Statement by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, Gala Dinner, 7 March 2010

Programme Director
Representative of the National Convener of the Progressive Women’s Movement, Ms Bibi Khan
Mrs Juliana Lumumba
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, HE Mrs Zainab Hawa Bangura
Premier of Gauteng, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane
Mayor of Tshwane, Ms Gwen Ramokgopa
Friends, Ladies and Colleagues,
Comrades

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this auspicious event which is hosted jointly by the DIRCO and the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa, as part of our two-day programme to celebrate the International Women’s Day and highlight the plight of women in this Year of Peace and Security in Africa (as declared by the last Summit of the African Union). 

This programme is also intended to strengthen the already strong bond of sisterhood between the women of South Africa and those of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It is for this reason that we have in our midst tonight distinguished women personalities from the DRC. 

In this regard, I want to thank Ms Juliana Lumumba for participating in this event in her own right but also representing her mother Mrs Pauline Opangu-Lumumba who is not well. We want to salute Mrs Lumumba for her role in the struggle for the emancipation of women in the DRC, as well as her role in the development of the DRC in general.

I must also recognize the presence of the leadership and members of the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa.  It is not by accident that this organization is our partner in organizing this programme because this organization - the Progressive Women’s Movement - brings together many women formations in our country around an agenda that is aimed at advancing gender equality and empowerment in all spheres of our society.  Its National Convenor – Cde Baleka Mbethe – is the National Chairperson of the ANC and our country’s former Deputy President. Her experience and leadership have helped advance the cause of women struggle in our country.

I am also delighted that the Province of Gauteng and the City of Tshwane – represented tonight by the Premier and the Major respectively – are associated with this initiative.   Premier Mokonyane and Mayor Ramokgopa are a shining example of what women can do for a country when put in a senior position of political responsibility.  Gone are the days when women were just scribes, cooks or tea-girls!

Earlier today, Programme Director, I had a bilateral meeting with my sister - Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, Mrs Zainab Hawa Bangura – to exchange views on ways and means that can be deployed to strengthen relations between our two countries.  I am happy that she is also part of this gathering.  She is among many important women leaders that Africa has produced to help our continent overcome its challenges.

Distinguished Guests

The second leg of this programme will be a seminar to be held tomorrow that will reflect on a gender perspective on challenges of peace and security in Africa, including issues of post-conflict reconstruction and development.  The seminar will focus on the need to ensure that women issues are included in the assessment and analysis of the post conflict reconstruction and development process.

Let’s join hands and make sure that, finally, there is peace in Africa.

In today’s conflicts it is civilians - and mostly women and children - who bear the brunt of gross abuses of human rights.  I am saying this very much aware of the reasons behind the passing of a number of United Nations resolutions since 2000 on aspects of Women, Peace and Security, and their value thereof. We very much agree with their content and intended objective. We however need to move beyond the limited approach of portraying women solely as victims in conflicts.  The time has come to recognize them as key players in the peace process.

Given the central role that women play in the social, political and economic development of our societies, it is therefore imperative and logical that the full realization of equal political and economic rights for women must be treated as an essential component of our collective approach to preventing and resolving conflicts. 

We believe that the widespread exclusion of women from political and economic decision-making is a significant obstacle to the realization of sustainable peace and development. Recently in South Africa, we hosted a group of women from the DRC and Burundi to share experiences with the South African women, who, despite being the most vulnerable, managed to make their voices heard. Thanks to positive examples and contributions of these women, South Africa is today committed to and has indeed made important strides towards gender equality and empowerment.

As Africans, we know that the continent cannot develop unless women exercise real power, which is why we appreciate that the objectives of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (on Women, Peace and Security) will not be a reality if women-related problems are not addressed.

Women must at all times be recognized as key players to the resolution of conflicts. We must strive to integrate women’s concerns more effectively in peace processes world-wide and achieve women’s full, equal and effective participation in those processes.

Our own experience in South Africa taught us that given a chance, women can bring an important and much needed perspective in all stages of peace processes and peace building.

African women are now a rising public voice in the African Union and are increasingly occupying key posts within that organization.  I am encouraged that the AU continues to work towards the full realization of the objectives of our policy on gender parity.  The establishment of the Gender Unit at the AU Commission is another step in the right direction that should enjoy the active and full support of all African women and progressives all over the world.

We have sufficient instruments and policy decisions which recognize the role of women. Examples include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform of Action, the African Union Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the African Union decision on the principles of gender parity in all structures of the African Union.

We have to intensify the implementation of these instruments and policy decisions.  In this regard, we are following with interest proceedings of the Fifty-Fourth Session of the Commission on the Status of Women currently unfolding in New York.

As we celebrate 2010 as the African Year of Peace and 2010 – to – 2020 as the African Decade of Women, we need to reflect on the progress that has been made in this area.  What are the success areas?  And where are we lacking?  I am hopeful that our seminar tomorrow will help us move closer to finding answers to these important questions.

This event and the seminar tomorrow will be among many activities that will take place all over the world to celebrate the International Women’s Day.  The struggle for the full emancipation of women is indeed far from over.

Malibongwe!

I thank you

Issued by Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Private Bag X152
Pretoria

07 March 2010

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