Mme Re Ka Thusa, ZF Mgcawu Women’s Economic Empowerment District Summit

Address by the Honourable Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas on the occasion of the Mme Re Ka Thusa, ZF Mgcawu Women’s Economic Empowerment District Summit, Upington Show Ground, 17 September 2013.

Programme Director
Stakeholders Present
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour for me to join you here today as we celebrate the journey that our women have travelled to bring about change in our country.

We are gathered here, to encourage our women to actively participate in our economy and seize the opportunities that our new democracy offers. Our message is to encourage women to unleash the enormous potential within them and exert themselves to enter into the mainstream of our economy.

This occasion Programme Director, also provides us with a wonderful opportunity to network with each other, improving women’s access to capital and markets, to building women’s capacities and skills and to supporting the rise of women leaders in both the public and private sectors.

Historically, the empowerment of women has been at the forefront of our national liberation struggle. During National Women's Month, we remember the integral role that women played in the struggle to rid our country of the injustices of the past, and we celebrate the role that they continue to play in the entrenchment of democracy in our society today.

Programme Director, I would like to commend the Mme Re Ka Thusa Trust Fund and its strategic partner SEDA for organising women entrepreneurial economic empowerment summits of this nature.

Mme Re Ka Thusa Trust Fund is an essential vehicle that is design to assist women in realising their full business potential and allow them to contribute meaningfully to the growth and development of our country. As government, we remain mindful of our role in continuing to assist and enable the empowerment of women in business and economic empowerment initiatives together with our partners.

There is a growing body of evidence that proves that bringing more women into the workforce spurs innovative increase in productivity and grows economies. Families will have more money to spend. Business expands the consumer base and increases their profits. In short, when women participate more fully in their economies, everyone benefit.

Programme Director, women still faced various challenges and in some instances still struggle with entry to sectors and opportunities that were previously targeted at men. Economic conditions remain harsh for women.
We still have many women operating in the informal sector where they struggle to access resources such as finance, infrastructure and ease of running businesses. More needs to be done to improve the conditions of the women in the informal sector to ensure that ultimately they grow their enterprises and gradually graduate to the formal sector.

The negative effect of gender inequality on economic growth has long been established. The exclusion of more than 50% of the population in economic activity limits the country’s skills base and constrains potential for full market expansion for end products.

There are many economic challenges facing women arising from a long history of oppression on the basis of gender and race. Based on the narrow definition, South Africa’s unemployment is estimated at 25,7%. However, amongst African women in particular, unemployment rises up to 50%. About 41% of these women live in the former Bantustans where economic prospects are limited.

Those employed are found in low paying jobs like domestic work, as tellers in the retail sector or shopfloor workers in the textile sector that has been shading jobs over the past years. Other women will be found in the informal sector of our economy.

It is encouraging to note that in recent years there has been increased interest in women's entrepreneurship to foster economic growth and jobs, and to create new opportunities for women because they provide an essential opportunity for economic and social development and progress.

Throughout the world, women are vital economic players. Thousands of women are undertaking critical roles in industry, agriculture, manufacturing, and services. In every country, women face the particular challenges of their national context, especially in developing economies.

For rural women in particular, the key issue is access to land to allow them to engage in development initiatives.

Given the underrepresentation of women in entrepreneurship, especially high-growth entrepreneurship, I think we need to take a step back and think about what kind of strategies are going to encourage and equip the next generation of women entrepreneurs to enter into industries that have opportunities for high growth and wealth accumulation.

I think it starts early in education—encouraging more women to study in non-traditional fields such as maths and science and engineering. I think focusing on financial literacy, not just for entrepreneurship but for consumer finances.

During the National Women’s Day Celebrations, His Excellency President Jacob Zuma encouraged women to participate actively in the economy as entrepreneurs and as workers depending on their choice and circumstances.

He said and I quote, “We want to promote access to land ownership by women in order to promote food security for many households in distress. We want young women to develop their self-confidence and to seize leadership opportunities.

“Women should play a role in the ongoing pursuit of all these goals and should not just be beneficiaries. More girls must take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics and more education opportunities must be made available for women and girls,”

The World Bank confirms that if women participate more fully in the economy, productivity is likely to rise, development outcomes for the next generation will improve, and institutions will be more representative. Basically, economic performance of communities, nations, and the world increases when women are given the full opportunity to engage.

Equally important is that the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, in line with its newly adopted Strategy will:

  • Work more closely with the private sector towards making markets more responsive to women as entrepreneurs and workers.
  • Strengthen coordination and partnership on women's economic empowerment indicators and enhance their use in policy making, programming and monitoring.
  • Support Governments' efforts in developing plans, policies and strategies that recognize women's contribution to growth and social well being and place a special focus on women's economic empowerment.
  • Give special emphasis to economically marginalized women as food producers and key development agents.
  • Enhance the voice and participation of gender equality advocates and gender-sensitive economists in influencing the formulation, implementation and monitoring of economic policies and programs.

We, as women, are uniquely positioned to have the greatest impact on future economic growth, as well as, on the sustainability of our environment.

I conclude by saying that “the sky is the limit.” We believe that there is much to be gained from this “women and entrepreneurship” approach to sustainable business and development, and our country has an opportunity to set a course that others will most certainly follow.

Gender equality is an issue that the whole world is grappling with because of an understanding that continued economic marginalisation of women is not just socially unjust. It does not make business sense as it limits the overall potential for economic growth.

I would like to wish you fruitful deliberations and I am looking forward to the outcomes of this summit which I believe will contribute to our efforts to attain gender equality and empowerment of women.

I thank you

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