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Introduction to the role of the Commission for Gender Equality


The CGE is a constitutional entity, relied upon to ‘strengthen constitutional democracy’. The Constitution of South Africa, in creating a framework for a new society, has established a Bill of Rights in Chapter 2 of its first constitution of 1996. This is premised on the desire for a free and equal society in all fundamental and material aspects of life.

It is however internationally recognised that, notwithstanding the compounding effects of undemocratic political systems, society has suffered from millennia of patriarchy and male dominance in political, economic, social and cultural life. This requires a transformation in gender relations, to which end the Constitution has created the CGE to promote the substantive improvement in the quality and life experiences of the disadvantaged gender in society.

 

The CGE's Organisational Design

The Commission operates at two levels, staff who are employed in terms of the Public Service conditions and Commissioners who are nominated by the public and appointed by the President following the recommendations from a multiparty parliamentary committee.


Environment

The constitutional and legal framework that the CGE is working within is one of its major strengths in that it allows it to interact with all structures inside and outside government. The wave and push for transformation makes it easy to put issues of gender equality onto the policy agenda. There are a lot of supportive networks who are throwing their weight behind the CGE particularly the NGO community and Donors. The international context is also conducive to promoting gender equality in that South Africa has committed itself to the major conventions such CEDAW and the Beijing platform of action. There are, however threats in the environment such as resource constraints. While it is understood that the resources of the country are overstretched, one of the major concerns which poses a threat to the Commission's Programme of Action is the way government responds to this constraint.

Relations with government , other institutions and civil society

We have established a good working relationship with other structures, particularly the Public protector and the SA Human Rights Commission. But we have a major challenge to do the same with the Office on the Status of Women (OSW) and the Houses of Traditional leaders at National and Provincial levels. If we are to make a success of our mandate to promote and protect gender equality in the rural areas this sector is crucial. In terms of the OSW we have to work together to formulate a National Gender Policy and institutional framework which will provide a common understanding of the ideal of gender equality for the country as a whole.

The initiatives already started on partnership with related statutory bodies, especially some of those described in Chapter 9 of the constitution, should be continued. Resources can be efficiently utilised if some of the programmes are jointly undertaken and some of the Provincial and regional resources are shared.

South Africa Needs a CGE

There is a need to demystify gender oppression, participate in delivering South Africa from the chains of patriarchy and give those on the periphery an opportunity to taste the fruits of democracy. An institution like the CGE specifically on many of the problems already highlighted - ranging from legal and traditional to attitudinal - can begin to address these issues.

The Independence of the Commission

The CGE should continue to be an independent institution as envisaged both in the Constitution and the Act. Such independence can be enhanced by the CGE directly accounting to a Portfolio Committee in Parliament; by Parliament taking responsibility for the Commission including the allocation of it s budget including of remuneration for similar Commissions.

 
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