Address by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas on the occasion of the SALGA Women in Provincial and Local Government Summit, 11 September 2013 at Montrio Corporate Park, Monument Heights, Kimberley at 08h30

Provincial Chairperson of SALGA, Councillor Willie Johnson
Esteemed Women Representatives
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I stand here before you humbled by the opportunity to speak during an occasion that celebrates one of the foremost events of SALGA - dedicated to championing and promoting the important role that woman continue to play in society.

This occasion presents us with an opportunity - as women - to reflect, and reaffirm the determination of SALGA in striving for the achievement of effective and responsible participation of South Africa women in the political, social and cultural development of our society.

SALGA has been resolute in its commitment in striving to project women as potential and capable leaders in society, through the various platforms it has provided for women in the socio-economic and political domains. This occasion must be seen as yet another platform for women to engage in progressive dialogue on how SALGA will continue to contribute in the regeneration of society, until we achieve the full emancipation of women.

Women in South Africa have always been at the forefront of the liberation struggle and they are still at the forefront of the continuing struggle for economic emancipation and empowerment for all persons, regardless of race and gender.

As early as 1913, South African women, under the leadership of Charlotte Maxeke, led the fight against the oppression and exploitation of women. They protested against discriminatory laws that restricted free movement of Africans – like the pass laws whose rejection triggered the massacre in Sharpeville in 1960. Their struggles led to the formation and recognition by the ANC of the ANC Women’s League in 1948.

Every year, after International Women’s Day, South Africa observes National Women’s Day, on 09 August, which has been declared a national holiday, by the democratic government. It is a milestone in the women’s struggle for a better gender deal.

August is a month dedicated to celebrating the journey we have travelled in the emancipation of women. We commemorate the popular women march to the Union building in Pretoria in 1956.

We remember heroines like Lilian Ngoyi, Charlotte Maxeke, Helen Joseph, Amina Cachalia, and many others. We reaffirm our belief that the struggle for women’s emancipation is intrinsically linked with the emancipation of our society as a whole.

Those gallant women pioneers continue to serve as beacons for the young women of today.

Beyond what we call women’s month, the people of our country must ensure that these victorious celebrations strategically position women firmly as champions of our struggle for liberation, and that they hold an ability to deliver an African Renaissance that will place us firmly as a continent on the rise.

Former President RN Mandela observed during his inaugural speech in 1994, and I quote "It is vitally important that all structures of Government, including the President himself, should understand this fully: that freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. All of us must take this on board, that the objectives of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) will not have been realised unless we see in visible and practical terms that the conditions of women in our country have radically changed for the better, and that they have been empowered to intervene in all spheres of life as equals with any member of society, close quote"

These words of former President Mandela, reflect that the cornerstone of democracy is the full emancipation and empowerment of women in order to realise gender equality. This is ingrained in the founding provisions of our Constitution which is entrenched on the values of 'Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms; non-racialism and non-sexism.' The Constitution includes a Bill of Rights that is a bedrock for democracy, human dignity, equality and freedom.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have prioritised increasing the number of girl-learners who take Mathematics and Science at school. Projects include the Girls Education Movement and Techno-Girl that are intended to encourage girls to study Math, Science and Technology.

We remain concerned about the country’s performance in Mathematics and Physical Science, particularly given the specialised and technical skills needed for the drive towards industrialisation, economic growth and sustainable job creation.

Today, as we are gathered here, we are renewing this support to all African women who are in the forefront of building a continent where a girl child will no longer be seen as a liability but rather, an asset in building a caring, successful, and compassionate society.

We are strengthening measures to deal with violence against women, including law reform on bail, sentencing, victim empowerment, legal literacy, and extending access to the courts. These are some of the critical pillars for ending violence against women.

As for the HIV and AIDS pandemic, it presents one of the most serious threats to development on the continent. It is through our HIV/AIDS intervention programme that will help change the face of this pandemic that has a potential to be felt by many who will come after us.

Programme Director,

Women’s struggle in Africa was historically a three pronged struggle. Firstly – is the struggle for their own rights as women in a patriarchal society. Secondly – is the struggle against class exploitation of women as workers, peasants, and the poor. And thirdly - women were in the trenches of the struggle against colonial rule.

These are the struggles that continue to inflict women in Africa, yet very little is said about what they have done in contributing towards the ultimate and final halt of such struggles.

It is us who must write this history today, and we dare not forego this opportunity.

Our task is to continue to work together for the realisations of a non racial, non sexist and democratic South Africa, led by formidable women from across the African continent.

Today, SALGA will also be counted amongst those structures that continue to pay homage to a generation that fearlessly stood for women’s rights throughout the continent.

Today, as the women’s struggle continue, let us all rally behind SALGA; let us collectively pledge our support for this organisation to continue championing women’s rights and their emancipation.

I Thank You

 

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