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The people especially women continue to face challenges in accessing their rights

08 March 2013

“South African women still face serious challenges in realising their human rights as enshrined in the Constitution”, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) Deputy-Chairperson Pregs Govender said today, 08 March 2013, at the Commissions commemoration the International Women’s Day.
“We need to understand why there are still such high levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment and violence directed at women and girls,” said Govender.

The Deputy Chairperson further highlighted how the resulting patterns of landlessness, unemployment, precarious employment, poverty, inequality and violence have increased in the country and the linkages of these to macro-economic policy.

The meeting theme was Connecting the Dots: Patriarchy, macro-economic policy, Socio-economic Rights & Gender Based Violence.  The meeting was held to assist the Commission in assessing the country’s progress towards the realization of the rights of women living in a patriarchal society such as South Africa, as well as the progressive realization of socio-economic rights and.
The meeting further served as preparation for the Commission’s National Hearing on Water and Sanitation, taking place on 19 March at the Pan-African Parliament in Midrand.

Nomfundo Walaza from Desmond Tutu Peace Centre indicated that there has to be a concerted effort by all stakeholders, including government, to fight Human Rights violations. “Let’s open the doors of parliament. We are alienated from our leaders. How do you hold people accountable who are there, and we are here? They sit in high chairs in parliament and are not accountable. If government is not accountable, it means we put people there to serve themselves and not us,” she added.

Jacky Dugard from Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) added that Human Rights violations are so widespread that her organisation has moved beyond strategic litigation in an attempt to address them. SERI has been litigating several complaints, around various socio-economic rights, but decided to include advocacy and human rights education in their attempts to develop consciousness amongst communities around economic and social rights as well as civil and political rights.

“My organisation is 3 years old, were always working on issues from a local government perspective. There is a strange discrepancy around decentralisation being about bringing power closer to the people, however it seems to actually make power more remote from people. Local communities feel excluded from the formal economy and politics.”

Sipho Mthathi talked about building women’s movements as a critical way of claiming power and transforming society.

Kumba Zuma from Water Aid talked about their work across the African continent including their work on social audits.
The Commission on Gender Equality raised the continuing complaints about poor service delivery, which impact negatively on women. “If we talk about empowering women we must also focus on the point of how we alleviate poverty. According to the MDG’s, we were meant to halve poverty by 2015, but how are we going to achieve that goal.”

Mark Heywood from Section 27 raised concern about the lack of human rights knowledge. “We need to amplify knowledge about rights so that people can fight their own battles. As we build these movements we cannot micromanage everything, so we have to give people a framework for struggle so that they can conduct their own struggles then we can begin to connect the dots,” Heywood said. “People have more power than they ever had in history, to change the world they live in”.  

Bonni Myersfeld of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) talked about connecting the dots between the right to water and the lack of accountability of mining companies.

Ayanda Mvimbi from UN Women, spoke about the need to scrutinize budgets from a human rights and gender perspective.

The commission presented its draft report from water and sanitation hearings held in 2012 across all 9 provinces.  This report will be formally presented during the National Hearing on March 19th.   The Presidency through the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), will respond to the Commission and provide indication of how government plans on implementing the Commission’s recommendation on water and sanitation.

The meeting called on the Commission to use its Constitutional mandate and powers to make sure that these challenges are addressed with respective Government departments.  

More information on the conference is available on www.sahrc.org.za

For more information

Isaac Mangena
Head of Communications
Tel: 0718848273

E-mail: imangena@sahrc.org.za

For comments email info@sahrc.org.za [Back]

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08 March – International Women’s Day
21 March - Human Rights Day
27 April – Freedom day
1 May - Workers day
03 May – World Press Freedom Day

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