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This article is taken from the May 2001 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

Empowerment Opportunities & the role of women in the Consolidated Municipal Infrastructure Programme

S & T senior partner Moagi Ntsime looks at the role of women in labour intensive infrastructure delivery projects within the Consolidated Municipal Infrastructure Programme (CMIP), managed by the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG.

In previous editions of Phatlalatsa, we have assessed critical development challenges faced by infrastructure delivery programmes that focus on the empowerment of poor communities through participation in the identification and selection of required projects. S&T partners are heavily involved in two of these, namely CMIP and the Community Based Public Works Programme (CBPWP).

Objectives of CMIP

In the past, CMIP placed more emphasis on urban than rural development. The programme has been criticised in some quarters for placing more emphasis on budget spending and construction phases than performance and impact, whether or not target groups were reached, employment opportunities, and maximising training opportunities for the poor.

For the 1999/2001implementation strategy, the programme aimed at:

  • Provision of household infrastructure and affordable services,

  • Creation of liveable, integrated cities, towns and rural areas,

  • Local economic development, and Community empowerment and redistribution.

The programme aimed to achieve empowerment of women and the poor by providing for community participation in project identification and implementation; and ensuring that projects are sustained after completion. Creating linkages between infrastructure delivery and local economic development was important in the latter instance.

Employment opportunities created - for men

The CMIP Programme Manager collates data regarding performance and progress on a monthly and quarterly basis. This includes information about the employment of women in the programme. The data we use here cover the period March 1999 to December 2000. It is immediately noticeable that employment opportunities for women have remained largely static for two years.

For example, the October - December 1999 quarterly report records a total of 2 387 623 labour days created up to December 1999 on CMIP projects across all provinces. When analysed across three categories used (women, men and youth), 1 861 990 labour days for men were created (78%), while 237,974 (10%) labour days were created for women and 287 800 (12%) labour days were created for youth.

When analysed across provinces, we find that on average three-quarters of all employment opportunities were created for men, with the remainder apportioned to youth and women. Clearly, more purposive management is needed to expand opportunities for women in all provinces.

Getting better?

However, 1999 showed a steady increase in the proportion of labour days created for women. Provinces doing better included the Northern Province (23%), Mpumalanga (20%), and the Free State (15%).

The overall programme figures (from inception to date) show that women accessed 10% of all employment opportunities created. There are wide provincial disparities in the data: Mpumalanga (21% of employment opportunities went to women), Northern Cape (28%), and Northern Province (26%) performed relatively well, while others were considerably worse.

What are the key issues?

Firstly, the DPLG should be commended for managing a functioning monitoring system that provides us with accurate, timeous data; and permitting analysis to inform programme managers. The key is to learn from the past in order to improve the situation in future, which requires strong political will and commitment from implementing agents as well as government.

It is important to note that a whole series of cultural, social and other issues come into play when seeking to maximise labour opportunities for women, and the problems should not be minimised. It may be useful to deploy fast turn-around diagnostic studies, at site level, to assess the problems in context and help build up a picture that highlights key challenges. These may differ from one local area to another.

While many government programmes share broad policy objectives of empowering the poor, and women in particular, through a range of interventions, the extent to which these objectives are met continues to be faced with various challenges on the ground. In some cases, those tasked with helping programmes meet their objectives, do not share similar values to those who designed the programme. In other words, they stress a technocratic approach - arguing that their role is ensuring the delivery of assets in time and budget - but miss the social aspects and goals of the programme.

Monitoring data influencing awareness

At the 8th Provincial Programme Managersí Quarterly workshop for CMIP, which I attended, all Provincial Programme Managers committed themselves to the objectives of the programme, especially ensuring that women access opportunities to participate in the programme. The National Department and the Provincial Programme Managers noted that the employment of women in the programme has been disappointing. This is an important step, and shows monitoring data influencing management thinking.

But there are still some worrying issues, which reflect the differing approaches to the programme. One person at the workshop said: "I donít know what government expects us to do. You tell us what are your expectations, we are told to deliver projects, and yet time and again we are told about looking for women to work on projects. Ensuring that there is service delivery remains my primary objective - the issue of women for me is secondary".

Development or charity?

This was said by a government official, not - as might have been expected - by one of the engineers implementing the programme. Empowering women is still regarded by many in and out of government as an act of charity, rather than fundamental to successful and sustainable development.

Others speakers claimed that women do not want to work on projects, and prefer to do domestic work. These archaic attitudes are in direct contrast to CMIPís policy goal, which states that "women make up at least 50% of the total labour force employed for each project, and that emphasis should be placed on female single headed households, and have dependants."

Development initiatives cannot afford to operate on the basis of "business as usual" - which means deliver a functional asset within the set time limit and ignoring the deliberate social goals of the programme. Sustainability is created through a participatory approach, in which women and men must be equal.

 

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