Speech by the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Nkosazana
Dlamini Zuma delivered at the Pan-African Center for Gender Peace and Development
Conference in Dakar Senegal on 01 May 2005
May I congratulate Femmes African
Solidarite for initiating the Africa Gender Forum Dialogue with Arab Women on
economic and political issues and for the idea of the gender award. Thank you
for inviting me to be part of this dialogue.
This follows very closely the
Asian African Summit in Indonesia where women and youth from Asia and Africa had
their dialogue and fed the results of their discussions to the Summit.
year October we all sat glued to our television sets, our hearts and minds were
in Oslo, where a historic and spectacular event was taking place - The first African
women was receiving a Nobel Peace Prize. Our sister from Kenya Professor Wangari
Maathai was making history in ground-breaking work. It was for the first time
in the history of mankind that this prestigious prize was awarded for environmental
activities. We once more Salute Professor Wangari Maathai, for making us proud
to be African women.
It was not surprising therefore, that the first recipient
had to be a woman. Women have the important responsibility to ensure the very
survival of the human race. They are very conscious of and sensitive to those
things that might undermine the very survival of the human race whether it be
the environment or a threat to peace, food insecurity, health, education and so
I believe that is why nature ensured that they are the majority and
tend to survive longer, everything being equal.
Given such a central role,
that the women play in the survival of humanity you would have thought our societies
and humanity as a whole would have given the first call to the resources of this
world to women and children.
You would have thought that women would have
been protected against domestic violence, against the ravages of war, against
hunger and disease. You would also have thought that there would have been given
access to education and skills, health especially reproductive health, to food
as to be better equipped for their responsibilities.
You would have thought
that they would have been given the central place in decision-making structures
of societies, be they political, cultural, legal, academic religious, social and
so on, to ensure that those decisions do not impact negatively on humanity and
You would have thought that no government or country would
be accepted as fully democratic unless women were fully integrated at all levels
of government and structures of society.
You would have thought that no
government or country would be accepted as observing human rights unless women's
rights, which are human rights, were fully observed.
You would have thought
that countries would be held responsible for discriminatory practices if they
had gender discrimination.
Chairperson, you would have that the whole world
would guard against the marginalization of women. You would have thought that
any nation that wanted to reach its full potential in economic, social, cultural
and political development would know that that would be impossible if it continued
to exclude more than half of its population, which incidentally are women.
is my contention therefore that we cannot talk of a just and equitable world whilst
women are marginalized.
It is for that reason that our vanguard organization,
the African National Congress and its alliance partners, the South African Communist
Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions even at the height of our
liberation struggle came to understand and accept that the struggle would not
be complete and we would not be free unless women were equal participants in that
struggle and were free.
It is for this reason then when we first step towards
freedom we ensued that our Constitution, our highest law of the land is entrenched
the definition of society we continue to struggle for as a democratic non- racial
and non-sexiest society, until that is achieved the struggle continues.
is for the same reason that at the center of our foreign policy, which is the
creation of a better world, a fight against racism, gender discrimination and
the elimination poverty are priorities.
Madam Chairperson, allow me to quote
from the preamble of the United Nations Charter, an expression of the determination
of the Peoples of the World, which in part says,
"To reaffirm faith
in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person,
in the equal rights of man and women and of the nations large and small"
to promote social programmes and better standards of life in larger freedoms"
these noble objective, we however are witnesses to unprecedented feminization
of poverty with 70% of world poor being women, the general marginalization of
women in every human activity. They continue to be exposed to inhuman conditions;
they are still victims of domestic violence and are at the receiving end of the
violence of war, conflicts and its consequences.
Women are still denied
access to technology, education, health and of critical importance are being denied
access to political decision-making bodies. Ironically, despite the three world
conferences on women including the Beijing Platform for Action, women are yet
to see the benefits of decisions taken at these meetings.
me remind this august gathering that there is no dignity in hunger, disease, homelessness,
unemployment, and ignorance and there is no dignity in poverty.
for the eradication of poverty will be part of restoring the dignity of the world.
To fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, and other infectious diseases
would be to improve the health of women and children who are disproportionately
affected by these scourges. If the world were to implement the Beijing Platform
for Action, it would go a long way towards the attainment of the Millennium Development
How do we as women make sure that we prioritize the struggle for
the dignity of women, for women emancipation, the struggle against poverty at
the center of every country's agenda?
What are the comparative advantages
that we might have to employ in order to fast track this process?
and probably the most important is our numbers. In democratic societies and institutions,
numbers do count.
We believe that if women were to be active in political
parties in their own countries, they can change the thinking of within those political
formations. In South Africa the African National Congress at its inception in
1912, women were not allowed to be full members, they could not vote nor could
they be voted for. Women waged a sustained struggle against those positions both
within the movement and in society at large.
It was only in the 40s that
the ANC allowed women to be full members. Only then did the ANC become a truly
democratic mass movement. Women also participated in the struggle against apartheid,
but at the same time, continued their relentless struggle within the movement
As women we used this comparative advantage during the political
negotiations, prior to South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994by forming
the women's coalition, which cut across the racial divide, class and other artificial
differences. The coalition was to draw up the women's charter designed to influence
the constitution making process, which was already in place.
elections we again used our numbers as an advantage within the ANC, thus ensuring
that the ANC list had a 30% quota for women. We obviously knew that the ANC could
not win the elections, in fact no political party could win those elections unless
it hat the support of the majority of the population, which incidentally are women.
That is why we were able to advance from a handful of women in the apartheid parliament,
to more than a hundred women in the democratic parliament, which admittedly was
not enough, but nevertheless, a step in the right direction. Parity had become
When the first Cabinet of the free South Africa was formed,
there were only two women Cabinet members; I had the privilege of being one of
them after being appointed Minister of Health.
Of course we as women in
the ANC complained to the then President Nelson Mandela who promised to increase
the number. True to his word, by the end of his five-year term as President he
had doubled the number of women Cabinet Ministers to four.
Thabo Mbeki started his term, he appointed 8 women Ministers. At the beginning
of his second term he appointed 12 Cabinet Ministers and out of 28 Ministers and
10 deputy Ministers out of 21. This has come about because of the women's activities
within the ANC and in society at large fused with the support of especially the
top leadership of the ANC. There was admittedly a lot of resistance within other
sectors of the ANC.
The increase in women's representation was not only
in Cabinet but also within government as a whole. This development is significant
in that it gives women confidence to asset themselves in their different fields
The real benefit has been that women in parliament do ensure
that all legislation is not only gender sensitive, but is also able to advance
the struggle for a non-sexist society. To illustrate this further, when we were
appointed to Cabinet in 1994, as I have indicated that at the beginning the were
only two of us. We committed ourselves to working very hard so as to force open
the door for other women.
What were the challenges?
The major challenge
was the resistance within certain sections in our own movement. The second challenge
was for women to demonstrate that they are capable, hard working and focused.
With the passage of time, society became accustomed to women in those responsibilities.
It is therefore common to have women in leadership positions. Though the prejudice
Thirdly, the women themselves did pose a challenge, as some
of them were opposed to quotas, arguing that it was tokenism and not based on
What quotas do? In our view, they have the effect of focusing people's
minds on finding capable women rather than the tendency to focus only on men.
In other words, what the quotas do is to say to society - look for appropriately
qualified women and you shall find them.
The fourth challenge was that
the environment and conditions in government institutions were designed primarily
to serve men. For instance, prior to 1994 even ladies bathrooms in parliament
were in short supply and to be increased. The point is, apartheid Parliament had
been designed to serve men.
We also had to look at the non-availability
of child-care facilities in parliament. Interestingly, in Cabinet at some stage
there was the expectation that the wives were to take care of children's transport
to school and other activities until we had to point out that some of us did not
have wives. Government had therefore to make alternative arrangements.
dealing with these anomalies we had to guard against trying to make it as women
in a men's world. What is of critical importance is to create a world in which
both women and men are comfortable.
When I was appointed Minister of Foreign
Affairs, it was expected that the wife of a foreign minister has to undertake
certain duties vis-à-vis the spouses of the diplomatic corps, the majority
of whom are men. Alternative arrangements had to be made since I do not have a
wife. With these examples the point I am trying to make is that it is important
that we as women should ensure that the environment in which we operate is gender
Our other comparative advantage is that women are very influential
within families, especially in relation to young children. Women should, therefore,
use that influence to bring up the next generation of youth who are gender sensitive
and by definition, non-sexist.
In business, women are also making progress,
though there is still a long way to go. To demonstrate this point, may I read
you a quote from a recent South African newspaper report, entitled Women CEOs
still Few and Far Between,
"It is definitely still a man's world.
However, although South Africa's working women are grossly under-represented as
executive managers, this country is ahead of some First World countries when it
comes to the proportion of women in the top echelons of business.
is according to the Businesswomen's Association (BWA) census, which was released
yesterday. The census, which aims to track the trends of women in business in
South Africa, found that although only 19,8% of local companies had women as executive
managers, this figure was way ahead of those in the US, Canada and Australia,
which respectively had 15,7%, 14% and 10,2% of these positions filled by women."
is not panacea but we share this experience because we learned from other women's
experiences as well. Some of the women we have shared this experience with have
done very well and even surpassed us and we feel very proud of having made a modest
contribution in improving their situation. Rwanda is one such country which today
has 48% women represented in Parliament.
referred to Professor Wangari Maathai, who because of her achievements has inspired
African women in particular and millions of people around the globe to dedicate
themselves to transforming the world for the better. Professor Wangari Maathai
is amongst those heroines who continue to ensure that women are bequeath with
a better world than the one they themselves found.
History is awash with
examples of such women and I'll only quote a few. Ester Afua was Ghana's leading
and most prominent entrepreneur and a pioneer of African economic empowerment
and an international advocate of women's human rights.
Mariama Ba a Senegalese
novelist who did pioneering work as amongst the very first novelists from Sub-Saharan
Africa to explore the experience of Muslim African women.
Amina Queen of
Zaria in Nigeria mostly remembered as "Amina Yar Bakwa ta san rana"
meaning daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man. Though I personally
do not agree that men are the yardsticks of excellence.
Cleopatra of ancient
The list is endless.
August the 9th, in South Africa is a national
holiday dedicated to women in recognition of their contribution to the struggle
for national liberation. The same month is also dedicated to profiling women's
achievements and detailing their success stories. This helps in sensitizing society
and keeping the women's struggle very much alive in the consciousness, psyche
and soul of the nation. We are making progress, but there is still a long road
The countries of the future are those that will take women into
the 21st Century. Those who leave them behind will do so at their own peril.
all have responsibility and an obligation to spare no effort or energy in changing
the world for the better. Like the women before us we must dedicate ourselves
to the nonsexist struggle so that, indeed, we can bequeath to future generations
a better world than the one we ourselves found.
The struggle continues
- Victory is certain.
I thank you.
Private Bag X 152
01 May 2005