South Africa

Department of Women: Love Me Tender

By Rebecca Davis 19 September 2013

The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities is currently inviting the public to bid for a tender to “conduct a market research on the DWCPD Brand”. Yes, really. As someone who’s been following the department’s “brand” closely for a while, REBECCA DAVIS thought she might as well put in a bid.

Dear Sir/Madam

Re: Request for Proposal from prospective bidders to submit proposals on conducting a market research on the DWCPD Brand.

This feels a bit awkward, but I hereby tender my bid for your tender. (Is it really the same word for the verb and the noun? Just like the F-bomb!)

I must admit upfront that the only tenders I’m familiar with generally come attached to a bar, but I have one major thing going for me. It is no exaggeration to say that I am fascinated by what the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities actually stands for. As such, to carry out this exploration on behalf of the department would be a wonderful, mysterious, almost certainly mutually mysterious journey of discovery. I beg you to bring a close consideration to my application. Mam’ Lulu, grab your glasses.

You say you are looking for someone to “conduct a market research”. This is highly fortuitous, as I happen to live near a market – Greenmarket Square – and could probably sew up the research in the course of a single morning. If additional markets were to be required, I would be happy to extend the ambit of my parameters to encompass the food market at St George’s Mall on a Thursday as I often pop in anyway for a snoek samoosa.

In your most interesting explanation of the “terms of reference” of this tender, you explain, “The Department for Women, Children and People with Disabilities was established to manage issues of women, children and people with disabilities”. As an initial note – and I trust you will not find this impertinent – I must whisper that your name is actually the Department of Women etc., and not the Department for Women etc. A small, churlish point, I know, but perhaps some of your current branding confusion stems from an uncertainty as to what you’re called that starts within your own office. Sorry if that sounds totes harsh!

Secondly, I think it’s a truly super step forward to be articulating your whole purpose so succinctly: “To manage issues of women”.  It sounds a tiny bit like the slogan for an Eastern European sanitary pad company, but let’s see what the market has to say about that before we go around being all Negative Nelly.

You state that you want to measure “where the brand stands” in order to “move the brand into the future”. This is visionary stuff. One of the questions I could ask the market might be, “How far into the future would you like to see the brand moved?”  If you don’t mind a digression, it reminds me a bit of the time at my (all-girls’!) school when a poster was put up in the bathroom with the stern admonishment: “What state would YOU like to find these toilets in?” and someone scrawled underneath: “Mississippi”.

Girls, bless them! Give them a fat koki and they’ll stab you in the heart! But that’s what we’re all here for, to help them be the best girls they can be.

Anyway, you say when I’ve finished collecting my “data” – bit of a fancy term for little old me and my clipboard! – you’ll be better able to understand how the brand is perceived. This is very true. “Whatever happens, it’s better to know for certain,” my aunt Agnes used to say, and she knew what she was talking about, after having proposed marriage to her neighbour and been brutally rejected.

But Agnes didn’t have half of what the department has going for it, starting with that snappy abbreviation DWCPD that I see you’re rather fond of. You must have heard the jokes that you’d be more accurately called DEEM – the Department of Everyone Except Men – but I think that’s just silly. When I was out buying Eastern European sanitary pads earlier I carried out a sneaky little test whereby I asked the shopkeeper if he knew what DWCPD stood for. He said “Something Western Cape Police Department” which at the very least certainly has a wonderful aura of gravitas and not-to-be-messed-with-ness!

We could even carry that police theme through to our branding and get walkie-talkies! I believe that might be useful anyway, since the deputy minister’s office is not actually located in the same building as the rest of the department. That sounds a little bit Mean Girls to me, though obviously I don’t know the back story, but think of the fun we could all have crank-calling her on the walkie-talkie all day long! “Hey deputy minister, is your department running?” “Yes, why?” “Well then you better catch it! But it’s not really though so don’t worry.” – and then hang up!

I’m getting terribly off topic, I do apologise. The terms of reference say that I’ll be needing to “assess stakeholders’ understanding of the meaning of the DWCPD brand and what it stands for”. That last bit is really the question on all our minds, I know. The minute I find out what it is everyone thinks we’re doing here, I will come racing back to the office to tell you guys so we can all get on with pretending to do it.

You say I’ll need to develop appropriate research instruments, which is fine because as I said, I already have a clipboard and a fat koki. “All information produced will be stored at DWCPD offices”. That could be more of a problem. When the parliamentary portfolio committee visited your offices in March they found the lack of filing cabinets meant you were just storing documents on piles on the floor. Sommer on the floor!

I don’t mean to sound condescending but that damn near broke my heart. The thought of however many of you – I know you’re not sure of the exact figure, so when I hand in my data I’ll just do a little head-count – just sitting in these dirty offices with all your files on the floor, doing your damn best to gossip about the deputy minister’s latest Facebook album but without even enough PCs for everyone to look at the same time… I don’t mind telling you that I’m welling up right now. “A woman should never be ashamed to cry,” my aunt Agnes used to say, and she should know, because she sobbed continuously for the last 35 years of her life.

I’m really looking forward to getting out there on the streets and asking all those nice people in Greenmarket Square exactly what the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities has done for them lately. I know you share my belief in democratic participation, so I might even get them to brainstorm a slogan for us. I was in a lift earlier in quite a tall building and I passed the time by asking some strangers if they had any ideas for a slogan. One replied: “Stop wasting our fucking money”, but I’m no fan of profanity.

Call me,

Rebecca

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Photo: Minister Lulu Xingwana, x 6

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