Statement by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the Beijing+10
Conference, Forty-Ninth Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 09 March
2005, New York
Panel discussion entitled "Addressing the linkages between
the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome document
of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly and the internationally
goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration:
progress, gaps and challenges"
Through the Beijing Platform for Action
and the Millennium Declaration we made a collective global commitment to gender
equality and the empowerment of women. In so doing we committed ourselves to the
promotion of human rights, sustainable development, peace, security, democracy
and good governance. We identified the promotion of gender equality as one of
the most effective and sustainable ways of combating poverty, hunger and disease.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women are considered objectives in themselves
and the means to achieve overall progress in development. This is in recognition
of the pivotal role of women as engines of development and agents for change.
Without women's empowerment and gender equality our societies will not be able
to achieve the MDGs and their full development potential.
of the Beijing Platform for Action, the outcome of the twenty-third special session
of the General Assembly and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are intertwined.
The attainment of the twelve critical areas of concern, identified in Beijing,
is an effective tool for the achievement of the MDGs.
It is therefore proper
that as we prepare for the five-year review of the implementation of the Millennium
Declaration we should also identify concrete and action-oriented steps to advance
the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
The Beijing Conference
identified the persistent burden of poverty on women as one of the critical areas
of concern. A central objective of the implementation of the MDGs is also to address
poverty and underdevelopment. Yet as we meet ten years after Beijing, women in
many parts of the world still live in conditions of abject poverty. According
to the International Labour Organization (ILO) women comprise 70% of the 1.3 billion
people who live on less that a dollar a day. Women still spend more time as men
in unpaid work. Furthermore, most of the female labour force is in the informal
sector. Indications further show that poverty occurs in every society including
the most industrialized countries where over 10 per cent of the population live
below the poverty line of less than 50 per cent of median income.
Beijing Platform for Action recognized the important role of women in decision-making.
However, so far not more than 15 countries have reached the critical mass of 30
per cent of representation of women in Parliaments. The involvement of women in
policy decision-making and legislative processes is critical in view of the role
South Africa has met the critical mass of women in decision
making with over 30% representation in Parliament and 40% in Cabinet.
Besides the commitment, South Africa was assisted by the electoral system which
facilitated the inclusion of women from all works of life including rural women.
The use of indigenous languages in Parliament meant that women did not have to
be highly educated to participate but they brought real grassroots experience
- Since Parliamentarians are high profile this has given women
role models and also given the confidence that they can, wherever they are be
agents of change.
- More importantly it has guaranteed that the BPA is mainstreamed
into the legislation.
- In South Africa there are regular public hearings
in parliament and sometimes in the provinces which give women a broader platform
- The participation of women has ensured that the BPA
is mainstreamed in the government policies, programmes, and to some extent the
- The challenge though is still the matching of the policies with
a targeted women's budget.
Central to the reduction of poverty among women
is the importance of increasing their educational opportunities. The Millennium
Project Report shows that many countries, in particular sub-Sahara Africa, are
still far from meeting the goal of ensuring gender parity in enrolment and completion
rates between boys and girls. It shows that gender parity ratios remain below
0.90 per cent in sub-Saharan countries. Therefore we need to put more efforts
in this area. Education of women decreases child mortality and improves the health
of families. It improves their chances for employment and therefore the welfare
of the families in general. They become more aware of their rights and could contribute
also to increasing their level of political participation. Challenges are to provide
the necessary infrastructure such as availability of classrooms and qualified
National budgets also need to be structured so as to enable access
by women to education. Beyond access, however, we should also seek to transform
our education systems and curricula to instill gender sensitivity. Outside of
the classrooms education and socialization should also seek to abolish stereotypes
that continue discriminate against girls. I agree with the conclusion of the Millennium
Project that education must serve as a vehicle for transforming attitudes, beliefs
and entrenched social norms that perpetuate discrimination and inequality.
for women is also directly related to the improvement of their health and well-being.
Access of women to primary healthcare increases their productivity and also helps
to reduce maternal as well as child mortality rates. It is also important to focus
on the sexual and reproductive rights of women. Experience shows that when women's
sexual and reproductive rights are guaranteed that gives them more choices in
Despite advances in medical sciences and the availability of resources
in the world women in many countries continue to be casualties of diseases such
as HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and other related diseases. These are
compounded by poverty.
The provision of basic services such as water, sanitation,
electrification, health, education and roads infrastructure, is also important
in reducing poverty among women. Our experience in South Africa has shown that
the provision of these services can allow women to start their small and medium-sized
enterprises, including those that are home-based. Governments should also consider
the introduction of incentives for those enterprises that promote gender equality
in the procurement of services. In South Africa we are embarking on a process
of implementing an Expanded Public Works Programme which, we believe, will bring
tangible benefits for women.
In improving the economic opportunities
for women we should also transform the systems to remove, amongst others, wage
disparities and make workplaces generally conducive for women. Policies and legislation
should be put into place to ensure that women are also considered for employment
opportunities even in the traditionally male-dominated sectors.
addressing the challenge of creating economic opportunities of women is the importance
of transforming national budgets to reflect the priorities of women. In many countries
there is still no targeted spending aimed at women.
The persistence of
conflicts and wars is another major impediment to the advancement of women. The
elimination of wars and the attainment of peace is a pre-requisite for the implementation
of the BPA and the MDGs. Wars accentuate poverty among women. They lead to loss
of employment, education opportunities let alone the psychological trauma they
go through. It compromises their health and increases their vulnerability to sexual
For the creation of a non-sexist society one of the challenges
is the socialization of boys and girls which is still based on outdated stereotypes
that seek to mould women for inferior roles in life. Certain cultural and religious
practices also need to re-examined to ensure that they do not perpetuate a silent
oppression of women. Language can also be another barrier to the empowerment of
women as it conditions perceptions that are presumptuous to suggest that male
counterparts are superior.
In conclusion, as developing countries take actions
to address these challenges there is also a need to enhance the global partnership.
For the implementation of the BPA and the MDGs particularly in Africa the international
community should honour its commitments to official development assistance. It
must commit to debt relief and the opening of markets to give opportunities particularly
to women entrepreneurs. With commitment it is still possible to enhance the implementation
of the BPA and meet the MDGs.