Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa – During a four-day programme, from 28 September until 1 October 2014, Swiss and Flemish AWEPA members and members from the South African Provincial Legislatures (SAPL) have interacted on cross cutting issues that affect both continents.
Member of the Swiss Parliament Hon. Maja Ingold, Head of the Section and AWEPA Vice-President, and Ms. Therese Frösch, former Swiss parliamentarian and AWEPA Governing Council member took part in the mission as well as the recently elected Senator, Hon. Johan Verstreken, who has also just started in his role as Head of the Flemish AWEPA Section and Political Coordinator for AWEPA’s SAPL programme.
The programme started off with a meeting during which the delegates were informed about the state of play regarding the SAPL and AWEPA’s capacity strengthening programme. The opportunity to learn more about the SAPL directly from the implementing staff and beneficiaries was highly appreciated by the members.
The European members also welcomed the opportunity to participate and share experiences and strategies with their peers in the meeting for Senior Women Parliamentarians and Women Speakers of Provincial Legislatures.
The overall theme of the meeting, the role of parliaments in the empowerment of women and the further entrenchment of women’s rights, was a an issue which illustrated the importance of continued collaboration between African and European parliaments on cross cutting issues that affected both African and European societies in equally adverse ways. The delegates stated that just as in South Africa their respective countries had laws supporting equal rights for women but there still exists a great discrepancy between women and men such as a 60% wage difference and fairly low numbers of women entering formal politics.
The mission closed with a meeting with Ms. Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Small Business Development and trustee of the African European Institute. Ms. Zulu spoke of her personal experience with AWEPA and proclaimed herself as a product of AWEPA’s empowerment activities for parliamentarians and pledged her ongoing support for AWEPA.
AWEPA’s current programme with the SAPL is funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation Agency and Flemish government and aims to enhance the performance of the SAPL in their oversight and legislative roles, as well as to contribute to improve public participation at the province level.