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The composition, powers and functions of the CGE are set out in Act 39 of 1996. The functions include:

  • monitoring and evaluating the policies and practices of government, the private sector and other organisations to ensure that they promote and protect gender equality
  • public education and information
  • reviewing existing and upcoming legislation from a gender perspective
  • investigating inequality
  • commissioning research and making recommendations to parliament or other authorities.
  • investigating complaints on any gender related issue.
  • monitoring/ reporting on compliance with international conventions.


The Commission consists of:


The Act provides for a chairperson and no fewer than seven and no more than eleven members. No fewer than two, and no more than seven are full time members, while the rest are part time members. Commissioners are required to be persons with a record of commitment to the promotion of gender equality; and with relevant knowledge and experience in this field. Commissioners are nominated by the public and interviewed by a parliamentary committee, which makes recommendations to the President. They are appointed by the president for a fixed term not exceeding five years; and may be reappointed for an additional term. The Chairperson is appointed by the President A Deputy Chairperson is elected by members of the Commission.


The Act provides for the establishment of committees consisting of one or more members of the Commission; and one or more other persons whom the Commission may appoint for any period of time which it determines. Committees may be dissolved at any time. The Commission decides what powers and functions to confer on committees.


At its first meeting, the CGE resolved:

  • to prioritise the most disadvantaged women
  • to avoid a culture of ostentation.

Human Resource Development

The Commission is committed to developing its human resource potential, and contributing to a better understanding of gender equality in South Africa. Its commissioners and staff undergo an intensive gender training courses including select study visits undertaken with a view to learning from international best practice and establishing links with similar institutions.


A. Other Independent Bodies

The Human Rights Commission and Public Protector

The Public Protector, South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Commission For Gender Equality (CGE) are three of the six institutions created in terms of Chapter Nine of the Constitution to support and promote democracy. Although these three institutions have quite distinct functions, they share similar broad objectives.

Soon after its establishment, the CGE met with the SAHRC to discuss possible areas of co-operation. A Commissioner attended an international Conference of the Human Rights Commission which sought to draw up a National Action Plan for Human Rights In South Africa.

Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)

The CGE has had considerable dealings with the IBA over the Radio Islam case (see Part Three). It also held a bilateral meeting with the IBA to explore some of the fundamental issues which gave rise to this case, such as the fact that gender is not specifically mentioned as a criteria for granting licenses in the IBA Act. The CGE and IBA have agreed to hold a joint workshop on integrating gender considerations into the work of the IBA in early 1998.

The Youth Commission

The CGE has worked closely with the Youth Commission, particularly around issues concerning young women. The CGE participated in the consultative process regarding the National Youth policy and attended the National Youth Policy Summits in July and November 1997.

The CGE participates in the Young Womens Forum which includes the Youth Commission and NGOs working in this area . We are setting up consultative meetings with representatives of student organisations at tertiary education institutions. Youth is incorporated as a special sector in our provincial information and evaluation workshops.

A CGE commissioner participated in the USIS Young African Leaders Programme in June/July 1997. This programme brought together 15 young women from African countries including Rwanda, Ethiopia and Nigeria and focussed on women in economic and community development.

The Public Service Commission:

The CGE Chair made a presentation to the PSC on establishing a gender unit in the Commission and integrating gender considerations into its work.

While recognising and guarding its role as a watchdog body, the CGE has sought to establish a constructive working relationship with government.

Department of Justice:

On a day to day basis, the Commission has worked most closely with the Department of Justice, which is responsible for the setting up of independent commissions and is the conduit for their budgets. While the CGE is of the view that its budget should be appropriated directly by parliament (see recommendations), it is grateful for the cordial and helpful assistance which have been rendered by the department.

Office on the Status of Women:

This is the structure in government to which the CGE relates most directly in terms of its mandate. Meetings have been held with the CEO to discuss potential areas of overlap and to ensure that there is no duplication.

Line Departments:

The CGE has been invited by several line departments to participate in workshops and make policy submissions.

Local Government:

The CGE has worked closely with the South African Local Government Association sub committee on gender.

C. Parliament

The CGE liaises closely with the Committee on the Quality of Life and Status of Women and the Parliamentary Women’s Group, which have played a key role in lobbying for adequate resources to be allocated to the CGE. Joint initiatives are being discussed with these bodies in such areas as legislative reform and ensuring that there is not a decline in the representation of women in parliament.

D. Civil Society 
The CGE works in partnership with a number of NGOs. These partnerships are described in detail in Part Three, which covers the CGE’s Programme of Action.