Women's Month 2014 Launch

 Premier Sylvia Lucas at the Media Launch of Women’s Month,

1 August 2014
Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre

 “The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate to her who she becomes.”

The march of 20 000 women in 1956 on the Union Buildings; is a wonderful story of strength, determination and activism across the class and racial barriers amongst women in South Africa. This story even crossed the gender lines with some men that came to play very important roles in our history, assisting the women. During this month we celebrate women who led the march to protest against the inclusion of women in the pass laws that served to control the movements of Blacks. This was coordinated by the Federation of South African Women (Fedsaw) led by four women; Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams – De Bruyn. These leaders delivered petitions to the then Prime Minister JG Strydom’s office in the Union Buildings. Women throughout the country had put their names to these petitions indicating their anger and frustration at having their freedom of movement restricted by the hated official passes.

This year, Women’s Month will focus on the 60th anniversary of the Women’s Charter which was signed a year before the Freedom Charter and two years before the 1956 Women’s March. This key document called for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against women.

The anniversary of the Women’s Charter also takes place against the backdrop of 20 Years of Freedom. From the 20 Year Review it is clear that South Africa has made significant progress in achieving the emancipation and equal rights for women. The theme for Women’s month is thus aptly coined as, “Celebrating 60th Anniversary of the Women’s charter and 20 years of Freedom: Moving Women’s agenda forward!

The country has moved from a history where women suffered oppression based on their gender, colour and class to one where gender equality is now a constitutional imperative. Government has also put in place legislation to create an enabling environment for women, and to improve their participation in income-generating activities in the economy.

Although advances have been made; many women remain marginalised and vulnerable to social risks such as violence, abuse, rape, unemployment and poverty.

Women’s rights and women empowerment remains one of the key strategic priorities of Government. The empowerment of women in the Northern Cape is about dealing with the legacy of apartheid and about transforming our society. As government we continue to promote the appointment of women into management positions in the public service and state-owned enterprises including career progression from lower ranks where women are already in the majority.

As we celebrate Women's month, we should acknowledge that significant strides have been made by our government to improve the situation of women; but more can be done in order to achieve the true emancipation of women from the adversities they have endured because of their gender, race and social status.

The Northern Cape will continue to place specific emphasis on the socio-economic empowerment of women. This will involve focussing on women’s education, health, access to land and social infrastructure.

The recent STATS SA report released recently indicated that women and especially young people still lag behind in terms of job opportunities and unemployment. To this end the Provincial Government has prioritised the employment and promotion of women’s issues. There will be a greater emphasis on the development of women and especially young women in the build and agricultural sectors. This will go a long way in ensuring that the rights and true worth of our women is promoted and nurtured.

The commemoration of the this year’s Women’s month is taking place within the broader 20 years of freedom celebrations, which will reflect on the following:

  • How our democracy was achieved and how we have worked together
  • Where were we then and where are we now
  • Thanking the international community that played various roles in our liberation and equality struggles
  • Celebrating major gains since the attainment of our democracy

Sadly this year’s Women’s month takes place against the backdrop of violent protests in the John Taolo District that is robbing our children their most basic Constitutional right, the right to education. I call on women in that area to arm themselves with the strength of those 20 000 women in 1956 and stand up for the rights of their children to be educated. Do not allow anarchy to rob this Province of tomorrow’s future leaders.

Provincially, Women’s Month will be celebrated in all five districts so as to exclude nobody from this crucial commemoration.

The ability to change the current status quo lies firmly in our hands

  • We can end violence against women and girls.
  • We can stop new HIV infections among women and their children.
  • We can remove punitive laws, policies, practices, stigma and discrimination that block women.
  • We can enhance social protection for women.
  • We can ensure that all women living with HIV access treatment when they need it.
  • We have to create a climate of security where women can access health and welfare services without fear or coercion.
  • Programming must bring women to the forefront of decision making on issues affecting them.

On behalf of the Provincial Government, I would like to take this opportunity and wish the women of our Province and country a happy women’s Month. This should not only be a month to celebrate, but to seek inspiration and wisdom from women such as Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Sophia Williams De Bruyn and many other brave heroines who spoke truth to power during that fateful day in 1956 when they marched to Pretoria to denounce the draconian laws of the apartheid regime.

Let us put women at the centre of the development of our Province and our country.


Released by the Office of the Premier

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