Modern, Growing, Successful Province

Women’s Parliament
20 August 2009 in Upington

This women’s parliament recognises the important role that parliament can play to promote gender equality. Parliament is the institution with the legitimacy and authority to resolve in a peaceful way what may appear to be irreconcilable differences. Parliament has this authority because it represents the diverse interests of the public and because the representatives are elected through a democratic process.

We have sought to promote the achievement of equality, where nobody is discriminated on the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, ethnic or social origin, etc. We have sought to build a society where gender imbalances that are as a result of the kind of past we come from, are rightfully and deliberately corrected.

Asics Onitsuka Tiger

So far we have spent August month by celebrating, debating and cultivating our common purpose-to bring warmth and humility to every encounter, to our homes and to the communities we serve tirelessly.
We have honoured and continue to honour South African women for the role they have played in the struggle for national liberation and to reflect on challenges women continue to face. As we celebrate, let us think of women farm workers who earn a living as seasonal employees. For them, their main concern is to earn a wage in order for them to be able to put food on the table for their families.
It is the plight and hardship of rural women that those elected to Parliament and provincial legislatures should continue to highlight. We should ensure that issues that daily impact on women, are kept on the national agenda.

In its Gender Equality Report, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says that:
"Any form of gender discrimination is a denial of human rights, an obstacle to human development. Gender mainstreaming means being deliberate in giving visibility and support to women's contributions and addressing the differential impact of strategies, policies, programmes and projects on women compared with men. It requires a focus on actual results in terms of gender equality in the practice areas at all levels."
The report continues that:

"There are two complementary approaches to achieving gender equality: mainstreaming gender and promoting women's empowerment. Both are critical. Gender mainstreaming is 'the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, making women's concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes, so that women and men benefit equally.

Ladies and gentlemen, Violence against women remains a serious problem in South African society. The high incidence of rape cases, as well as other forms of physical and psychological abuse of women and girls, are evidence of this.
HIV/AIDS is a very serious problem in South Africa. It affects women disproportionally to men. The power imbalances between women and men in interpersonal relations contribute to his growing pandemic.

The tendency to relegate women to a subordinate position is pervasive and has been a feature of human societies throughout recorded history. Over relatively more recent years an array of international conventions, declarations and treaties that recognises the rights of women have attempted to safeguard them from traditional and customary discriminatory practices. These provisions have been adopted by most countries in the world, and implemented by many.
There is a great way to go, however, as in many developing countries – including most of Africa- ethnicity, class, religious interpretations, cultural norms and politics continue to define gender relations in favour of men. Gender relations shape women’s access to resources and their work opportunities, and dictate the limits of what a woman may undertake at work, in the family or in public life.

In many African countries, when it comes to decision making, women are hardly involved. This is evident from the proportion of seats women hold in parliament across the continent. Countries such a Seychelles, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Rwanda are in the lead in Africa, with over 25% of seats in their parliaments held by women. Significantly these are also countries that are making notable progress towards the achievement of other Millennium Development Goals. This has been accomplished through empowerment legislation and effective advocacy.
The exclusion of women from legislative and decision making bodies is not only a denial of human rights principles, but also a failure to appreciate the role women play in development.

Honourable Speaker, Women’s Parliament is one of the hallmarks of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature. It provides a discussion platform that encourages women from different segments, from rural and urban areas, to participate in shaping the province, keeping government in check and deepening democracy. Indeed, since its inception it has afforded an opportunity to ordinary women who would otherwise have remained silent, to voice their concerns and bring key issues that affect their lives to the attention of Members of the Legislature.

The Women’s Parliament in 2009 will focus on the empowerment of Women in areas of Mining, Construction and the Hospitality industry (2010). The proposed theme for this year is “Parliament entrenching people centred democracy in achieving developmental goals”. The theme is derived from the State of the Nation Address’ as delivered earlier this year by President Jacob Zuma.

There is no doubt that the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature has a pivotal role to play in addressing issues of poverty alleviation, violence against women and children, and unemployment of which women bear a large burden. South Africa has made strides in empowering women, but a significant number of women are still suffering from being left out in the periphery of our mainstream economy.

The theme draws attention not only to the challenges women confront, but also to ways in which women can be empowered to uplift themselves and be active participants and full beneficiaries in the government initiated programmes and legislation designed for women empowerment i.e. Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE), Employment Equity, etc.

Honourable Members, the full participation of women in political decision making at all levels, including their involvement in measures to achieve the millennium development objectives, is of paramount importance to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women. Over and above the political arena, women’s participation in decision making positions in the private sector ,academia, civil society and the media is also crucial to foster synergies across different sectors.

Public participation by women must be rightly perceived as a human rights issue as women have a right to be represented adequately. South Africa has a constitution which entrenches non sexism and non racism in the bill of rights. It recognises primarily, that human rights are inalienable; they apply to all human beings. South Africans understand that the enjoyment of human rights is the most basic requirement and standard for the enjoyment of all human life
Research has clearly demonstrated that the more women participate in decision making, the more the impact it has on development priorities and poverty alleviation. When women make decisions, in other words they not only have a positive effect on themselves, but the lives of their families and the broader community as well.

With regard to the political arena, women’s access to political power and decision making has improved since the 1994 elections. There is a strong representation of women in the national, provincial and local spheres of government and in government departments.

As part of the new structure of cabinet, the African National Congress, as the governing Party, has, as part of the new structure of Cabinet, introduced the Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with disabilities. This Ministry has been tasked to mobilise for the participation of all three sectors in all aspects of life.
However, gender issues are cross-cutting in nature and will not be addressed solely by government alone or one Ministry. The new Ministry will thus monitor other government departments to ensure the mainstreaming of gender, children’s rights and disability considerations into all programmes of government. Therefore, we as the elected representatives of the Northern Cape, are obliged to ensure the participation of these previously marginalised groupings in all aspects of life.

Honourable Speaker, not only does the Women’s Parliament provide a platform for discussion on issues that affect women, but the interaction between women from communities and women in the Legislature sector enable parliamentarians to take forward these matters that affect them.
Let us use this women’s parliament to advance and promote the achievement of equality. You must utilise this platform to realise your full potential and participate as equal partners in creating a just and prosperous society for all.

Honourable Speaker and Delegates, we remain humbled by your determination and your dedication to the cause of the emancipation of women, as well as the work you do to radically change the life circumstances of all our people.

I have no doubt that your efforts will help accelerate our advance towards the achievement of the goal of a better life for all.

I thank you



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