Welcome to the Mpumalanga Provincial Government

Keynote address by Premier DD Mabuza at the Premier's Dialogue and Expo for women in business at Ingwenya Lodge, White River

13 November 2009

Honourable MEC’s and Mayors present

Our corporate friends and sponsors

Senior managers from provincial government institutions

Representatives of national government departments and agencies

Distinguished Guests

Women of Mpumalanga

Fellow compatriots

It gives me great pleasure to be with you this morning.

You have come from far and wide across the length and breadth of this province in response to our invitation to the first Premier’s Dialogue and Expo for Women in Business.

We are truly grateful that you could make it here and would like to also thank the organizers for their diligence in ensuring that the commitment we made in our speech at Masoyi on Women’s Day becomes a reality.

We said that we would “convene a discussion forum involving women entrepreneurs and all government’s finance and business development support institutions. The objective of this dialogue will be to enhance networks and link women with institutions that will assist them whenever they need access to business finance and support”.

I realize that we promised to have this occasion in August but in our endeavour to host a meaningful event we had to delay. However, this is also a strong indication that to this provincial administration, every month is Women’s Month.

Today’s event marks another milestone in our efforts to honour the spirit of the women who bravely took to the streets of Pretoria in 1956 and faced down the might of the Apartheid regime.

Without them, without the heroism of the fearless stalwarts such as Lillian Ngoyi and Amina Cachalia, we know that those dark days of Apartheid might still be with us.

Malibongwe Igama lamakhosikazi!

We pay tribute to them every year by remaining committed to the vision of a truly non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.

This vision calls upon us to ensure that we do not rest until we have an environment that is conducive to gender equality and women empowerment.

The theme for this inaugural Premier’s Dialogue and Expo for Women in Business, is ‘Empowering Women for Development and Gender Equality’

It is certainly true that over the past 15 years gender issues and women’s empowerment have received greater visibility and attention in our country than ever before.

This theme is in line with the efforts of the ANC-led government to actively promote opportunities for women to access basic services and social, economic and political opportunities whilst at the same time adopting many laws and policies in order to empower women, to improve the quality of their lives and open up space for their voices to be heard on matters concerning their lives.

However, our gathering today also attests to the reality that whilst we have made many strides in empowering women and laying a foundation for gender equality but many challenges do remain.

We cannot be satisfied when too many of our women remain poor

We cannot be happy when our sisters and mothers bear a disproportionate burden of underdevelopment

In the world of work, we know that young women suffer the most from unemployment and lack of opportunities in the work place. Gender discrimination remains rife despite our best efforts through the employment equity legislation

We are also concerned about women becoming victims of social ills such as domestic violence and rape let alone their exposure to ill health and HIV/AIDS.

In response to these and many other challenges we cannot over emphasize the importance of women entrepreneurship.

That is why we have convened this Dialogue and Expo for Women in Business today.

Women entrepreneurship is about letting women take control of their own destiny.

Hence, in the context of the global economic crisis and local economic recession, the fight against poverty and our commitment to women empowerment, women entrepreneurs cannot be ignored.

But as we all know women entrepreneurs do not have it easy, and that is the reality whether they are emerging or established businesses.

In this audience today many of you know better than us about the difficulties you face in starting or growing your own businesses.

You would know about the problem of limited access to information, lack of access to formal finance, unpredictable access to markets or even infrastructure.

Sadly, many of these difficulties are gender based.

This basically means that the difference between the success of a male or female-operated company is not only due to objective factors such as hard work or ‘discipline’.

As we promote women entrepreneurship in our province we must also seek to address these dynamics that hold women back as they seek to empower themselves or make it less possible for them to succeed than their male counterparts

We all know that family and community responsibilities take a lot of women’s time that could be applied for improving their income generating efforts. This can be changed as we improve access to basic services across the province.

Discrimination in access to finance for women is a reality that can also change. Gone are the days when a banking official should question a woman’s decision to go into construction rather than say catering or a trading activity. It should also not matter whether she is from an urban or rural area as long as her business plan is sound and viable.

When women entrepreneurs have managed to access finance it is also our hope that this finance is used strictly for the business and the men in the household do not access it for other use, as some disturbing studies have shown.

The historical legacy of apartheid has also resulted in differential access to skills for men and women. As we improve access to education for women I am sure that this can also support women entrepreneurship.

I know that some men here may complain that I am overstating the challenges that constrain women owned businesses or might claim that they also face similar constraints in accessing inputs, finance, markets or technology.

However, it is our view that unless we address the different objective material conditions facing men and women or the reality of gender discrimination then we will not achieve either women empowerment or poverty alleviation.

Before concluding I must touch on briefly the activities of the provincial government and what we hope to achieve through events such as the Premier’s Dialogue and Expo for Women in Business.

In line with our commitment to creating decent work opportunities and generating sustainable livelihoods we have elevated the importance of SMME’s and co-operatives in our programmes. We have prioritized the provision of both financial and non-financial support to entrepreneurs and co-operatives.

The Department for Economic Development Environment and Tourism (DEDET) is spearheading many of our programmes, together with provincial agencies, and in partnership with national agencies some of whom are located in the province.

Today’s event is intended to present these programmes and activities of the development finance institutions.

We hope you will use this opportunity to access information and services from National, provincial and local government entities on business creation, development and expansion

We cannot overemphasize the importance of this event as a platform for networking and developing women entrepreneurs and between businesses of different sizes or from different regions in the province.

In conclusion, we are delighted at your presence here today. Having come from a provincial economic summit a few weeks ago where social partners agreed to a set of responses to the emerging challenges facing the province, it is good to see that women are also not wanting to sit by as victims but want to be agents of change and to take their destiny into their own hands.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the Premier, Mpumalanga Provincial Government

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