Democracy Works Foundation (DWF) and civil society organisations (CSOs) working in low-income communities today meet with members of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature (NCPL) on equality for women in the region. This supports the NCPL and CSOs – Barefoot Campaign, LifeLine Northern Cape, and Optimystic Bikers Against Abuse – in their continued effort to engage in public participation. The NCPL’s Women’s Sectoral Parliament is an annual event that discusses topical issues affecting women of South Africa. This year titled Generating Equality for Women Through Realising Women’s Rights For an Equal Future, the NCPL’s Women’s Sectoral Parliament is set to take place from 09:00 – 12:00 and will be aired live on the eight provincial radio stations.
DWF works to deepen democracy and strengthen democratic institutions by supporting people, organisations and communities to participate in decision-making processes that affect them. The Civil Society Participation in Provincial Legislatures project is implemented by DWF in partnership with Westminster Foundation for Democracy, with the financial support from the European Union. The project works to narrow the gap between three Provincial Legislatures – whose critical role to foster public participation is magnified during the pandemic – and non-profit organisations working in low-income communities. The legislatures are the North West, Limpopo and Northern Cape.
The CSOs participating in this years’ NCPL Women’s Sectorial Parliament have expressed their excitement in being involved:
‘I regard it a great honour and privilege to be participating in the women’s parliament this coming Friday. The fact that my name was considered to being part of the team representing the women of our province is an achievement in itself. It shows that someone trusted that I have the best interests of the women of our province and country at heart. I do not take the responsibility to speak on behalf of others lightly and will represent my sisters to the best of my ability’, – Tremaine Bernards, Barefoot campaign.
‘This is an amazing opportunity for us to showcase that we stand united and in support of one another, to serve our communities by ensuring that their voices are heard’, – Brenda Haaker, LifeLine Northern Cape.
‘I am really excited to have been invited to the women’s parliament to speak about GBV, and the social dynamics around GBV. I think it is a step in the right direction that CSO’s are invited to give an opinion and I hope that this will be the beginning of things’, – Celeste Louw, Optymistic Bikers Against Abuse.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented citizens from accessing their respective legislatures in person, it has not however, affected the mandate of legislatures to foster public participation and to provide avenues for communities to demand accountability from the province. Legislatures have therefore faced pressure to find innovative and cost-effective ways to meet virtually, and to engage communities, while mindful that not all communities are digitally inclined.
Inviting CSOs actively working in the Northern Cape to participate in the NCPL Women’s Sectoral Parliament is one way to help narrow the gap in public participation.
We are excited about our CSO partners being invited to present at the Women’s Parliament in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature because we believe that, when citizens and their elected representatives actively talk and listen to each other, they can find and implement solutions to address the most pressing challenges facing our communities, says Mira Dutschke of DWF.
Following a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the DWF and the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature in February 2020, Westminster Foundation and DWF will continue their online engagement series with the NCPL and CSOs to obtain an understanding of how members of Provincial Legislatures conduct their work, and to use that understanding to identify ways to help the legislatures engage more effectively with the public.