Female Entrepreneur of the year - Speech

Speech by the Premier of the Northern Cape,Mrs Hazel Jenkins, on the occasion of the Female Entrepreneur of the year awards held at the De Aar Town Hall on 12 August 2011

Programme Director

Mr Norman Shushu: MEC for Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform

Mr Sipho Sthonga: Mayor of the Emthanjeni Municipality

Councillors

Female Entrepreneur Participants

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with great pleasure, and indeed an honour, that I join you this evening for the prestigious Northern Cape Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Ceremony.

This auspicious occasion fills me with great pride to be in the company of exceptional women of our province who, on a daily basis and often unnoticed, contribute towards turning the tide against poverty, hunger, malnutrition and disease. These women are the foundation and the bedrock of our province and country. Through their hard work and diligence they feed and sustain our nation.

Collectively you are indeed a shining example of women's determination to succeed and a true embodiment of the Women’s Equality Charter's Declaration of the crucial role women are playing in our democracy.

These marvellous women who are standing as nominees tonight have displayed their extraordinary ability to match up to the intricate nature and values of the business tradition. They have demonstrated innovation and creativity in improving existing farming systems.

Programme Director, this evening belongs to the brilliant women who have ventured into an area that, for many years, has been the exclusive domain of men. They have broken free from the shackles of small scale, survivalist production and claimed their rightful place in the agricultural mainstream.

More importantly, they are making an immense contribution to the ongoing effort to contribute towards food security in our province and country in general. Theirs is indeed a contribution towards building a healthy, strong and prosperous nation. We salute these women of our province and we dedicate this evening to their outstanding achievements.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us not forget to note that this event takes place during Women’s Month. The women we are honouring today have given practical meaning to the ideals that those brave women activists of our country, such as Winnie Madikezela-Mandela, Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph, stood for. They have cherished and promoted ideals of equality and women empowerment.

Women have always been in the forefront of the struggle for freedom and equality: from the drafting of the Freedom Charter in 1955 that declared that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, to the women's petition against pass laws on the 9th of August 1956. Women have always fought in a united way across colour lines with a common vision of safeguarding not only their right to freedom and equality, but of all South Africans in general.

Apart from acknowledging the successes of women in agriculture, the Female Entrepreneur of the Year competition, whose winners we are honouring today, are intended to encourage producers, many of whom are rural women, to take advantage of the vast opportunities available in the agricultural mainstream.

It is therefore important, Ladies and Gentlemen, to highlight that the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award has become a brand through which the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform recognises women’s contribution to this country. This event highlights the pivotal role women play in society. Certainly, farming is not for the faint-hearted. It is an activity that requires immense perseverance, keenness and boundless energy.

In working towards achieving the goal of gender equality and women development, our government is intent on achieving full participation in business and decision-making processes through entrepreneurial support in all sectors of the economy.

The transformation of this male dominated sector is not only about broadening participation by women, but also about bringing to bear the experiences of female farmers and introducing new ways of conducting business in the sector. I am saying that female farmers are not takers, but they are bringing new ideas and methods to the table.

Our female farmers cannot afford to fail and good men will not stand by and merely watch. They are part of a much broader process aimed at the reconstruction of our society. Their measurable success will, however, be in terms of their contribution to productivity, economic growth, employment creation, and food security. As I reflect on the history and status of South African women, I sincerely believe that they will not fail us and I am also certain that they will usher in more creative and innovative ideas for the benefit of all South Africans.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Female Entrepreneur at the Year Award is aimed at highlighting these challenges and difficult tasks that women are tackling in our society, and in particular the agricultural sector. These are women who are saying that they will work in partnerships and with the government to resolve one of the fundamental problems of our society.

Programme Director, as part of our strategy to broaden participation in the agricultural mainstream, our government continues to pay serious attention to land reform. This we are doing in order to open new frontiers of opportunities for emerging farmers.

Through the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) programme, we made good progress in not only returning land back to our people but also in ensuring that resettled communities are able to sustain and develop themselves. We are succeeding in restoring the dignity of our people whose land was cruelly taken away from them as a result of discriminatory policies of the past.

Our drive to empower emerging farmers is through the Provincial Grants Committee so that suitable land for female farmers is identified in order that there can be an increase of smallholder farmers.

Through the various schemes of government, e.g. MAFISA, the Department of Agriculture disburses loans to female farmers to increase production and therefore enable them to sell their products.

The Department of Agriculture also offers grants through the CASP, Illima/Letsema and Land Care schemes to improve the infrastructure on the farms of female farmers to enable them to farm more efficiently.

Programme Director, we must, however, focus our attention on the crucial role played by subsistence, smallholder and commercial farmers. This segmentation will allow us space to understand their needs through a relevant stakeholder engagement strategy. When the department understands these needs, it will then develop appropriate programmes and projects to respond to them. That then will fulfil our service delivery obligation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Female Entrepreneur Award has drawn attention over the years to the existence of women in the sector that is dominated by male farmers. After all these years, we should rather strive to target women within the three groupings and see to it that they graduate from subsistence to smallholder and ultimately commercial farming. We should celebrate women performing on par or above their male counterparts.

We need to tackle the fact that this is an ageing sector, as most farmers are elderly, and thus there is an immediate need to train young farmers. We should begin to brand farming in such a way that it becomes attractive to the youth. We need to actively attract the girl-child to join this discipline, since there are opportunities for us to send students to Cuba for veterinary training, and also to train fish doctors.

Farming today has forward linkages across the value chain, hence it operates like any other commercial business. We have to advance with time and see this campaign broader than the female farmer but as an expression of the role of women in the three sectors: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Needless to say, we do not trivialise the opportunities created.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards is an instrument through which women’s contribution to the fight against poverty is being recognized.

Apart from being the lifeline of society and the custodians of household food security, women are playing an important role in improving the quality of agricultural products through improved delivery, innovation and excellence.

The adjudication process in this year’s Female entrepreneur Competition involves 57 participants and only 35 will vie for glory in the following categories:

• Best Female Worker
• Best Subsistence Producer
• Top Young Entrepreneur
• Top Young Entrepreneur: Smallholder
• Top Entrepreneur: Commercial
• Top Entrepreneur: Export

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 essence of the rights of women in our country and demands strong action, not only from women, but from all South Africans.

Despite these rigorous challenges and constraints, our women do not hold back, nor do they allow artificial boundaries to impede their progress. They are filled with hope and determination to succeed in all the actions and programmes they are involved in.

Once more, I wish to congratulate this evening's award winners. We are indeed very proud of you. Those who will not be receiving awards should know that they, too, are our heroines; their efforts have not gone unnoticed. You must feel encouraged by your actions.

I would like to end my speech with a quote from an anonymous source that I came across the other day. I find it comforting – and I hope that you too, will be inspired by it:

“Blessed are the women who have grown beyond their limitations and put an end to the stereotypes. They delight in the beauty of the way things are and keep their hearts open, day and night. They are like beautiful trees planted on the banks of flowing rivers, which bear fruit when they are ready. Their leaves will not fall or wither and everything they do will succeed.”


I thank you

Baie Dankie

Siyabulela

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