Welcome to the Mpumalanga Provincial Government

Keynote Address by Premier DD Mabuza at the Occasion of National Women's Day Celebrations, Phake (Ratlagane), Dr JS Moroka Municipality, Nkangala

09 August 2010

Programme Director
Members of the Executive Council
Our host, the Executive Mayor of Dr JS Moroka Municipality, Councillor Masombuka
Members of the Provincial legislature
Traditional leaders
Our Mayors and Councillors and other representatives of local government
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

We are humbly gathered once again on the occasion of Women’s Day to celebrate and honour women in the province and country at large.

Today is an important date in our calendar when we are given the opportunity to reflect on our efforts to ensure that women can play their rightful roles in our society and enjoy a better life as part of the fruits of our liberation.

We are marking the 16th celebration of Women’s Day in the country and the 54th anniversary of the historic march by women to the seat of the then government in open defiance of a brutal and repressive white minority regime. 

As always on this day, we pay tribute to those revolutionary stalwarts for their courageous and selfless endeavours that were an important contribution to the liberation of our people, and the end of the long night of apartheid and the dawn of a new democratic dispensation. 

It was the actions of the thousands of women who marched against the Pass laws in 1956 which truly underlined the importance of women in the struggle for freedom. It was firmly placed in the minds of all that the struggle against apartheid was also a struggle for women’s emancipation.

We are celebrating this year’s Women’s Day under the appropriate theme “celebrating the past, planning for the future”. 

This theme helps focus our minds on the recognition that whilst we have much to celebrate, in the heroic acts of the 1956 revolutionary icons such as Comrades Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Sophie DeBruyn, their legacy should inspire us to do even more to end gender inequality and uplift women in our society. The emancipation and empowerment of women has long been a major priority for all revolutionary forces under the leadership of the people’s organization, the African National Congress (ANC).

From the Freedom Charter in 1955 to the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in 1994, the commitment to ending gender inequality and ensuring that women fully participate in society has been an overriding one.

In the RDP we were clear on what the focus of the ANC-led government would be on these matters, stating that; 

“Women are the majority of the poor in South Africa. Mechanisms to address the disempowerment of women and boost their role within the development process and economy must be implemented. The RDP must recognize and address existing gender inequalities as they affect access to jobs, land, housing, etc.”

Today I am happy to say that we have much to celebrate in the strides that we have made to end gender discrimination and empower women in the country. 

This is not to say there are no gaps, or that we have achieved all our goals.

But I hope that among us we do not have those who fail to recognize the reality that life for many of our women has indeed improved.

Allow me to outline more specifically some of the gains for which we must be proud. 

Firstly, as a country we have adopted a Constitution which states very clearly that women must be accorded equal status to men.

Secondly, since 1994 we have seen more and more women participating in governance and making sure that they are involved in decisions that affect their lives. This is not referring only to the number of women in the cabinet, legislatures or local councils but refers also to participation in community outreach programmes and structures at the local level.

Thirdly, women participation and earnings in the labour market has improved dramatically. In the public sector, we were able to pass the target of thirty percent of women in executive and senior management levels by 2006. Women have also been targeted beneficiaries of government’s initiatives to make the economy a more inclusive one. These included legislation and programmes on Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE), access to finance, and support for small business and co-operatives.  

Fourthly, much has been done to improve women’s access to basic services. As we all know, in many towns and villages easier access to clean, running water, proper sanitation and electricity has eased the burden on women and young girls of having to fetch water and carry firewood from distances. Without a doubt there are many parts of the province where this must be further advanced but we recognize the progress that has been made. 

Fifthly, it has been heartening to see the lives of women improve due to access to education and to health care. Notably, free health care was extended in 1996 to cover primary health care for all, and there are many other initiatives that are targeting the wellness of mothers and children. The comprehensive anti HIV/AIDS strategy can also be noted.

Lastly, I believe that amongst our gains we should also include the administrative machinery that has been set up within and outside government in order to promote the advancement of women. The Commission for Gender Equality and the coordinating structure within our own Office of the Premier are examples that immediately come to mind. 

Despite these gains we have much more to do to truly realize the hopes and vision of the thousands that marched to the Union Buildings in 1956. We cannot rest whilst women and women-headed households are still the face of poverty in the country. The brunt of unemployment and low wages is still disproportionately affecting women. Women are also most adversely affected by the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Crime and gender-based violence continue to be disturbing features of our society. We dare not fold our arms and must do more. 

Programme Director,

Our icon, Nelson Mandela has told us that until women are free we are all not fully emancipated. He told us in 1996;

“The legacy of oppression weighs heavily on women. As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure”

What Madiba was telling us is that any nation that fails its women is a nation that is going nowhere.

Luckily, I am happy to think that most of us here today know this and will leave no stone unturned in supporting government’s efforts to empower and uplift women in our province and the country as a whole. The focus over the next few years is on the five identified priorities and related programmes whose implementation will undoubtedly deliver tangible benefits to women.

These priorities which we have now elaborated further into 12 outcomes, following the national Cabinet Lekgotla in July, are the Creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods, Education, Health, Rural development, and the fight against crime and corruption.

All these priorities are receiving significant focus from our provincial government and we will mainstream gender concerns in our key initiatives bearing in mind our legacy and the outstanding challenges. We are prioritizing the creation of Decent work opportunities knowing that access to work for women is critical to the survival and security of many poor households. Last year we hosted the inaugural Premier’s Dialogue with women in Business in White River and I must commend all who participated in ensuring that the event was a success.

What was pleasing about the event was that one came across many women with a genuine desire to empower themselves and transform their lives. Women entrepreneurs are seemingly confronted with many challenges with regards to access to information and knowledge of the business world, access to finance, production and marketing and business management skills.  

However, from this gathering it was resolved that women should be encouraged to join business networks, assess franchising opportunities, look for institutions that support women initiatives, sharpen their entrepreneurial skills and be involved in sustainable business initiatives that will transform their economic situation.

I intend to engage with the Department of Economic Development Environment and Tourism (DEDET) to ensure that such an event or similar forums are hosted regularly to ensure that women become part of the economic mainstream in our province.

 Ladies and gentlemen,

It is our duty to make sure that Women’s Day remains one of the highlights of our calendar and that we use it to reinforce our commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Some well noted analysts have written something that I think is also relevant to our province. They have written that and I concur;

“Because women comprise more than half of the human resources and are central to the economic as well as the social well-being of societies, development goals cannot be fully reached without their participation”

To put it more bluntly, any region or country that neglects women will surely lose. The revered Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, leader of Burma's democracy movement has also written;

“The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all.” 

Her words are surely instructive that the struggle for gender equality is a global one and that we should encourage more links between women across different countries and continents.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to conclude by urging all of you to contribute to the partnership to advance women in our country.

Let us do more to honour women in our homes, churches, stockvels, factory floors and offices.

Malibongwe igama lamakhosikazi

I thank you

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