National Gender Policy Framework

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The implementation and coordination of all the priorities that were identified in the National Gender Policy Framework is now the responsibility of, and is centralised within the Ministry of Women in The Presidency. The assumptions that were made for the development of the National Gender Policy Framework were identified as follows:

  • In spite of the fact that South Africa is considered by some international indicators to be among the upper-middle-income countries of the world, the majority of South Africans live either in abject poverty or in fear of becoming poor. Since the majority of these people are women living in periurban and rural areas, the National Gender Policy Framework took “basic needs” approach and prioritized the meeting of ‘basic needs’;
  • By definition, a “basic needs” approach is holistic in nature. To comply with the principles embraced in this approach, the strategy for program implementation had to be inter-sectoral. To deliver programs identified by the national framework, those involved will have to mobilise across a number of sectors to address the multiple needs assumed within this model;
  • The “women’s empowerment” approach tends to focus more on practical needs which in themselves are complementary to the “basic needs” approach reflected in the situational analysis. On the other hand, the “Gender and Development” (GAD) approach focuses on ‘strategic needs,’ the goal of which is gender equality. Given the high levels of inequalities which pertain in the South African context, the focus on women’s empowerment in this document affirms the satisfaction of ‘basic needs’ (‘practical needs’) as a necessary precondition towards the identification and attainment of ‘strategic needs’;
  • The National Gender Policy Framework was issue driven rather than sector specific and promoted a co-operative approach among sectors towards achieving Gender equality both within and across sectors. In presenting the situational analysis the Gender Policy Framework drew on the Beijing Platform of Action as an analytical and organizing tool because it is comprehensive. Whilst not all the critical areas found in the Beijing Platform are included, those selected were sufficiently broad to incorporate the 27 sectors of the South African Government. There was no need to specify each sector and lose sight of the inter-sectoral approach;
  • The National Framework recognized that each sector has unique issues to address. In turn, these sector issues have unique gender implications. As a generic policy framework, the National Gender Policy Framework aimed to provide the guidelines which the various sectors can use to issue more detailed policy documents that are sector specific. It aimed to enable sectors to integrate the principles contained in this Gender Policy Framework into their prevailing policy and strategic documents.

The National Gender Policy Framework established the national goal, proposed central objectives, defined key indicators for attaining the goal and objectives, and identified expectations of key national structures that are mandated to implement the program. While the Gender Policy Framework was not prescriptive, it did set standards and norms for the national gender program.

The challenges facing South Africa have been translated into national priorities and all of these priorities have compelling gender dimensions which need to be addressed if the country is to advance towards Gender equality. The key challenges outlined in the national framework were:

  • gender relations;
  • poverty;
  • globalisation;
  • HIV/ AIDS;
  • violence;
  • access to basic needs;
  • access to basic resources;
  • access to employment;
  • economic empowerment of women;
  • access to land;
  • access to science and technology;
  • women’s access to political power;
  • implementation of laws; and
  • National gender machinery.

These challenges are interrelated and the national framework advanced the “basic needs” approach to women’s empowerment and gender equality to ensure that government approaches these challenges in an integrated manner and avoids piecemeal impact.

The principles and guidelines enunciated and proposed in the national framework aimed to advance the integration of gender considerations into the transformation of the country by ensuring that:

  • There is equality of all persons and that non-sexism and non-racism be enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa;
  • There is an understanding that women are not a homogenous group. This principle must inform all policies and programs that will lead to the implementation of Gender equality in the country.

Distinctions according to race, class, sexuality, disability, age and other variables should not to be overlooked or taken for granted. However, similarities should also be used to strengthen initiatives designed to reverse past gender discrimination;

  • Women’s rights be seen as human rights;
  • Customary, cultural and religious practices be subject to the right to equality;
  • Affirmative action programs targeting women be developed and implemented;
  • Economic empowerment of women be promoted;
  • Serious attention be placed on changing policies and practices which have hitherto hindered women’s access to basic needs, the economy and decision making;
  • Enabling legislation has already been passed by Parliament and other legislative bodies. Where the need arises, additional legislation be developed to make it possible for women’s empowerment and gender equality to be attained;
  • Efficient machinery be set up at national and provincial levels and in public and private organisations to ensure that the policy is implemented. Adequate structures and resources must be set aside to guarantee the implementation of programs;
  • Appropriate training to improve knowledge, skills and attitudes in gender analysis and gender equality be provided to all policy makers, strategic and operational managers;
  • Effective collaborative strategies to enhance relationships between formal political structures such as the Cabinet, Ministries, Government Departments, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Office on the Status of Women, the Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee on the Quality of Life and Status of Women and other Portfolio Committees need to be developed.

The emphasis of the National Framework was to operationalise recommendations made by the women’s movement as well as those contained in national, regional and international instruments into core principles for the National Gender Program. The aim was to create an enabling environment and make it possible for government to develop mechanisms that will assist in the achievement of the national goal of gender equality.


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Strategic Framework document for Gender Mainstreaming in the Public Sector

Through the Literature Review conducted nationally from the Strategic Framework document for Gender Mainstreaming in the Public Sector it is clear that there is a need to ensure the participation of women in decision making so that the needs of women can move from margins to the centre of development planning and resource allocation. Policy analysis is also required to examine the effects of gender differences when implementing policies. It is important that both men and woman be equally involved in decision making processes. The South African Policy for Women Empowerment and Gender Equality is implemented nationally and provincially on the status of women. Public participation

and developing education through democracy, and skills development are key in order to achieve the sector’s objectives.

The Legislative Sector in South Africa has identified the strengths in terms of gender which reflect Legislative mandates that are in place, and are support mechanism that ensure the promotion of gender within the Public Sector which are Legislative bodies. The constitution and the bill of rights also promotes gender equality, and the gender policy framework broad strategies and programmes that support gender equality, the women and men of parliament that have institutional knowledge, competence and commitment to gender mainstreaming.

The Draft Strategic Framework on Gender and Women’s Economic Empowerment is aimed at promoting broader participation, equity, redress in order to broaden the base of empowering people. The Framework also provides support in ensuring women participation in the economy and its objectives are focused on challenging the direct and indirect barriers in enterprise, industry and trade which prevents women from equal access and control of economic control.

There is a need to strengthen women’s capacity and network to benefit from policies and programmes within the economic sector, and increase the access of finance to women. As well as to conduct research and put in place monitoring systems to measure gender impact. A similar approach was also followed to that of the Legislative Sector document reflecting that there was a need to improve gender mainstreaming within the country and the policies thereof.


Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill

This bill has been developed by the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities. The following are the objectives of the bill:

  • To give effect to the letter and spirit of the C the Millennium Declaration and Development Goals (September 2000);
    1. The Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (July 2004); and
    2. The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (August 2008);
  • To align all aspects of the laws and the implementation of the laws relating to women empowerment and the appointment and representation of women in decision-making positions and structures;
  • To facilitate the development and implementation of plans and strategies by designated public bodies and designated private bodies for the promotion of women empowerment and gender equality, and the submission of those plans and strategies to the Minister for consideration, evaluation and guidance;
  • To provide for the implementation of measures to achieve a progressive realisation of a minimum of 50 per cent representation and meaningful participation of women in decision-making structures including Boards by designated public bodies and designated private bodies, as contemplated in section 7;
  • To provide for the implementation of gender mainstreaming by designated public bodies and designated private bodies as contemplated in section 8; and
  • To provide for the development and implementation of public education programmes on practices that unfairly discriminate on grounds of gender as contemplated in the applicable legislation and in international agreements in order to promote gender equality and social cohesion.

The Act indicates that the minister may use any dispute resolution mechanisms to address non-compliance with this act. An accounting officer is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, if that accounting officer fails to comply with the provisions of this act. To commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding 10% of the total annual turnover of the designated private body or specific sector sanctions or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.

National Development Plan Vision 2030

According to the National Development Plan, economic transformation is about broadening opportunities for all South Africans, but particularly for the historically disadvantaged. It is also about equity in life chances and encompasses an ethos of inclusiveness that is presently missing. Such opportunities and inclusiveness should also benefit women.

  • Constitution, in particular:
    1. the equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms by every person;
    2. the promotion of equality, specifically gender equality; and
    3. the values of non-racialism and non-sexism contained in section 1 of the Constitution;
  • To give effect to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, in particular: (b) facilitate compliance by designated public bodies and designated private bodies, with the country’s commitments to international agreements, including:
  1. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (December 1979);
  2. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (September 1995);
  3. The National Environmental Management Act (Act no. 107 of 1998) (NEMA) makes it clear that the vital role of women and youth in environment management and development must be recognised and their full participation therein must be promoted. As recognised in the MDG report of 2013, achieving environmentally sustainable economic and human development remains a challenge for most countries, including South Africa, where in spite of macroeconomic development poverty, inequality and unemployment persist.
  4. The challenges faced are not only in poverty, inequality and unemployment. Over the last five decades, South Africa observed climate trends such as in extreme rainfall events that show a tendency towards increasing in frequency annually, and especially in spring and summer. The maximum and minimum daily temperatures have been increasing annually, and in almost all seasons. Such climate conditions have impacts on human beings, livelihoods and natural resources. Our integrated adaptation and mitigation responses should therefore not only assist with managing the risks but also ensure radical participation of women and equal opportunities.
  5. In 2005 and 2006 Environmental Affairs hosted Women and the Environment conferences that laid a firm basis for a national women and environment agenda for the sector. The national Women and Environment Forum, established in 2010, continues to provide a platform for women representing Government spheres, private sector and organised business, civil society (rural and urban), organised labour, NGOs, academia and research institution to share experiences and involvement in environmental and sustainable development programmes, share best practices, exchange knowledge, skills and expertise, and explore networking, capacity building and other communications mechanisms of support.
  6. The Chief Directorate Environmental Sector Coordination facilitates the gender mainstreaming, women empowerment, gender equality and transformation including the support activities of the national women and environment forum. The work of the Chief Directorate is complemented by the Directorate of Transformation, Employee Health and Wellness designed to mainstream and monitor projects that benefit women at a corporate level.


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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development illustrates the integration and mainstreaming of gender issues into the Southern African Development Community Programme of Action and community building initiatives key to sustainable development. The objective of the Protocol is to provide for empowerment of women to eliminate discrimination and to achieve gender equality and equity through the development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects.

There would be a need to implement the harmonisation of various instruments which members of State have subscribed to at Regional and Continental and International level. Address emerging gender issues and concerns, to set realistic, measurable targets, time frames and indicators for achieving gender equality and equity. To strengthen, monitor and evaluate the progress made by member of state and the goal indicated within the Protocol document and to strengthen regional integration, attain sustainable development, and strengthen community building.

The SADC Protocol documents promotes equal participation by both male and females in all electoral processes, decision making through putting in place policies, strategies and programmes through  leadership, gender sensitivity training and mentoring. Providing structures for decision making positions, strengthening structures to enhance gender mainstreaming as well as changing discriminatory attitude and norms of decision making structures and procedures.

In terms of Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation the State Parties would need to ensure the implementation of the Protocol document at a National Level and there are national action plans with measurable timeframes and evaluation mechanisms developed and implemented. The State parties should collect and analyse baseline data against progress in which through achieving targets it will monitored. Reporting will be done every two years to the secretary of SADC.

The SADC also developed the Protocol on Environmental Management for Sustainable Development aimed at enhancing the protection of the environment in order to contribute to human health, well-being and poverty alleviation. There would be a need to promote equitable and sustainable utilisation of natural and cultural resources and the protection of the environment for the benefit of the present and future generations. There is a need to promote shared management of trans-boundary environment and natural resources as well as effective management and response to climate change and variables.

In order to achieve the said objectives there would also be a need to contribute towards sustainable development through the adoption of sound environmental management principles and procedures. Ensuring equitable access and sharing of benefits that accrues from genetic resources. Ensuring that gender equality and equity is mainstreamed into environmental management for sustainable development. The mainstreaming of sustainable development objectives into trade and socio economic policies, programmes and plans in the region.

Enhance restoration, rehabilitation and remediation of degraded polluted environments. Facilitate the harmonisation of environmental policies, legislation, law enforcement and natural resources governance. Monitor and report on environmental trends and the implementation of trans-boundary programmes in the region including development and implementation of early warning systems and environment risk assessments. Facilitate the development, implementation and coordination of environmental assessment procedures, environmental management instruments and standards. Develop and implement coordinated climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies and implementation of coordinated environmental disaster management responses.

There would be a need to manage the collection of storage movement, disposal of waste and hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials. The prevention and control of air, water and soil pollution and degradation of regional natural resources. Promote sustainable land management practices to prevent soil erosion, land degradation, deforestation, desertification, overgrazing and bush encroachment and promoting the use of environmental economics and natural resources accounting in development planning.


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United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Mainstreaming Gender in UNEP entails change in attitude and practices and how work is carried out. The vision of UNEP is to develop a gender responsive environment and management programme. UNEP developed the Gender plan of action in 2006 which would focus on ensuring that gender is fully integrated into the work UNEP does internally and at an external level. There would be a need to build capacity of partners is integrating gender into environmental programmes from global to local levels.

The UN fact sheet also highlights that in the development of the gender mainstreaming strategy through the implementation of the Action Plan the first step would be to analysis should be made of the current contributions and responsibilities of both men and women and the potential impacts of planned processes and activities. Mainstreaming does not replace women focused projects and programmes and legislations. Mainstreaming and empowerment for women are complementary strategies. Mainstreaming should be implemented in a way that it facilitates the empowerment of women.

Beijing document

The environment is a key factor in developing a sustainable economy and ensuring that all socio-economic elements of this field of study and work accommodate the inclusivity of women. This is done through actively involving women in environmental decision making at all levels; integrating gender concerns and perspectives in policies and programmes for sustainable development as well as through strengthening or establishing mechanisms at national, regional and international levels to assess the impact of development and environmental policies that are specific to woman.

The South African Constitution stipulates that everyone has the right: (a) To an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and (b) To have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that: (i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation; (ii) Promote conservation; and (iii) Secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development. This affirms South Africa’s position on the importance using its natural resources in a sustainable manner.

The work of Government is guided by the constitutional imperatives in the execution of their mandate which also promises that all South Africans have a right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations. Thus Government’s work on the environment includes:

  • Protecting and conserving oceans and coastal environment
  • Waste management
  • Creation of green jobs while contributing to the creation of decent work and livelihood opportunities.
  • Developing communications to heighten environmental awareness.
  • Ensure that government, industry and the public are informed, supported and regulated to act responsibly to conservation generally including conservation of the ocean and coastal environment,
  • Ensure that South Africa honours local and global obligations.
  • Promote, coordinate and manage an effective national mitigation and adaptation response to climate change

The priority areas of focus include:

  • Providing support to local government in the areas of air quality management, waste management, biodiversity management, coastal planning and open space planning;
  • Drawing linkages between climate change, the green economy and sustainable development;
  • Paying particular attention to ensuring that environmental assets and natural resources are valued, protected and continually enhanced (Outcome 10).

The most impoverished communities in South Africa are most vulnerable to issues surrounding their environment, for example climate changes caused by un-sustainable means of resources management. Women in particular from the rural areas are considered to be most vulnerable to harsh impacts of climate change because of their high levels of poverty and underdevelopment, as a result their capacity to adapt to, and recover from, climate change related impacts is limited to a very large extent. In many cases women in these areas are still directly dependent on ecosystem services as the basis for their survival and livelihoods.

Addressing these issues requires vigorous interventions such as those envisaged by initiatives undertaken by the Conference of Parties (COP), the resolutions undertaken within these structures can be used to drive this transformation by raising local, national and international awareness of climate change issues, to create and encourage political support for climate protection, and to catalyse the conversion to the green economy. To this end, the country has set up a multi departmental team to ensure that the country implements resolutions with identified timeframes.

For instance: “a number of important climate change related interventions were instigated as a direct consequence of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Durban; these included reforestation projects with mitigation, adaptation and social upliftment co-benefits, as well as urban greening initiatives and awareness raising. Hosting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP 17 / CMP 7 negotiations has extended these efforts, providing the opportunity to increase awareness of climate change and the climate protection work that is being done by eThekwini Municipality. It has also catalysed the development of novel approaches such as the CEBA concept.’

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