Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of
the Republic of South Africa, Ms Sue van der Merwe, on the Occasion of the Departmental
Launch of the 16 Days of Activism: No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign,
Union Buildings, Pretoria, 29 November 2005
and High Commissioners
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Colleagues of the
Department of Foreign Affairs
Ladies and Gentlemen
we gather here on the lawns of the Union Buildings to launch the 16 Days of Activism
Campaign, we do so in an atmosphere of sustained peace. Our economy has been growing
steadily over the last decade and processes of unity and reconciliation have ensured
that the majority of our people have united and embraced a common vision of a
non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa, a space where everyone is
equal irrespective of creed or colour or gender.
This is no longer a country
where people are at war with themselves, where apartheid divided people and used
force, violence, to keep people apart, where men were deemed superior to women
and whites were deemed superior to blacks.
Above all, this is an age of
democracy and the South African people have a new confidence of a bright and prosperous
The new government in 1994 set about reconstructing the new country,
putting new legislation in place, new policy frameworks and built houses, schools
and clinics for South Africa's people. The last decade has seen fundamental changes
in people's lives.
From here, we can think about how far we have come as
South Africans in the last eleven years. We can also look towards the rest of
the African continent and note the visible progress made on the rest of the continent
in resolving conflicts, attaining peace and strengthening democracy.
we will come to the realisation that much has been done to nurture a continent
in which there is enduring peace, security and stability, a place where the vulnerable
are protected, where women are free to be women and children are free to be children.
We have come so far, yet we can go so much further.
Through the democratic
elections of 1994, we dismantled the apartheid state and its machinery. We put
a stop to the sheer brutality inflicted by one person on another for political
and economic gains. We outlawed racism and sexism and put the pillars in place
for a truly people-centred development; characterised by partnerships across the
spectrum of South African life. But again; we have come so far, yet we can and
must go further.
Public spaces have been democratised. But as long as tyranny
exists within the household, as long as there is a dictatorship within the four
walls of the home, our democracy will be incomplete. Because the violence against
women and children takes place within the household, in dark corners or narrow
alleys, in places for the most part that are not in full view of the public.
is this violence that we must stop. For women and children have the right to be
free, to walk the streets, the right to live their lives without fear or favour
and without being stopped in their tracks.
The freedoms we have fought for
and still work towards can only be fully realised if the violence against women
and children comes to an end and if we all say together: never, never and never
again shall we accept this situation - and we need - each and everyone of us -
to reinforce these words with actions.
In this African season of hope, we
call to action all South Africans and our brothers and sisters on the rest of
the African continent to join hands to eradicate violence against the vulnerable
members of our society, particularly women and children, and to bring about peace
in their lives.
The key to attaining our goal of Consolidating the African
Agenda is in bringing about human security as well as freedom from physical harm.
But as long as our people are rendered vulnerable by abuse, self-centred
and destructive actions, the more distant the goal of achieving global peace and
security. This is why I believe that as a South African people acting together,
we can do so much more than what we are doing now.
Already, it is good to
know that there are signposts along the way, pointing us in the direction of greater
freedom for our people.
I would like to remind you about the statement made
by Minister Dlamini Zuma at the Inaugural Department of Foreign Affairs Imbizo,
which was held at the University of Cape Town. Minister Dlamini Zuma made an important
connection between the role played by women and youth in nation-building. She
said the following:
The women are the people who are building our society
and indeed our Continent today - they are central in the future of this Continent.
It is no mistake that it is women who nurture life and who are central in the
continuity of the human race. Women have special qualities to take us forward
towards the prosperity of our country; they are the most important in national
service to a country because they ensure jobs, food and education for future generations.
It is impossible to exclude them from the centre of where our future is shaped,
because they are so central to our being. Look at our women, they are peacemakers
and can do so much to prevent the suffering under wars and conflicts. Look at
the role of women in the rural areas and all the positive energy they are generating.
Also as teachers they are playing a central role in education
.We need to
nurture the human race - women do that. Women can bring life and have interest
in shelter, protection, and food. We are nurturers of life and we need to know
that there are jobs, food, and shelter for young people. It is of importance.
Without us there will be no continuation of the human race. We shape the future.
We do things differently."
We have seen in recent years women in our
country and in other African countries take their future into their own hands
by forming a critical mass and by being agents of change.
- In recent
years, we have seen the women in the Great Lakes Region come together to forge
their understanding of peace and unity, nation-building and post conflict reconstruction.
These women have made their voices heard.
- We have seen the women of the
Mano River Basin come together and activate the leaders of different countries
to meet, to talk, to engage in dialogue and to ensure that peace agreements were
signed, sealed and delivered. The same region now boasts the first woman, President
elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, to be elected President of an African country - her
victory is indicative of the power that women have in this region through coming
As you might be aware, Liberia is still recovering from
a painful past of human rights abuses with women and children being the victims
of violence. Let us salute the Liberian people for turning the tide against autocracy
and lend our support in whatever way we can in their endeavours of rebuilding
their country from the abyss of poverty, war and economic stagnation.
women in Rwanda fought for their rights and ratified a constitution allotting
30% of decision-making positions to women.
- In South Africa, we have also
seen significant progress in women's representation at all levels of government,
particularly the executive.
South Africa has been committed to advancing
the ideals and cause of women empowerment in all spheres of life.
is therefore hope that as humankind we can transcend narrow stereotypes based
on race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age,
disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture and language which are the source
of all intolerance and abuse of those most vulnerable members of our society.
These are only a few examples of progress on a continent where there has
been substantial changes in recent years.
However, we must concede that
there are places where women's freedoms remain far and few and where much work
needs to be done for freedom to be a reality on the ground.
the African continent women have been the tillers of the soil, farmers, care-givers
and in many places, heads of the household. Only when we fully address the problems
of poverty and underdevelopment on the African continent through the full implementation
of African-owned and Africa-initiated development plans, will we fully see the
emancipation of women and children in rural areas.
As South Africans, part
of our response must be to mobilise. We need to harness and build on our legacy
as a country that waged one of the most active and success human rights campaigns,
namely the struggle against apartheid. We should never forget the roles played
by women leaders such as Lilian Ngoyi, Ruth First, and youth leaders such as Tsieti
Mashinini in bringing about a South Africa founded on "peace and friendship"
as envisaged in the Freedom Charter.
However we still have a long journey
ahead of us in reducing and eradicating the scourge of women abuse and children
abuse within our country, our continent and the world community.
government we have established twenty-four hour one stop Thuthuzela Care Centres
to render services such counselling, medical examination, policing and prosecution
to victims of sexual offences.
- In the past financial year, police statistics
show that there were 63 specialised sexual offence courts in session with an increased
conviction rate, ensuring that perpetrators are put behind bars for their heinous
- Next month also sees the commemoration of World Aids Day on December
1 as well as the International Human Rights Days ten days later. These two themes
are equally related to the 16 Days of Activism highlighting the importance of
stemming the spread of HIV and Aids and curbing the continued trend of human rights
- Our government has designed a five-year strategy to deal effectively
with the HIV and Aids pandemic by identifying four areas of priority: preventing
further HIV infection; providing treatment, care and support for those infected
and affected by HIV; researching an AIDS vaccine and conducting other research;
and monitoring and asserting the human and legal rights of all affected by the
But again I repeat that we can do so much more and take
this struggle against gender violence so much further.
- We need to increase
our activism and vigilance and mobilise enough support within our own communities
to stem the horrendous forms of abuses against our own kith and kin.
violence is not inflicted by a stranger but by a friend. As South Africans, we
need to stop protecting those who hurt us, yet claim to love us.
- We need
to expose those whom we know are abusing others, even if they are our friends,
members of our families or our communities. We need to speak out to make our cities,
our villages, our workplaces safer places for women and in which children can
grow up in peace and harmony.
And we have start somewhere, so that
it feeds into a whole and makes a better country, a better continent in a better,
In the words of an African poet:
let us liberate this vast
this African space from narrow ways,
blot out the borders that
imprison us in separate lives.
Let us create new trade routes of thoughts and
to a marketplace where ideas are exchanged,
a meeting place
of hands and hearts and minds
Let us dress the world in a new consciousness
clad everyone we meet in dreams of togetherness.
We must continue
through our awareness campaigns to bring about a heightened consciousness of change
for the better, of women's empowerment, of the well-being of all citizens and
people, of protecting the poor and downtrodden so as to build a South Africa that
truly belongs to all who live in it and an African continent in which the children
of today can collectively possess a bright future.
I thank you
by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152