white households. The remainder of dwellings used wood, coal and paraffin for household cooking, heating and lighting. This contributed to high levels of childhood poisoning (paraffin), burns from open fires, and property destruction caused by spreading fires in crowded living areas. In addition, the use of solid and liquid fuels leads to extremely high levels of indoor air pollution. Since women and young girls are usually have responsible for cooking, they tend to be exposed to the highest levels of indoor air pollution, over the longest periods.

C11.1 Achievements

194. The Department of Housing reports that since 1994, almost one million houses were delivered to those earning less than R3 500.00 per month, through a special housing subsidy scheme. Provided that the dwellings delivered adhere to accepted health-related guidelines, and involve women in the early planning and management stages, the South African housing delivery programme has the potential to significantly improve the health and quality of life of women.

195. As part of a broad process of addressing racially-based inequities, a remarkable national electrification programme is currently underway in South Africa. Targets have been set to increase the proportion of dwellings supplied with electricity to 70% by the year 2000, and 85% by 2010. In respect of these targets, Eskom, the South African electricity utility, is well within schedule. The implementation of the national electrification programme in South Africa has the potential to improve the health and well-being of women in a variety of ways, including for example reductions in their exposure to indoor air pollution, and a consequent improvement in their health status as well as that of other family members (women usually take responsibility for care of the ill), lessening of the burden of collecting and preparing wood for household energy use, a gain in daily time available as a consequence of the convenience of electricity use, and increasing the opportunity for women to become economically active, and hence improve their decision-making power at the household level.

196. It is well recognised that the key to improving the health status of the population at large, and to sustainable environmental development , lies with women. A number of environmental upliftment programmes, for example housing delivery, electricity supply, water supply, sanitation and waste services, and telecommunications, are currently underway in South Africa, and have the potential to significantly improve the health status and quality of life of women. In order to maximise the benefits to women in respect of these programmes, it is vital that the consultation and participation of women in the early planning, design and management stages of these programmes be increased and enhanced.

C11.2 Challenges

197. There is little doubt that the quality of the environment , and in respect of the poor, especially the living environment, acts as a major determinant of the health of women. Significant resources should be directed at this by government.

198. With a view to normalising the role of women in environmental planning and management at large, it is also vital that " environment and health literacy " amongst women in South Africa be improved through special programmes and the strengthening of environmental components of the national education curriculum.

199. Increasing the representation and effective participation of women in planning, development and decision-making mechanisms in urban and rural areas, at local regional and national levels, and in the administrative and political arenas, is vital.

200. Perhaps the most important area for action, is the identification and development of mechanisms to support the day-to-day, localised efforts of women everywhere in South Africa to improve their environmental conditions, be it through self-education and discussions groups, growing of community gardens and greening initiatives, environmental clean-up campaigns, and the establishment of lobbying groups around specific environmental threats.

201. At the international level , women and environment initiatives associated with the Beijing platform, should be tied in with current initiatives around the "Rio+10" meeting (following on from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992).

202. A critical need in South Africa and elsewhere, is research and information to assess the environmental health status of women, and monitor the impacts of current efforts to address inequities in respect of women.

203. Research is also needed to guide the development of mechanisms across sectors to facilitate the entry and participation of women in environment and health portfolios . Such research should focus in particular on the perspectives, needs, and challenges facing women.


204. Invariably, girl children often face discrimination from the earliest stages of life, through childhood and into adulthood. Their low status is reflected in the denial of fundamental needs and rights, and in harmful attitudes and practices such as preference for sons; early marriage; domestic abuse; incest; sexual exploitation; discrimination; less food; and less access to education.

205. There is some awareness in South Africa that children in general, and girl children in particular, like all other South African citizens, have rights that are enshrined in our Constitution, as well as in international instruments to which South Africa is a signatory, but there doesn't yet seem to much understanding of the practical realities of those rights.

206. In 1998, the National Institute for Public Interest Law and Research (NIPLAR), commissioned a situational analysis of the position of the girl child in South African society. This was the first study of its kind in South Africa, and it has provided government and NGOs alike with baseline information from which to develop policies and other interventions and initiatives.

C12.1 Achievements

207. Legislation has been passed to align our existing Child Care Act with the Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of the Child .

208. Legislation has been passed to outlaw the commercial sexual exploitation of children , and to render those who procure children for sex work, or who allow the sexual exploitation of children on their premises, liable for criminal prosecution.

209. In 1998, legislation was passed to tighten control over child pornography . This makes the importation, production, possession and distribution of child pornography a criminal offence, and includes provisions relating to the Internet and other electronic media.

210. The South African Law Commission is currently conducting a project that will result in a single comprehensive Child Care Act .

211. The Department of Welfare has embarked on a process of developing integrated protocols for child neglect and abuse.

212. We have a National Child Protection Register and registers are currently being prepared for each province to make it easier to identify child abusers in the areas that they normally inhabit.

213. The National Youth Commission was inaugurated in 1996. Their main objectives is to co-ordinate and develop a national youth policy that is sensitive to the needs and aspirations of all young people, including girls and young women.

214. The Youth League of the ANC has committed itself to peer-group education programmes aimed at preventing HIV/AIDS prevention .

C12.2 Challenges

215. Early childhood development and education have traditionally been regarded as a "woman's responsibility" rather than a social responsibility. As a result, there is massive under-provision in this area. Pitifully few of our children have had much, or any early childhood education by the time the enter school formally. The ANC-WL supports government 's initiatives to correct this situation.

216. In a recent study it was established that although girls make better scholastic progress than boys do throughout their school careers, they drop out earlier, and are then more likely to be unemployed than boys.

217. It is therefore clear that girl children still have unequal access to education, especially at secondary school level, and the high drop-out rate can be attributed principally to teenage pregnancy and absenteeism caused by the demand to act as deputy mothers and care-givers at home, both of which result in poor overall school performance.

218. Girl children are vulnerable both at home and at school, to the sexual advances of male relatives, friends and teachers, and most of these situations end in rape. This problem has been exacerbated by a seemingly commonly held belief in some quarters, that sex with a virgin will cure a man of HIV/AIDS.

219. The plight of vulnerable children, particularly girl children and the extent to which they could be 'pushed' into prostitution and trafficking, is a matter of concern. We are aware that the Department of Welfare has headed a multi-disciplinary task team to develop a plan of action against sexual exploitation of children since South Africa's participation in the First World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in 1996. We urge that this be implemented as soon as possible.

220. The career choices of girls are limited by a variety of factors, including the high drop-out rate, the disinterest of many of their teachers, the relative inexperience of their parents, traditional values that push them towards low paying jobs like teaching or nursing, and a general lack of information.

221. Access to termination of pregnancy and contraception services are stunted by the moralistic and patronising attitudes of some health workers.

222. The commercial sexual exploitation of girl children is alarmingly on the increase, and it now often involves girls as young as eleven or twelve.

223. A growing number of homeless children are girls.

224. Boys see violence against girls as a necessity for commanding respect, or for preventing girls from being interested in other boys or men.

225. There is a clear lack of recreational facilities for young people, including girls, in urban, and especially in rural areas.

226. There is a general lack of protection still for children in conflict with the law , and the effects of this on girl children are extremely serious especially since they are so vulnerable to sexual abuse.

227. The right to life and a family name traditionally favours boys, and girl children are treated as 'temporary' members of their families.

228. Some inroads have been made into sexuality education at schools, and in church and community groups, as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, this is still generally confined rather to safe sex education, than to a general understanding of human sexuality.

229. There is a need to study and understand traditional practices that discriminate against girl children.

230. There is still a strong perception, among boys and girls alike, and many of their parents, that domestic chores like washing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning living spaces and serving visitors are the responsibility of females.


231. The Beijing Conference took place about a year after South Africa's first democratic elections. By 1995, our Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), originally the policy document of the African National Congress, had been adopted as the transformation policy by our new government. This policy, one that already contained most of the gender equality and gender equity provisions that are a part of our present constitutional and democratic dispensation, was projected as the guide for the transformation and reconstruction of all aspects of our public and private lives.

232. It is thus clear that we have always understood that the transformation of South African society would be incomplete, unless the attainment of gender equality, gender equity, justice and peace were an integral part of the broader transformation process. We can therefore confidently say that our 'national gender programme' has enjoyed political support, at the highest level, from the outset.

233. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women provided a comprehensive vision for the attainment of gender equality, and the Beijing Platform of Action provided a series of practical, high-priority actions for realising that vision, but the foundations for gender equality and gender equity in South Africa had already been carefully laid, through the work of the Women's League of the African National Congress.

234. At the time of the Beijing Conference, for example, our Constitutional Assembly was in the process of writing our Constitution. The ANC insisted that at least 30% of the delegations of all political parties to the Constitutional Assembly should be women. And, once the process of constitution-writing began, unlike the men, the women established a women's caucus that transcended any particular political affiliations within the Assembly.

235. Thereafter, no matter what else divided them, the women's caucus would literally stop the proceedings and withdraw into another room, whenever they felt that an issue before the Assembly needed to be subjected to gender analysis, and they would develop and present the Assembly with gender perspective of the issue before the negotiations went any further.

236. Today, whenever we take time to re-acquaint ourselves with the many gender provisions that are enshrined in our Constitution, we have cause to celebrate and to salute the women who participated in that process. We believe that the Constitution would not have been in its present form, had it not been for the role that those women played in the Assembly, and for their solidarity.

237. The ANC Women's League believes that our ability to succeed in any further actions and initiatives in terms of the Beijing Platform for Action, is dependent on the extent to which government, the NGOs and the private sector can refine and define the issue of partnerships, as well as the roles and responsibilities that each will take on in terms of the overall 'national gender programme'.

238. Looking back, at this watershed time, it is clear to us that there have been many successes. However, we are also aware that there are many shortcoming. We are concerned that some of what has been achieved has been achieved, has been sporadic, and insufficiently institutionalised or sustained. And this is especially disquieting when it is seen against the enormous, diverse and complex challenges that meaningful gender equality, and real gender equity, hold. We believe that there is a clear danger that we will not really achieve the dreams that were contained in our original ANC policy, unless we all, and by this we mean government, the NGOs and the private sector, consciously develop, and hold each other accountable for, truly realistic, practical and sustainable projects within the 'national gender programme'.

239. We have enjoyed phenomenal successes and have made considerable progress towards advancing gender equality, gender equity, justice and peace in South Africa. These advances and the general development of women's rights culture have enabled some women to lift, or even smash, the 'glass ceiling' of the past. These women could now form the nucleus of decision-makers, and should take our dreams forward, but only if they are always mindful of the fact that it is only a very small percentage of women who have broken through the ceiling. For the vast majority of South African women, the glass ceiling is not part of their reality at all, because their lives are still entirely focused on issues of basic survival.

240. In 1956, we obtained the signatures of 100 000 women, and the physical presence of 20 000, for a march on Pretoria. In 1994, we united and formed a strong and focused women's caucus that cut through political party lines in order to ensure that gender issues were mainstreamed in our new Constitution. We have no doubt that in the year 2000, and in all the years to come, we will be able to continue to focus our energies, and to form necessary partnerships, so that we can fulfill the dreams that were dreamed for us by our mothers and grandmothers, as well as those that we are currently dreaming for our daughters and granddaughters.




Join the ANC Women's League

Progressive Business ForumANC Youth LeagueCOSATU