Premier Lucas celebrates Women’s Day in Springbok

Speech by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas, on the occasion of the Women’s Month Celebrations, 09 August 2014 in Springbok

Programme Director
Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen
Community of Namaqwa 

This is an auspicious year for our country and province in particular. It is 20 years since our nation emerged from the shadow of apartheid and also the 60th milestone of extraordinary women who fought for our democracy.

This year our government honour, remember and relive the spirit of the women who took it upon themselves to help liberate this country by protesting against the apartheid pass laws.

To this end, our Government pays tribute to about 700 women who marched with Charlotte Maxeke in Bloemfontein in June 1913 in defiance of the pass system.  We recall the bravery of the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to present a petition demanding the end of discriminatory pass laws.

The Women's Charter, which was incorporated in the 1955 Freedom Charter, called for the removal of unjust laws, regulations and conventions deemed repressive to women.

The Preamble of the Charter proclaimed: "We, the women of South Africa, wives and mothers, working women and housewives, African, Indians, European and Coloured, hereby declare our aim of striving for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against us as women, and that deprive us in any way of our inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities and opportunities that society offers to any one section of the population."

During Women's month we celebrate their dedication, courage, and their vision for a world where women and men, boys and girls, live together as equals. Together we must continue to act to ensure that women and men in our country can live as equal beneficiaries of development. It is only through the women’s full an equal participation in all areas of public and private life that we can hope to achieve the sustainable, peaceful and just society promised in our government programme of action.

Programme Director, the 20 Year Review highlights the progress the country has made in improving the lives of all South Africans, and advancing their socio-economic rights in areas such as housing, water, education, social development and healthcare.

At the same time we have made significant progress in transforming the apartheid state into a democratic one, founded on the values of human dignity, non-racialism and non-sexism, the rule of law, and universal adult suffrage, as enshrined in the Constitution.

Quite frankly,
our nation has moved decisively from a reality where women suffered oppression based on their gender, colour and class, to one where gender equality is now a constitutional imperative. Our Constitution, which has been hailed as the most progressive in the world, borrows from both the Women's Charter and Freedom Charter.

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. Despite these inroads, the 2013/2014 Employment Equity Report indicates that although the representation of women in the workplace has improved, women remain under-represented in management positions. To address this imbalance government has introduced the Gender Equality Bill to accelerate the empowerment of women and attain 50/50 gender parity.

Distinguished Guests
, this provincial government has pledged that women's socio-economic empowerment and women's rights will be prioritised and mainstreamed across all sectors of society in the next five years.

We will continue to pay attention to the empowerment of women in the socio- economic and political spheres of society. We will take forward the advances we have made in promoting women’s empowerment and development. We will further ensure that we strengthen women cooperatives to stimulate economic development. We would also monitor and research existing gender policies to measure their effectiveness.

Furthermore, the Mme Re Ka Thusa women’s Development trust was established with the main aim to alleviate poverty levels in Northern Cape. The trust was formed to assist previously disadvantaged women on economic empowerment initiatives throughout all five (5) Districts of the Province. To this end, the trust has assisted a substantial number of women to either own their own business or expand existing businesses. It has also help train women to manage and run their business effectively. The message people should take away from this gathering  is that women are succeeding in business and public life in our country, that they have the ability, determination and drive to achieve great things in whatever task they set themselves and that includes enterprise and business. However, a lot still needs to be done.

We encourage women to participate in the economic sectors such a mining, construction, manufacturing, the green economy, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and engineering.

Having said this, ladies and gentlemen, the struggle for freedom and equality continues for women beyond equal participation. The struggle for women takes an even more challenging route of fighting poverty and underdevelopment, HIV/AIDS and women and children abuse.

Again, these struggles touch at the very core of the rights of women in our country and demands strong action, not only from women, but also from all South Africans. As of present, the deadly HIV/AIDS epidemic is spreading through the globe, and girls are six times more likely than boys to contract the virus. We have no choice, but to intensify the fight against this scourge which is threatening to decimate humanity. Access to quality health-care remains a critical measure of the quality of life that women must enjoy.

I want to encourage our women and mothers in our community to take the lead in social upliftment projects, skills development and training, HIV/AIDS counselling and dealing with the trauma of violence against women and children.

Also, violence against women remains a serious problem within South African society. The high incidences of rape cases, as well as other forms of physical and psychological abuse of women and girls, are evidence of this. Domestic violence and abuse is a prevalent and life threatening social problem facing our society. Domestic violence has a negative effect on children who are not directly abused themselves, but who witness abusive behaviour between their parents and other grown-ups.

Besides violence against women,
poverty and unemployment are the biggest challenges facing women. In today’s world, women are more likely than men to be poor and at risk of hunger because of systemic discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets. We must stem the tide against of violence against women and children and put a stop to it.

Comrades and Friends, let's work together to ensure that gender inequality, violence against women & children, HIV/AIDS, poverty  and the leadership role of women in democratic governance remain high-priority issues on the agendas of all spheres of government. I know we can work together and achieve justice for all women and create an equitable and gender-empowered world for the present and the future generations.

Programme Director, we must keep alight the flame of hope and progress that these revolutionary women have ignited. We are forever indebted to these women who have fought and provided us with leadership towards equality.

I have seen myself what women, often in the toughest circumstances, can achieve for their families and societies when they are given the opportunity. The strength, industry and wisdom of women remain humanity's greatest untapped resource.

Twenty years into democracy we can rightly state that South Africa is indeed a much better place; however more still needs to be done. Government, for its part, will not rest until all women are afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

However,
government alone cannot achieve gender equity. Business, civil society, political parties, teachers and higher education institutions must work with us if we are to succeed. Empowerment of women can only be successful if government, business and civil society work together to move women forward.  

The National Development Plan will assist us to address the triple challenge of inequality, poverty and unemployment which persist among women in spite of the progress made. The promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment is central to government’s efforts to combat poverty and stimulate sustainable development.

South Africa is truly a land of possibility, a place where the human spirit is free and supported to turn dreams for the future into daily reality. This ‘possibility’  is what makes South Africans unique, owning and shaping their futures together.

We call on society to draw inspiration from the legacy of the brave women who defied the apartheid state. Their hopes and dreams lives on in today's generation of women who will move South Africa forward.

Malibongwe!!
Igama Lamakhosikazi!!

 

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