DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE : GERDA MOOLMAN
NORTHERN CAPE PROVINCIAL LEGISLATURE
Lede van die Wetgewer,
Lede van die Media
Dames en Here
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is an important network of parliamentarians in the Commonwealth. It gives us a rare opportunity to connect with parliamentarians from all over the world, to not only share experiences and challenges faced by our sector, but it also gives us a chance to workshop and discuss interventions and solutions to our problems.
Agbare Speaker, as ons praat van die Statebond, dan praat ons van ‘n gemeenskap van 2.3 biljoen mense w?reld wyd. Therefore organizations such as the CPA can and do play a pivotal role in uniting the goals of people across the world.
Maar, in die eerste plek, wat is die Statebond?
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental, multination organisation of 54 independent member states. All members of the Commonwealth except Mozambique and Rwanda were part of the British Empire, out of which the Commonwealth was developed.
The member states cooperate within a framework of common values and goals, as outlined in the Singapore Declaration.
This cooperation can include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, and the rule of law, individual liberty, free trade, multilateralism and world peace.
It is important to note that the Commonwealth is not a political union, but an intergovernmental organisation in which countries with diverse social, political and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status.
Alongside shared values, Commonwealth nations share strong trade links; in fact, trade with another Commonwealth member has been shown to be a third to a half more than with a non-member.
Hon. Speaker, the history and development of the CPA pays homage to this great network of nations. The CPA was founded in 1911 as the Empire Parliamentary Association and its affairs were administered by the United Kingdom Branch.
It is interesting to note that the original member branches were Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Running parallel to the developments in the Commonwealth, the CPA only adopted its name in 1948 to what is its present name. It changed its rules to enable all member Branches to participate in the Association’s management. It also established a separate Secretariat to manage its affairs.
However Speaker, in looking closer into today’s debate, I looked at the CPA’s objectives and mission today.
The Associations mission is to promote the advancement of parliamentary democracy by enhancing knowledge and an understanding of democratic governance.
According to its own objectives, it seeks to build an informed parliamentary community able to deepen the Commonwealths democratic commitment and to further co-operation among its parliaments and legislatures.
Hon. Speaker, these are noble objectives, and indeed sets the CPA apart as the vehicle through which international best practice can be drawn.
However the question must be asked;
1. Are we doing enough to not only learn from the CPA?
2. Secondly, are we implementing many of the best practice lessons we learn on our numerous conferences and study-tours?
To answer this question Speaker, I will look at one area of particular importance to me as a Member of this Provincial Legislature.
On issues pertaining to women’s rights, women empowerment and the support and development of more women in the legislative sector, I was encouraged by the Associations initiatives. Most impressive is the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians platform.
In terms of its history, the CWP was founded by women delegates at the 1989 plenary conference. This allowed women at future conferences to discuss ways to increase female representation in Parliament.
It also allowed women to work towards the mainstreaming of gender considerations in all CPA activities and programmes.
In 2004, the group was formally recognized in the CPA Constitution and its elected Chairperson added to the CPA Executive Committee. A Steering Committee of 10 Members plans its activities. The current Chair in Office is the Hon. Alix Boyd Knights, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Dominica.
This Committee is what I considered an important vehicle to monitor the developments of gender equity in Africa’s parliaments.
On a growing continent of over 1 billion people, the majority of whom are women, it seemed logical for me that the number of women in Parliaments and Legislatures across the continent would be women…but Speaker, this unfortunately is not the case.
Although there are countries which have done exceptionally well in encouraging women parliamentarians, South Africa included, there still persists the horrible situation of African politics being a predominantly “boys-club”.
The CWP has developed numerous studies and research on issues of gender mainstreaming of parliamentarians, and women in general.
Speaker this research and its practical application became apparent to me during a study-tour we embarked on to Rwanda. Although not directly linked, in the back of my mind I observed how Rwanda, which comes from a traumatic history of violence and genocide, has been able to rebuild itself from the ashes.
The country through its Government and Parliament, have focussed sharply on improving governance, and creating an environment which benefits its citizens, especially women. Indeed Speaker, there is a lot we as South Africans can learn from Rwanda.
We observed how the Government of Rwanda has developed special business hub areas, in which co-ops are supported. Many of these co-ops drew in poor women, and gave them opportunities to trade and conduct business in commercial hubs.
The Government plays its part by focussing on the provision of continuously improving enabling opportunities, namely healthcare, education, safety and security.
It developed special co-ops, and a market with a bank. This allowed traders to save and invest their incomes, and develop wealth.
Speaker, although our guides told us that many challenges still exist, it was encouraging to see how the introduction of a nationwide culture of empowering citizens and women, and having the political-will to see it through, has helped changed the face of even a country like Rwanda.
(one minute left)
Although South Africa has done well on many development indicators, it is sadly the women in this country who are still failed by the lack of political-will from the ruling party to implement its progressive policies of gender mainstreaming.
Indeed lip-service is paid yearly by most of my colleagues to the right. However the most telling fact is that, in over 100 years of existence, they have never elected a woman to lead it.
In conclusion Speaker, I must say I am truly grateful for the CPA as a platform which allows us in the Legislative sector to exchange ideas, and learn from international best practice. Our participation as a country and as a Provincial Legislature is also most welcome. However we need to start translating many of the best-practices we’ve observed from our CPA study trips and conferences, into our own practices here in the Legislature.