'There's no ducking of responsibility'

The Mail & Guardian (December 5) recently carried a comment on the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) titled “Giving bucks to lame ducks”. It is important for the CGE to respond to the article as it carried information that misrepresents the organisation.

The article quotes a memorandum that, according to your columnist, has been “penned by disgruntled staffers” who allege, among other things, lack of proper consultation, interference, unnecessary activities, overspending, threats against staff and all manner of wild allegations against the institution’s leaders.

It is important to draw to the attention of your readers that a substantial number of CGE staffers distanced themselves from this memorandum.

In my capacity as the chairperson of the CGE I have had several meetings with the minister of justice to discuss this memorandum, among other issues. The CGE has written a formal response to each allegation, exposing it to be vindictive, malicious and untrue. We have evidence to back this.

“If there’s one thing the CGE is good at, it’s ducking,” writes Khadija Bradlow. She further lists the many responsibilities which we allegedly duck. Below I list some of the work the CGE has been involved in this closing year alone:

  • After much struggle with the justice system, Zandile Mpanza of T-section in Umlazi won her case against the trouser ban in that community. The CGE had the privilege of representing this courageous woman, who demanded justice in such a hostile environment. We did not act on her behalf, but with her, respecting her self-agency.

  • As an institution we were privileged to be part of Tinyiko Lwadhlamuni Nwamitwa Shilubana’s battle for her right to lead her people in the Nwamitwa chieftaincy case. The Constitutional Court ruled in favour of Shilubana to be the leader of the Valoyi people. The case is important for the CGE because it shows the complexity of South African society and the need to balance customary law and the Constitution.
  • Bradlow writes: “One is not asking it [CGE] to hold vigils outside illegal abortion clinics —” Actually, the CGE has not shied away in walking the difficult path not as observers from a distance, but as people who are involved and willing to get our hands literally dirty and place our legal mandate where it matters most.

  • The CGE initiated the forum of Chapter Nine institutions that met at the Human Rights Commission office to examine the implication of the xenophobic and gender attacks. It worked on a focused and strategic response, including humanitarian assistance, legal and other interventions. All our nine provinces are engaged in public programmes on the gendered nature of human trafficking as part of our 16 Days of Activism campaign.
  • Willow Park: on June 18 2008 SABC2’s Morning Live worked with the CGE to highlight the conditions of the people of Willow Park (about 20km outside Zeerust) in the North West province. The community is regarded as a village of the forgotten people. It is riddled with disease and all the attendant social problems. In our visit to the area we took issue with the mayor for failing to address the problems. Our work in Willow Park and in other areas continues.

The list of victories and setbacks goes on.

We take issues of discrimination seriously; not only against women, but all issues of discrimination on grounds of gender, including sexuality and sexual identity. We have taken up cases representing men who are discriminated against in matters of child custody.

As the chair of the CGE, I invite all South African citizens to join us in our quest for a society free from all forms of gender oppression.

Nomboniso Gasa is the chair of the Commission for Gender Equality

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