Modern, Growing, Successful Province

International Women’s Day

Address by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Mrs Hazel Jenkins, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day Gala Dinner, Mayibuye Centre, Galeshewe, 07 March 2011

Programme Director

MEC for Sports Arts and Culture, Mrs Pauline Williams

Members of the Provincial Executive Council

Members of the Provincial Legislature

All Mayors Present and Leaders of Local Government in the Province

Women’s Organisations

Non Governmental Organizations

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me start by thanking you all - visitors, and our distinguished guests - for joining us to celebrate International Women's Day in the beautiful City of Kimberley, our Provincial Capital.

We are gathered here to celebrate a 100 years of women’s selfless, dedicated and tireless struggle in the fight against sexism, discrimination, domestic violence, abuse, neglect and other offences against women.

It was Indira Gandhi, the late Indian Prime Minister, who once remarked that “by excluding women, men are depriving themselves of a fuller emancipation or growth for themselves”. She further remarked that “to be liberated, a woman must feel free to be herself, not in rivalry to man but in the context of her own capacity and her personality. We need women to be more interested, more alive and more active not because they are women but because they do comprise half the human race. Whether they like it or not, they cannot escape their responsibility nor should they be denied its benefits. Women are traditionally conservative but they also have the genius of synthesis, to adapt and to absorb. That is what gives them resilience to face suffering and to meet upheavals with a degree of calm, to change constantly and yet remain changeless”.

And we are celebrating our solidarity with women around the world and in all countries. And as we do so, we are particularly remembering those, living in conflict and in poverty, whose rights are violated on a daily basis.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as we celebrate, we should also reflect on where we stand as the South African Government under the custodianship of the Governing Party, the African National Congress, on how far we have progressed over the past 17 years of our young democracy and what we still need to do to achieve those rights and opportunities that are integral aspects of our rights as citizens.

We are pleased to report that under the guidance, persuasion and direction of the African National Congress, significant progress has been made on legislative reforms to facilitate gender equality and improved representation of women in decision-making structures. Representation of women in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature has increased from 25 percent after the first democratic elections in 1994 to 44 percent after the April 2009 elections. South Africa proudly stands at number three amongst countries of the world with the highest number of women in parliament.

We are certainly on track in achieving 50/50 representation in all decision making bodies, be it a Municipal Council, a Provincial Legislature or National Parliament. We have certainly done well within the context of our colonial and apartheid past. We have certainly been rewarded for our tenacity, our commitment and our collective struggle as a nation.

The number of women members of Cabinet (Ministers and Deputy Ministers) increased from 18 percent in 1994 to 40 percent after the 2009 elections. This achievement, Ladies and Gentlemen, is primarily as a result of the vision, foresight and hard work of the Ruling Party, the African National Congress.

Our government has also introduced a Ministry responsible for Women and Children focusing primarily on the rights and wellbeing of women and children.

However, it is a known fact that the majority of women in our society continue to live in miserable circumstances and they constitute the greater proportion of those trapped in the poverty web.

It is said that the major factor responsible for this unacceptable situation was the challenge women face in gaining access to education.

It is for this reason that we are observing 2011 under the theme,” Equal Access to Education, Training, Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women" which instructs us to harness the vast amount of information available in this era of Information and Communications Technology, and allow women to venture into the sphere of science and technology and continue to develop themselves adequately to meet the challenges in the world of work.

The theme expresses the hope that women and men would continue to unite at this stage of our democratic dispensation to end all forms of discrimination against women and ensure fairness and equal opportunities for all.

It is also critical that we encourage excellence in maths and science by female children so that we empower them to break into the traditionally male dominated study fields such as engineering and technological disciplines. This is an investment we need to make consciously to transform society and accelerate employment equity and diversity in the workplace.

Ladies and Gentlemen, women face a different set of challenges than they were 100 years ago. Women today not only face an increase in the levels of gender-based violence; they are also faced with, among others, the scourge of HIV and Aids, lack of access to public services and a lack of access to business opportunities.

Moreover, the negative impact of the HIV and Aids pandemic continues to weigh heavily on women and young girls. The Province is committed to implementing programmes aimed at reversing the spread and negative effect of this disease. In the same manner we conquered apartheid, we have to gather our resolve to rigorously fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS head on, eliminate gender-based violence from our midst and ensure sufficient access to public services by especially rural women.

Access to quality health-care remains a critical measure of the quality of life that women must enjoy. Our five-year programme to enhance the quality of health care focuses on improving access to health care services by women, especially poor women.

Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we affirm our collective obligation both as a province and as a nation to protect and nurture hard-won human rights and liberties, including women’s rights.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the creation of safe and secure environments in our communities is a necessary condition for social cohesion, peace and full enjoyment of human rights which the 1956 women generation and many other struggle martyrs fought and sacrificed for.

The prevalent abuse and violence towards women and girls should be seen as a betrayal of values that our communities stand for. We should reject gender-based violence, whether in private homes or the workplace.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2011 Local Government Elections provides another opportunity for women in our country to entrench these achievements and push forward for more. The elections also provide an opportunity for women to make their voices heard. The sphere of local government will ensure that women have a better chance of fighting these new challenges.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this year (and celebrate it we should!) let us also bear in mind that the struggle is far from over.

Allow me, Ladies and Gentlemen, to end by once again quoting Indira Gandhi when she said “there is no time to lose and it involves a tremendous task of educating. We want to walk together and in step with all others, but if men hesitate, should not women show the way?”

I thank all women and the men present here at this Gala Dinner for gracing us with your presence at this centenary celebration of International Women’s day.

I thank you

Ke a leboga

Baie dankie

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