Introducing the Civil Society Participation in Provincial Legislature Programme

Democracy Works Foundation in partnership with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy are the implementing partners in a three-year programme called, Civil Society Participation in Provincial Legislature (CSPPL) and funded by the European Union. The programme is aimed at establishing and strengthening platforms of engagement between selected civil society organisations (CSOs) and Portfolio Committees for Health and Community Safety in Limpopo, Northern Cape and the North West provinces.

To date, the programme has since been on field visits to Limpopo and the Northern Cape to introduce the programme to the provincial legislatures and civil society organisations. From Limpopo, six CSOs agreed to participate in the programme. Using a Governance Capacity Assessment (GCA) tool to analyse the profiles of the CSOs, the most common challenges faced by communities across the five districts in the province were, high levels of gender-based violence (GBV) and multiple incidents of mob justice against criminal elements in the community. Regarding health in the province, healthcare facilities in Limpopo are challenged with providing services for a significant part of the population who mainly rely on the public healthcare system. This is mainly attributed to a failing healthcare system, as well as inadequate communication and weakened relations between CSOs and the Provincial Legislature.

As a whole, civil society organisations in Limpopo are faced with the challenges of insufficient funding from the Department of Social Development and Public Works. While some manage to secure international funding, such funds are insufficient for organisations’ needs, as they provide services to a large part of the community. Organisations in the province are also faced with inadequate capacity development support for civil society organisations. Skills development within smaller organisations does not occur due to lack of resources, both structural and financial. As a result, most of the organisations requested skills development in the form of proposal writing and fundraising.

In the Northern Cape, the programme reached CSOs based in Kimberly, De Aar, Upington and Kuruman where the rates of gender-based violence (GBV) across demographics and social class were likewise exceedingly high. Across this vast province, what was striking was the spatial marginalisation of communities. De Aar depicted this aptly, where Ethembeni Community and Trauma Centre which provides services to neighbouring communities of Pixley ka Seme District, Prieska, Colesburg and other small surrounding towns. The services they provide indicated the specific needs of the communities they work in. The centre provides shelter for women and children and operates with the help of social workers, psychologists, community health workers and volunteers across the Karoo.

The geography and spatial range of the province presents a challenge for organisations to access the necessary resources needed to assist the communities. Mobile clinics work as an additional resource to assist key populations which aren’t reached by the public healthcare service in the province. As these populations are hidden primarily due to the stigma they are faced with, most of them prefer not to seek healthcare services at public healthcare facilities.

In South Africa in particular, GBV “pervades the political, economic and social structures of society and is driven by strongly patriarchal social norms and complex and intersectional power inequalities, including those of gender, race, class and sexuality”. Through the work and services provided by civil society organisations with limited resources, combined with high levels of poverty, unemployment and poor education, illustrates the need for functioning and efficient civil society organisations, as these organisations have the capacity to reach marginalised communities.

The Programme is still in the preliminary stages of engagement with Provincial Legislatures for partnerships and once this is accomplished, together with the Legislatures, collaborative strengthening of CSOs, and enhancing their participation in relevant legislative oversight processes, will increase community voices. The programme aims to assist with making democracy work by including the voices of marginalised populations.

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