Women's Day Speech 2011

Address by Northern Cape Premier Hazel Jenkins on the occassion of the Women’s Day Celebrations, 09 August 2011, Upington, Siyanda District, Progress Park
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Programme Director
MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture, Pauline Williams
Other members of the Executive Council present
All Political Formations
Esteemed Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Today we are commemorating the 55th anniversary of the women’s anti-pass march to the Union Buildings. It was on this day when over 20 000 courageous South African women marched to the Union Buildings in protest against apartheid in general and in particular the hated system of pass laws.
These pioneers left their footprints and an indelible mark in the history of our liberation struggle. In the face of the might of the apartheid junta these heroines did not flinch in their commitment to demand for women’s emancipation, equal rights and an end to all apartheid discriminatory laws. They were led amongst other by gallant fighters that included Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophie de Bruyn and Rahima Moosa.

When we celebrate this day, we therefore honour, remember and salute all women from all generations who have been part of our struggle and have made significant contributions. Among them we can count women such as Charlotte Maxeke, Albertina Sisulu, Florence Mophosho, Ellen Khuzwayo, Dulcie September, Adelaide Tambo, Ruth First, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Gertrude Shope, Ida Mtwana, Dorothy Nyembe, Evelyn Debruyn and many others who left their mark through their various contributions.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The commemoration of Women’s Month provides a platform for visible communication on government programmes and interventions aimed at improving the status of women in the country. On this day, we salute all women for their achievements irrespective of who they are. We review past progress of women’s development, and more importantly looking ahead at the opportunities that await future generations of women in South Africa.

The theme for the 2011 Women’s Month is:
“WORKING TOGETHER TO ENHANCE WOMEN’S OPPORTUNITIES TO ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT”
As we celebrate the National Women’s Day, we acknowledge that we still have a long way to go to achieve full emancipation of women from the hardships they have experienced because of their race, gender and social class.

Rural women still have the most difficulty in accessing education, health and other basic services. Where there are no basic services such as running water in the close proximity, these women are the ones who had to walk long distance to fetch water from the river for use by the whole household. They are the ones who have to go into the bushes and collect woods for families with no electricity.

They literary keep the fire burning and are keeping families together while many rural men went to work in the urban areas. Some women still face these challenges in their everyday life. Unfortunately, this major contribution made by women and rural women in particular has never been and is still not being valued nor appreciated.

Sexual violence against women and girls and rape are issues that remain a challenge in our society. Poverty and poor living conditions have added to women's vulnerability to violence and increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. The physical trauma of violence and sexual assault has left scars and unimaginable emotional damage on many women.

Ladies and gentlemen
As government our main focus is to facilitate the empowerment of women to become equal participants in the economic, social and political spheres:
Government acknowledges the historical inequities that have disadvantaged women, limiting development opportunities and representation in decision-making positions. However over the past 17 years of democracy, Government made deliberate efforts to improve the status of women. Today I can state with full confidence that women representation in Parliament increased drastically from 2, 7% during apartheid to 27% after the historic 1994 elections and reached 44% after 2009 general elections.

South Africa is number four amongst countries with a highest number of women in parliament. 43% of Cabinet Ministers are women. Although a number of women councillors has unfortunately declined from 40% to 38% after 2011 Local Government Elections, the ANC-led government remains committed on its endeavour of 50/50 representation in all spheres of government.

As the 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 majority.
However a need for the promotion and appointment of women to decision-making positions in the private and other sectors can no longer be over emphasised.

By September 2010, 10% of CEOs and chairpersons of boards of companies listed in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) were women. Women held less than 16% of directorship and 21% of executive management positions.
To accelerate the empowerment of women and address issues of compliance towards the attainment of 50/50 gender parity, the Gender Equality Bill is being developed by the Department for Women, Children and People with Disabilities. Working together we can do more.

Ladies and gentlemen
The scourge of poverty and underdevelopment does not only affect women in rural areas. It is against this reason that all efforts to create employment including the New Growth Path and the Job Fund must benefit women across all sectors of our society.
Government has labour intensive schemes and programmes such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and the Community Worker Programme which focus on helping women to create local jobs and develop skills. The generation of women of today must emulate the exemplary role of the brave women of 1956 by embracing the opportunities that our new democracy offers.

I can confidently report that government's priority of turning rural areas into thriving centres of development is having a positive impact on women. Rural women are the intended beneficiaries of the programmes and resources that eradicate poverty, such as the War on Poverty campaign. The National Rural Youth Service Corps emphasises 50/50 gender parity in the recruitment of youths to be skilled.
Qualifying beneficiaries get land and property through the Human settlements subsidy programme (assert and wealth creation).

Ladies and gentlemen,
With the assistance from government and other institutions, women’s groups are establishing and running productive and profitable rural development projects. Gender parity has been reached on access to education for boys and girls. Working with partners, Government is implementing initiatives to encourage girls to study and pursue careers in the fields of science, technology and engineering. We would like to urge all children especially the girl children of the province, to take advantage of government’s scholarships and research funding which are dedicated specifically for women. The initiative meant to help in increasing a number of women in the in the science, technology and engineering sectors.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to conclude by reassuring you that the Northern Cape provincial government remains committed towards addressing social challenges facing women, particularly the scourge of gender based violence.
Crimes against women and children are a national priority. These crimes have severe, long lasting impact on victims including serious mental health problems; gynaecological complications, unwanted pregnancies, HIV infection; serious physical injuries or disability and ultimately, death. The impact is not limited to a person who experiences it, but also those who witness violence, in particular children.

To coordinate the national response to this scourge, the Department for Women, Children and People with Disabilities is establishing an Advisory Council on Violence against Women and Children. The Council will comprise of key government departments, civil society organizations and other relevant partners and it will coordinate the implementation of the 365 Days National Plan of Action to End Violence against Women and Children.

Thuthuzela Care Centres have been established in areas with high incidents of violence. These are one stop centres where rape victims can lodge a case with the police and receive counselling and medical care including prevention of HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy.
Communities are mobilized to take part in curbing violence against women and children through campaigns such as the Child Protection Week and 16 Days of Activism on No Violence against Women and Children.

Only through women’s full and equal participation in all areas of public and private life can we hope to achieve the sustainable, peaceful and just society promised in our government programme of action.
As we celebrate, may we not become complacent and continue to promote skills and decent work and strive to transform our societies and lay the foundations for equitable and sustainable human development

I thank you
Baie dankie

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