South Africa Country Report to the UN CSW 2007

frontpage image for the SA country report

The South Africa Country Report to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, 2007 was prepared by Donald Ambe, Vanja Karth, Bafana Khumalo, Eleanor McNab, Dean Peacock, and Jean Redpath. The report was prepared by Sonke Gender Justice on behalf of the Office on the Status of Women, Office of the Presidency, Government of the Republic of South Africa, for the 51st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, New York, March 2007.

Read the Executive Summary below, including a breakdown of the key themes and key recommendations in the report, or download the complete report.

Executive Summary

At the 48th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 2004, the South Africa government and the governments of other participating countries made formal commitments to implementing a range of recommendations aimed at “involving men and boys in achieving gender equality”.

These commitments made at the UN CSW are consistent with the values enshrined in the South African Constitution and core to the goals of South Africa’s new democratic dispensation.

However, in South Africa, as throughout the world, gender inequality continues to undermine democracy, impede development and compromise people’s lives in dramatic ways. Indeed many studies show that contemporary gender roles and especially rigid notions of manhood contribute to gender based violence and other forms of gender inequality and exacerbate the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS. In 2007, the country continues to face high levels of gender based violence, an HIV and AIDS epidemic and deeply entrenched gender inequalities.

In the face of this, government and civil society organisations have begun to put in place a range of initiatives intended to increase men’s involvement in achieving gender equality. Reflecting this, a growing number of South African men have begun to take action in private and public ways to reject rape and domestic violence and to create a more gender equitable society.

Key themes emerging from report:

  1. Growing numbers of men are taking a stand against gender based violence and for gender equality. Despite high levels of male violence against women, many men care deeply about the women in their lives including their partners, family members, co-workers, neighbours and community members. Given this, many men are eager to challenge customs and practices that endanger women’s health and support the well being of women.
  2. Groundbreaking work with men to achieve gender equality is occurring across South Africa. South Africa is widely recognised as hosting some of the most important interventions and research focusing on men and gender equality of any country in the world. The National Gender Machinery has established a Working Group on Men and Gender Equality tasked with multi-sectoral training and coordination. Within civil society, interventions such as the Men as Partners Network and Stepping Stones are widely described in international public health literature as best practices. Similarly, researchers have produced an impressive body of literature on men and gender in South Africa, focusing on issues such as gender based violence, HIV and AIDS, fatherhood and shifting notions of masculinity.
  3. There is visible support by some senior government officials for work with men – but more sustained commitment needed. Senior government officials have shown important leadership and have made public commitments to engaging men in achieving gender equality. Former President Nelson Mandela attended the fi rst national men’s march in 1997. President Thabo Mbeki has also made clear his commitment to engaging men in a number of important speeches – including during his second inaugural speech. Amongst others, Minister of Arts and Culture, Pallo Jordan, and Premier of the Western Cape, Ebrahim Rasool, have both been proactive in supporting work with men. However, there is still a need for greater levels of commitment amongst senior political figures and senior management on issues of gender, and a particular need for men to take these issues on board.
  4. Widespread adoption of work with men within government departments has occurred. There is evidence that different South African government departments have recognised that work with men is important and have launched a number of different initiatives aimed at involving men in achieving gender equality. For instance,9 society organisations should engage in dialogue to develop a clear set of principles for working with men to achieve gender equality. A preliminary list might include the following: recognise that men have a stake in changing and can be important allies in achieving gender equality; be accountable to, supportive of and in ongoing dialogue with women’s rights organisations; be committed to internal accountability through agreed upon code of conduct; emphasise a rights based and social justice approach; affirm gay rights and make the connection between homophobia and rigid models of masculinity. The Department of Health launched the Men in Partnership Against AIDS initiative in 2002; the Department of Social Development launched the Men in Action Campaign in partnership with the National Network on Violence Against Women; the OSW spearheaded the development of the Men and Gender Equality Working Group within the National Gender Machinery and both the Department of Correctional Services and the Department of Provincial and Local Government have actively involved men during their respective 16 Days of Activism campaigns.
  5. There is a need for greater clarity of purpose about the goals of work with men, as well as increased coordination and planning. Despite evidence that government departments recognise that work with men is important, many initiatives have faltered due to a lack of capacity. Problems related to capacity, clarity of purpose, coordination, quality of work and long-term commitment indicate the need for additional capacity building.
  6. Men’s violence against women remains unacceptably pervasive. Government has been unable to adequately address men’s violence against women. Indeed reported rates of domestic and sexual violence have increased steadily since 1994. This has led to charges that the government has not made suffi cient efforts to address violence against women. Critics contend that when 90 percent of rapists and nearly two thirds of men who kill their intimate partner go unpunished, government inadvertently sends a message to perpetrators that, in all likelihood, they can commit violence against women with relative impunity.
  7. Greater dialogue and accountability between organisations working with men and women’s rights organisations is needed. Very few organisations working with men engage in regular dialogue with women’s rights advocates. Particularly when organisations working with men espouse paternalistic attitudes about men “needing to protect women”, this lack of dialogue and accountability has alienated important potential allies in the women’s advocacy sector.
  8. Current efforts to increase men’s involvement in achieving gender equality rely too heavily on workshops and community outreach. Government and civil society efforts to engage men are frequently overly narrow in their approaches and are often limited to conducting workshops without due attention to audience, followup or community involvement. To date, organisations working with men have only occasionally used other important change strategies like advocacy for policy change or rights-based activism. These are particularly important in addressing structural issues such as education, housing, social welfare and unemployment. Working to include all ‘men’ in gender initiatives is a challenge, particularly reaching those in rural areas.
  9. Efforts to involve boys in achieving gender equality should be expanded. Work to involve boys in achieving gender equality currently receives very little attention from either government or civil society. While civil society organisations and government do off er general diversion services to boys and girls who have been in conflict with the law, the absence of the passage of the Child Justice Bill means it is still only a minority of children in conflict with the law who benefit from diversion programmes. The Bill aim to create the context for community and victim involvement, protect young people after arrest, provide diversion programmes that teach offenders different values and alternative role models, and provides for restorative justice for victims, off enders and the community.
  10. South African funding for gender equality work with men is insufficient while some international funding comes with strings attached. South African government funding for work with men and boys tends to be short-term, event specific and ad-hoc. This increases civil society dependence on foreign donors, some of whom pursue prescriptive approaches that fi t poorly with local realities.
  11. Not enough work with men taking place in rural parts of the country or with traditional leaders. Much of the work taking place with men occurs in urban and peri-urban areas leaving rural areas where 40% of South Africans live. In these areas, traditional leaders play a particularly important role and oversee the traditional justice systems and structures which, in rural areas, continue to be used more regularly than the formal criminal justice system.
  12. Very little work with men addresses broader socio-economic conditions exacerbating gender inequalities. Government and civil society have not paid enough attention to the connection between men’s violence, HIV/AIDS and broader socio-economic forces. More research and interventions are needed that focus on how gender roles and relations in South Africa are situated in a socio-economic context characterised by high levels of inequality, endemic levels of generalised violence, poor health outcomes and limited social welfare services.

Key Recommendations:

“Gender equality, development and peace in the 21st century”

These recommendations are addressed to all stakeholders identified in the 2004 CSW commitments, namely: “Governments and, as appropriate, the relevant funds and programmes, organisations and specialised agencies of the United Nations system, the international financial institutions, civil society, including the private sector and nongovernmental organisations, and other stakeholders”.

  1. Intensify efforts to end men’s violence against women and to involve men in achieving gender equality: Extremely high rates of gender based violence and the urgency of the HIV and AIDS crisis demand that government, civil society and the private sector strengthen their commitment to increasing men’s involvement in achieving gender equality. This will require greater budgetary allocations to support the enforcement of existing legislation and to increase funding for gender equality work.
  2. Develop a clear set of principles to guide work with men. Government and civil society organisations should engage in dialogue to develop a clear set of principles for working with men to achieve gender equality. A preliminary list might include the following: recognise that men have a stake in changing and can be important allies in achieving gender equality; be accountable to, supportive of and in ongoing dialogue with women’s rights organisations; be committed to internal accountability through agreed upon code of conduct; emphasise a rights based and social justice approach; affirm gay rights and make the connection between homophobia and rigid models of masculinity.
  3. Use and expand the mandates of existing policy frameworks to strengthen coordination and planning. Since 1994 government has put in place a number of policy frameworks to foster gender equality and to facilitate citizen involvement in achieving development goals. These include the National and Provincial Gender Machineries, the National Policy Framework for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality of 2002 and the Municipal Structures Act of 1998. Government and the National Gender Machinery (NGM) should strengthen and support these by mainstreaming within theme efforts to involve men and boys in achieving gender equality. In particular, the OSW should utilise the NGM Working Group on Men and Gender Equality so that it can carry out the coordination and training role intended for it.
  4. Foster closer collaboration between women’s advocacy organisations and organisations working with men to achieve gender equality: Closer dialogue and accountability offers the potential for closer collaboration, more rigorous work with men and hopefully greater success in achieving gender equality.
  5. Tailor interventions to address different groups of men: Results from a survey conducted by Sonke Gender Justice indicate that some men appear eager to play a more involved role in ending violence against women while other men appear threatened by gender transformation. Violence prevention interventions need to be tailored to respond to the perceptions of these different groups of men, providing more gender equitable men with the necessary support, skills and resources to act on their convictions while challenging the myths and misconceptions held by those men who resist change.
  6. Augment workshops and community education approaches by employing a broader range of social change strategies including rights based advocacy and community mobilisation to demand an end to men’s violence against women. Shifting public perception that gender based violence affects us all and cannot be dismissed as a “women’s issue” requires that men become more visible and outspoken about their opposition to gender based violence and demonstrate their willingness to take public stands against it-by joining marches, by engaging the media and by taking concerted efforts at the local level to demand justice.
  7. Implement integrated, systems focused approaches. Working with men and boys to change deeply held beliefs about gender roles and relations requires comprehensive, multifaceted strategies – including approaches that focus on structural factors such as education, housing and unemployment. Government has a leadership role to play in promoting and supporting this kind of collaborative work.
  8. Provide consistent, reliable and coordinated funding that promotes sustainable approaches and organisations: Far too many organisations working with men are hampered in their efforts by precarious funding or by ideological restrictions which accompany donor funding. The South African government should provide multi-year funding that encourages organisational development and promotes effective, rigorously monitored interventions.10
  9. Build capacity with the public sector to engage men and boys in achieving gender equality. Government should support partnerships between civil society organisations working with men and the national and regional governments. South African Management Development Institute (SAMDI), the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) to train key representatives of government to engage men.
  10. Expand efforts to engage boys and young men in achieving gender equality. Primary prevention and early intervention strategies should be put in place to strengthen new families, meet the needs of children exposed to violence and identify and support at-risk youth. International public health literature indicates that these approaches are effective and they are consistent with the commitments made throughout the South African Constitution to promote and protect human rights.
  11. Build the youth capacity to assert leadership on increasing gender equality. Young men and women are often in the forefront of efforts to address gender based violence and the gendered dimensions of HIV and AIDS. Using its learnership model, government should make a commitment to developing the next generation of gender and AIDS leaders.
  12. Launch a “Men and HIV Services campaign” to increase men’s use of HIV services. The Department of Health should convene a key stakeholder meeting to identify and develop evidence based strategies for increasing men’s utilisation of HIV services-especially STI treatment, HIV testing, ARV uptake and male circumcision. This should include a national task force on male circumcision as well as partnerships with existing media and social marketing organisations to develop messages that encourage men to pursue health seeking behaviours and challenge the attitudes and values contributing to gender based violence.
  13. Increase men and gender equality work in rural areas – especially with traditional leaders. 40% of South Africans still live in rural areas yet very little work with men on gender occurs in these parts of the country. efforts should be made to integrate work with men into existing rural structures, programmes and services – including traditional healers and leaders, traditional justice systems, agricultural extension programmes and rural schools.
  14. Support rigorous monitoring and evaluation of work involving men and boys. Both government and civil society must prioritise documenting and evaluating the work that they implement which involves men and boys to achieve gender equality. As well as the opportunity to share lessons and experiences, such evaluations will help to avoid duplication, encourage collaboration and guide the development of future work.