The authors of the annual review of the president’s State of the Nation Address on ‘Women and Government Priorities’ express their disappointment with the speech’s lack of details on government departments’ implementation of policies and programmes.
Joy Watson, feminist researcher, says: ‘The State of the Nation Address contained far too few details on the progress made on issues highlighted in previous addresses. It was particularly thin on addressing challenges in the education sector. While the president spoke about reducing the drop-out rate, no mention was made of the serious challenge of retaining girls in school who get pregnant. A significant achievement was that 25 000 students were helped to pay off their debts to intuitions of higher learning. However, no mention was made as to how this will be sustained and how many girls benefitted from the initiative. Of concern is the fact that the President made no mention of plans to address the Auditor General’s finding of R26.4 billion in fruitless and wasteful expenditure in government for the 2010/2011 financial year, which should have been a key part of the speech.’
Lisa Vetten, Executive Director of Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, points out that, ‘The State of the Nation Address suffers from a lack of gender analysis. For example, while it is true that crime generally has gone down, for women it went up. In fact, the murders of women increased by 5 percent according to the latest crime statistics. Also, while the figure for sexual offences overall may have decreased, the figures for rape actually increased last year. The address is also silent on the importance of mental health, which is strongly affected by crime.’
Jennifer Williams, Executive Director of the Women’s Legal Centre, is concerned that, ‘while socio-economic challenges such as unemployment and poverty are important, the inequality between women and men should also be addressed. Addressing gender inequality cannot be limited to the Gender Equality Bill with its narrow focus on gender parity in political representation. It seems that the mainstreaming of gender in all government departments has fallen by the wayside with gender being parked in the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities.’
Sanja Bornman, attorney with the Women’s Legal Centre, added that, ‘If we want to congratulate ourselves on progress, it must be illustrated with detail. Detail on women’s health was conspicuous by its absence this year, especially given South Africa’s high maternal mortality rate.Women’s health is about more than preventing HIV transmission between mother and child. Last year the president promised to broaden the scope of reproductive health rights and provide services related to contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and sanitary towels for the indigent. There was no indication of any progress on those promises.’
The Women’s Legal Centre will publish a Review of President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address 2012 analysing the gender implications of the address later this month.