Keynote Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the Progressive Women’s Movement (SA) Fundraising Gala Dinner, Tshwane,
21 September 2007
Programme Director, Ms Jessie Duarte
Co-convener of the Progressive Women’s Movement and Speaker of our National Assembly, Baleka Mbete
Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa
MEC Angie Motshekga and founding members of the Progressive Women’s Movement
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen
And to all our Sponsors
I presume that all of you will sponsor in one way or another but let me thank the organisers for inviting me to come and spend this evening with you. The co-convener has explained what the Progressive Women Movement is but maybe I just want to add my voice to why do we still need this Progressive Women’s Movement thirteen years into our democracy and freedom.
I want to say it in the words of two men who are late but who are very important men in the history of this country, that is iNkosi uAlbert Luthuli who passed away fourty years ago and the late President Oliver Tambo whose ninetieth birthday we are celebrating this year.
iNkosi Albert Luthuli in 1959 sent a message of support to the Congress of the ANC’s Women League a meeting he could not attend in person because he was banned as he was not allowed to attend gatherings and I will just quote from his message in part:
“Ever since the mighty anti-pass protests to the Union Buildings African women have joined congress in large numbers and have increasingly played their part in it. We are indeed in the women’s era in the liberation struggle with the heroic contribution of our dauntless women we shall succeed I have no doubt. May South African women continue to play their noble and heroic part in our struggle. “
Of course the struggle continues for women emancipation, the struggle against poverty continues and the struggle for a better life for all still continues and so the women of South Africa have to play their part, their noble and heroic part, in that struggle and it is in part why we need the PWM at this stage because women need to be mobilised, they need to work together from all political parties, from all sectors of society and from all persuasions in order to achieve the non-sexist society we are talking about.
And O.R.,as he was fondly known, in 1985 together with the former President Sam Nujoma of Namibia made a joint pledge to the women of Namibia and South Africa and this pledge said in part and I quote,
“we would not consider our objectives achieved, our tasks completed or our struggle at an end until the women of South Africa and Namibia are fully liberated”.
So if he were still alive thirteen years into our democracy O.R. would not consider his objectives achieved or his tasks completed because the women of South Africa and the women of Namibia are not fully liberated. So I think in their words they answer the question very clearly as to why we still need a Progressive Women’s Movement today.
But of course we also know that the Progressive Women’s Movement is taking on from past heroes a struggle that has been forged very heroically by lots of women who came before us and indeed as we stand or sit here we are beneficiaries of that past generation of women. We have benefited from those struggles and in fact we would not be here if it were not for people like Charlotte Maxeke and those women who formed what was the precursor for the Women’s League what was called the Bantu Women’s League.
And we are beneficiaries of the next generation of women who marched for us to this Union Building so that future generations could experience freedom. They knew that most of them probably would never enjoy the fruits of freedom, but that did not stop them and they declared:
“we shall not rest until we have won for our children their fundamental right of freedom, justice and security”.
So they have taken the struggle up to where it is and this generation needs to take it further. We need to defend the gains but also take them further until we can say the women of South Africa are totally emancipated, but even that would not be enough because women of the African continent would have to be totally emancipated and the women in the world would to be totally emancipated. So the struggle continues for all of us - men and women.
But why are we all here in this formation? The co-convener said we are here because the Women’s Movement would like to get some money from you but the Mayor said she thinks because you came on a Friday before a long weekend we can trust that you will be with us for the long haul.
I think that for the Progressive Women’s Movement really to make headway they have a huge responsibility of mobilising women but they need partners. They need partners in various areas - they need government as a partner, they need business as partner, they need the diplomatic corps because you may find it interesting to interact with certain communities and maybe work with them in certain projects. We also need partners from society as a whole - men, women, youth - so I see this gathering not only as a fundraising gathering but as a gathering to begin that partnership in earnest.
And of course women need that partnership because they play a very special role in society - women bring life into the world, they nurture life and without women the human race would be extinct - so one of the major responsibilities that we have given by nature and which we should be proud of is the responsibility of ensuring the continuation of the human race.
But many people who do national service whether it be the police, the army, different people, they get given special skills, they get given special resources, but women who ensure the continuation of the human race on the whole are expected to take up this responsibility without a lot of support, so this partnership is going to be very crucial.
Women in our society particularly in South Africa and Africa in general are the backbone of their communities, they are the pillar of their families, they are the ones who nurture and who pass on ethics and values. For instance even in South Africa if we really want to be serious about the RDP of the soul, we cannot leave women out because they are the ones who are able to interact with children at a very early age, at a very impressionable age but they need support and skills even to do that.
From the home, children go to school, then who do they meet? On the whole they meet teachers but a lot of those teachers especially at primary school are women and therefore women play their role there as well. When they are sick, when they need vaccines and when they go to the clinic, who do they meet there? On the whole it’s women. So women make sure that the basics of education and health are accessible to children, men and women and to society. So women in society do play a very critical role.
In culture, in fact in South Africa especially I would say that women are living libraries in their families, they are the ones who pass on the culture, who are the storytellers even before children know what a library is, so we really need good partners as women but we don’t need it just for our sake because we have a responsibility to make sure that the future tomorrow is better than today, that today is better than yesterday because women yesterday made sure that today would be better, we have to make sure.
And I would like to quote from a Nicaraguan revolutionary, Gioconda Belli, a writer and a woman reflecting on life, responsibilities, what different generations mean, and the interconnectedness of those generations, she says and the book is called “The Country under my skin” and I quote :
“The future is a construct that is shaped in the present, and that is why to be responsible in the present is the only way of taking serious responsibility for the future. What is important is not the fulfillment of all one’s dreams, but the stubborn determination to continue dreaming. We will have grandchildren, and they will have children too. The world will continue, and whether we know it or not, we are deciding its course every day.”
So as we sit here we are indeed deciding the course of the future so it is very clear now why we need this partnership. If we want to emancipate women, one of the many things we have to do, in my view the most important one, is education, education of boys and girls but also special attention to girls. In South Africa girls are enrolling very well at primary and high school - better than before - but research shows us that there is still an unacceptable dropout particularly from girls - and I think that’s one of the responsibilities that this partnership must look at.
The Progressive Women’s Movement, government and communities must make sure that girls go to school and stay there until they are skilled, they are able to take on responsibilities in society. And of course business has to play a very important role there as well because nowadays employment needs knowledge, technology, very special skills, so we have to work together with business, with government and with society and women to make sure that women have access to technological courses, engineering, ICT - you name it - and the arts as well.
We need partnerships also in the arts with business and government because the arts are very important - through the arts women can tell through their song, through the drama, through film they can tell stories, they can tell their dreams but they can also portray women in the way that women want to be portrayed.
Women in the Media
Women in the media - we need partnership with business because business owns the media, we have excellent women journalists but business must be willing for these women to write and depict women in the way that enhances the dignity of women rather than endangers their dignity.
Women in the Judiciary
Women have to be in that justice system in the judiciary because it is very important that women are there in big numbers because women at home, at work, in society, are still experiencing lots of problems. We still don’t have the safety, security and the comfort that the Freedom Charter talks about, there are still lots of women who do not feel secure at home because of abuse, because of violence but at times even when they go to the judiciary they find the same treatment that they are running away from at home so it’s very important that we must make sure that women are trained in big numbers to go into the judiciary, into the criminal justice system and improve it because at the moment it’s not a women’s world - we need to make sure that women are comfortable everywhere even in the judiciary.
Women and Health
Of course I spoke about health as well - not only that women should be nurses but that women should be researchers. I was very happy today at the National Orders there were a few women who received National Orders young women for their innovation, for their research, one received it in research in TB, in biochemistry in areas like that and the other one was dealing with research in language, sign language and areas like that and it made us proud to see young women receive these Orders but they should not be exceptions, it should be the rule although at the moment they are exceptions.
Women and the Economy
Of course women in the economy are important. The economy cannot really be sustained and grow to its full potential without the participation of women but there are still lots of problems and I think this partnership between government, between business is beginning to address some of the problems, eg, access to capital there are some few steps taken to try and address that.
Women in the rural areas may be in agriculture - growing things making things – but we need make sure that they have markets for their produce so I think these partnerships are very important if we have to succeed in what we want to do.
Of course on the African continent as well as the AU has recognized that without women the continent will always be hobbling at half capacity if women are not given the necessary capacity they need in a modern economy. In fact the AU has even gone further than us and said that we should work towards parity in every human endeavour there should be parity at least but parity is very important but it is also about choices that women should have choices in a broader spectrum of human endeavour as possible.
Women and Peacebuilding
On the continent we also realise, the UN has realised this as well, that women need to be involved in conflict resolution, in peacebuilding, because very few women start wars but where there’s war women are the ones that suffer and children and so women are the one’s that would want to stop the war as soon as possible, but we have realised that in many instances women have been left aside when peace negotiations take place and it’s very important that they should be involved.
Nepad (New Partnership for Africa’s Development)
Nepad is the blueprint for development of the continent but women should be part of developing Nepad, they should be part of the projects, the programmes of Nepad because they are the ones who feel underdevelopment the most. Nepad needs to make sure that women can have time because women cannot be productive if they do not have time, they can’t make money if they do not have time. And women don’t have time because whereas women in developed countries don’t think about water but water in developing countries, fetching water, is one chore that takes women’s time and impacts on their health, they have to walk, they have to carry.
It’s one of those things that women have to grapple with so if Nepad is talking about energy infrastructure, then one is talking about ICT infrastructure, about transport infrastructure, water and sanitation, all those things have a big impact on women’s lives.
To the developed world, I am glad there are some Ambassadors here, it would be very good to have partnerships with women in our developing countries and assist them to do what they would like to do, assist them to get the skills, the resources and to develop to their full potential.
I said earlier that the struggle continues and we still need a lot of commitment from everybody for this struggle against poverty and why do we emphasise poverty when we talk about women? This is because 70% of the poor in the world are women and therefore you can’t talk about defeating poverty without emancipating women, making sure that women get out of poverty.
But we also need strong partnerships with men - we can’t achieve this on our own beside government, beside business; we need partnerships with progressive men so I just want to say I hope today we are building a partnership that will see us go together for a long time.
We still need a lot of commitment, we still need a lot of dedication, we still need a lot of sacrifices but again going back to the Nicaraguan woman revolutionary’s book, I want to quote from it once more:
“Life has shown me that not every commitment requires payment in blood, or the heroism of doing it in the line of fire. There is a heroism inherent to peace and stability, an accessible, everyday heroism that may not challenge us with the threat of death, but which challenges us to squeeze every last possibility out of life, and to live not one but several lives all at the same time. To accept oneself as a multiple being in time and space is part of modern life, and one of the possibilities enjoyed by those of us who live in an era in which technology can be embraced as a liberating rather than alienating force.”
I have found this very apt in describing women because indeed we live but not one life but several lives, we are not just one self but - multiple beings everyday if you think of what you are going to do from dawn to midnight you will find that you have been many beings, you have undertaken many different tasks and therefore you still need that heroism, the good thing about this heroism is that all of us can be heroes.
There is no death threat to this kind of heroism but it’s just a stubborn determination to dream, to fulfill those dreams - so I hope that indeed we can look at you as partners for the Progressive Women’s Movement and we can call on you not only for money but for many other things to create a better life for all, to emancipate the women because if we emancipate the women the whole nation will be emancipated. If we can defeat poverty amongst women, children will never go hungry. If we can defeat poverty amongst women then no children won’t have a home, won’t have an education - so women’s emancipation is not just critical for women themselves but is critical for every nation to reach its full potential.
I thank you.