August 2016 – The National Assembly’s House Chairperson for Internal Arrangements, Ms Thoko Didiza, was last night elected the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Africa Region. Ms Didiza was elected at the 7th CWP Africa Regional Conference and she will serve as the Region’s chairperson for a period of three (3) years. She is taking over from Ms Sofia Swartz of Namiba who has been the chairperson since 2013.
The CWP conference is held in Mauritius on the sidelines of the 47th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Africa Regional Conference running from 22 to 27 August. Ms Didiza previously served as the Africa region’s vice chairperson and sub-regional representative of Southern Africa.
South Africa’s delegation to this CPA regional conference is led by the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, and also includes Members of the provincial legislatures.
CPA AFRICA REGION WOMEN PARLIAMENTARIANS PUSHING FORWARD GENDER EQUALITY AS THEY HOLD THE REGIONAL GENDER SENSITIZATION WORKSHOP IN KWAZULU-NATAL
On the 24-27 January 2018, the KZN Legislature hosted the CWP, an association comprising women parliamentarians from over 50 national and provincial parliaments from across the African continent. The gathering which takes place at Zimbali aims to develop strategies to increase Women’s role in Parliaments, Legislatures and other higher decision making bodies in societies in the African Region. The workshop is held under the theme: “Mechanism to Strengthen Gender Equality”.
Delegates were welcomed by the KwaDukuza Mayor, Councillor Ricardo Mthembu who described the District as the home of Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Inkosi Shaka ka Senzangakhona, whose aunt was Mkabayi ka Jama., all of whom had made this land a home to all. He felt it is befitting for all delegates to gather in this town which represents the hospitality the forefathers of this land had shown to visitors in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, the Zulu Kingdom.
The Mayor extends his invitation to the delegates by inviting them to come back to tour this beautiful province. He also acknowledged the marginalization of women and patriarchy that exists in societies, and pointed out the relevance of the topic being addressed by the workshop.
In her opening remarks as the host, Speaker Hon Lydia Johnson of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, reminded the delegates that the year 2018 is dedicated to the struggle icon Nelson Mandela who would have turned 100 years old this year.
She further encourages women to push forward and dedicate themselves to the ideals for which Mandela fought for, namely, gender equality
Speaker Johnson calls upon women to celebrate the achievements made by various communities in the name of women empowerment and cites the first woman president in Africa (Liberia), Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who stepped down this month. She commends the leadership of Her Excellency for steering the country to a period of stability which saw a smooth transition from her tenure to the newly elected president George Weah. She further acknowledges the late Kenyan Wanghari Mathaai, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Price for her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace”.
“We should also celebrate and be encouraged by the countries such as Rwanda which, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women, is ranked as the highest country in the world with most women in parliament as of January 2017”. The Speaker calls on women parliamentarians to increase women participation in developmental matters and ensuring gender equality.
Along the same lines the KZN Legislature was commended by the Hon Didiza for having made great strides in ensuring the placement of women in leadership positons. This Legislature has a woman Speaker, a woman Chief Whip and a woman Secretary.
Interestingly, the focus of the topics tackles directly the general emerging issues that we as CWP have always been raising and documented in the CWP Africa Region 5-Year Strategic Plan, and those issues are: women representation, factors that hinder the development of women, education of women, empowerment of women and non-implementation of International and Regional Instruments (SDGs, AU declarations, Beijing Plan of Action, etc) that speak to women empowerment.
The event was addressed by the Minister of Communications in South Africa, MT. Kubayi Ngubane whose speech was most appreciative of the KZN Legislature when she said, “it would be amiss of me if I don’t convey our deepest appreciation to Hon. Johnson and the entire KwaZulu Natal Legislature for going all out in ensuring that they did not just organize and host, but they ensured our comfort through providing the best hospitality since our arrival in this beautiful province. Thank you so much KwaZulu Natal.”
Right from the beginning the Minister’s speech highlighted milestones in the
history of women’s struggle. She said, “the struggle for gender equality and women emancipation is as old as the existence of mankind itself. It is for this reason that the struggle for gender equality and women emancipation has gained so much momentum to such an extent that it is no longer a women issues, but a human right’s issue affecting both men and women”.
She mentioned the the 1945 Founding Charter of the United Nations which had included a provision for equality between men and women (Chapter III, Article 8). The UN General Assembly which passed another resolution that 1976–1985 should be the “Decade of Women”.
The Second World Conference on Women held in Copenhagen, in Denmark, in 1980. The conference which agreed that the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was an important milestone. The Copenhagen conference thus acknowledged the gap between rights being secured for women and women’s ability to exercise those rights. It was also agreed that this right was based on three areas: Equal Access to Education; Employment Opportunities; and Adequate Health Care Services are essential to achieve the goals set out in Mexico.
The third World Conference on Women was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1985 set out areas by which progress in women’s equality could be measured, and these are, Constitutional and Legal measures; Equality in social participation; Equality in political participation; and Decision-making. The Conference also acknowledged that women need to participate in all areas of human activity, not just those areas that relate to gender.
“Considering all the milestone decisions taken at the global platforms since 1945, it is clear that a lot of progress has been made in reaching consensus about the importance of gender equality”, even though the Minister acknowledged a lot more need to be done.
The Minister commended the work of the CPA Africa Region in particular, for its commitment to gender equality as it ensured the nomination of Hon. Emilia Lefaka, the Deputy Speaker of Cameroon as the Chairperson of the CPA International.
Hon Lindiwe Maseko, the CPA Africa Region Chairperson began her presentation to the delegates by posing very interesting questions, Is Women`s political participation only a question of democratic representation and women’s rights? Or can women also contribute a new dimension in Politics? Lastly, can politics be engendered by an increase in women politicians?
In answering these questions, Hon Maseko said Women representation in Parliament should be seen as a catalyst for social change aimed at advancing democracy and development in society. Women continue to experience further marginalisation on rural development, economic integration, education and infrastructure development.
CWP WAS FOUNDED IN 1989 (ENGLAND) – COMMONWEALTH WOMEN PARLIAMENTARIANS