South Africa – On 4 and 5 August 2015, AWEPA held a training workshop for 16 researchers from the nine provincial legislatures of South Africa, namely Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape, North West, Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State and KwaZulu Natal.
August is Women’s Month in South Africa. Therefore, a broad objective of the workshop was to explore ways of amplifying women’s voices through parliamentary research towards the development, enactment and oversight of legislation that is cognisant and inclusive of the concerns of women.
The training explored legislative analysis; ethics; epistemology for research in post-colonial African nation states; and feminist research methods, all framed within the context of the African Union Agenda 2063, South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 and the Constitution of South Africa.
Key issues that emerged during the workshop reflected the researchers’ lived realities as civil servants of a large bureaucracy but also as concerned citizens of a developing African nation which has the highest inequality index in the world. Discussion included analysis of the present legislative culture against the constitutional ideals and how the dynamics of the present legislative political culture affects the NDP’s vision of a nonpartisan bureaucratic culture.
There was fruitful and frank debate on the appropriate epistemological orientation for African legislative researchers, particularly on whether it is possible to be objective in politicised space.
The feminist research method of gathering and using personal accounts as evidence was identified as a valuable tool. The facilitator, Ms. Michelle Odayan, pointed out that, although it was generally considered a strictly qualitative method, feminists had in fact used it to both undermine and uphold quantitative data. Participants resolved to make greater use of this research tool and to ensure that women’s statements are taken up and the recommendations resulting from these personal accounts are implemented.
The researchers expressed keen interest in knowledge exchange visits as a result of the identified differences, strengths and weaknesses in terms of capacity and practices within their legislatures, as identified through interaction during the workshop.
AWEPA will facilitate these exchanges, with particular focus on conducting field research and gathering women’s personal accounts. It will also be an opportunity to critique and refine the present institutional reporting template so that recommendations are more practical and resolutions are easier to monitor and evaluate.