Speech by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on National Women’s Day, 08 August 2010, Limpopo

Programe Director,
Comrades,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

When the women of South Africa converged on the Union Buildings fifty four years ago, from every corner of South Africa, they created one of the enduring landmarks of our country's history. They vowed to a stubborn oppressor that they would resist and fight for liberation.

American writer and poet Washington Irving wrote at the close of the 18th century that:

“There is in every true woman’s heart, a spark of heavenly fire which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity”

We are this evening converging to confirm that display of “heavenly fire” that our mothers “kindled and beamed and blazed” during those darkest hours of our adversity in 1956.
Washington Irving went on to say:

“There is sacredness in her tears. Those tears are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. Those tears are the messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love”.

The historic anti-pass march of 1956 placed women at the forefront of the political struggle against racial oppression, indignity and gender discrimination. Their bravery and resilience are well captured in Ms Belelwa Basse’s poem entitled “Women’s Journey – Priceless is Her Worth”, where she says

“The universe itches at the soles of her resilient feet, as
She treads tactfully towards the accomplishment of each without a sign in sound.
Even when her shoulders emulate the shape of her burdens,
The corners of her eyes crease with a smile.
Her footprints unravel mystery, and
Her words speak comprehension.
As she journeys with all the living aspirations,
Dreams their success and mourns their loss.
It is the essence of women that propels the world, to dreams fulfilled”,

We meet here to confirm that those “fulfilled dreams” of a prosperous, non-sexist and non-racial South Africa was delivered to us through those “tears of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love”. It was a true confirmation of the slogan "Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo; uzokufa!"

On this day we continue to honour those 20 000 strong women who were instrumental in putting South Africa on the path of gender transformation - who had marched on the Union building, Pretoria in 1956, 09 August, to denounce the pass laws system, racial segregation, gender discrimination and demand an end to the brutality of the apartheid regime.

We are assembled to pay tribute to the heroism displayed by the martyr generation of Charlotte Mxeke, Sophie de Bruyn, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Amina Cachalia, Frances Baard and many other heroines of our country in the quest to build a just society.

Many of these pioneers of women struggle came from this province.  You will all recall that Charlotte Maxeke, who was born Charlotte Makgomo Manye, came from Ga-Ramokgopa, not far from Polokwane.  She was the founder and leader of the Bantu Women’s League whose heroic struggles gave birth to the ANC Women’s League.  Hence the former ANC President-General, Dr Xuma, could refer to her as “the mother of African freedom in this country”.

Lillian Ngoyi (born Masediba Matabane) is also a daughter of this province - from Ga-Mphahlele.  Not only was she the first woman to be elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC; she was also the first among the many deserving women of our struggle to be honored with Isithwalandwe.

On this important day, we need to ask ourselves the question “what did we learn from these stalwarts?” The history and evolution of the ANCWL in the then Northern Transvaal is best described as a history of “dedication, loyalty to the cause and dynamism” among the energetic women who swelled the ranks of the UDF and Sayco.  We need to draw inspiration from these mothers, whose heroic sacrifices and participation in the 1955 women’s march ensured that branches of the ANC and subsequently the ANCWL in Limpopo were re-established.

There is no doubting the fact that the victory of the ANC in Limpopo in the 1994 elections may be ascribed to the immense contribution of the ANCWL which was spearheading election campaigns in rural areas and farms. Women formed the core election machinery of the ANC in campaigns and even in the actual voting process.

After the 1994 April democratic breakthrough elections the ANC government established a Commission on Women as part of creating a platform for women to advance and consolidate the gains achieved so far and to pursue the total liberation of our people and women in particular from economic and social oppression.

In an effort to bring along women from all political formations and non- governmental organizations under one umbrella, the ANC Women’s League convened a provincial chapter  of the Women’s Coalition Network to plan and implement a program of action geared towards eradication of all forms of oppression against  women.

As we meet here this evening, we need to be clear in mind that the strength of the Progressive Women’s Movement feeds on the strength of the Women’s League. The Women’s Coalition Network helped draft the Women’s Charter upon which the ANCWL formed the Progressive Women’s Movement Limpopo chapter. At the level of government the ANCWL women’s league has been able to lobby for the inclusion of five members into the Executive Council of the Limpopo Government.

In totality women’s representation in all structures of governance is fairly satisfactorily and the greatest challenge is in the Private sector where women still occupy the bottom last ladder of the economic mainstream despite existing legal instruments that are biased towards women.

Through the Progressive Women’s Movement the ANCWL has managed to build cohesion and unity of purpose amongst women’s organizations in Limpopo in pursuance of the strategic objectives enshrined in the constitution and other laws of the Republic of South Africa.

Programme Director,

My talk this evening has more to do with “international” economic opportunities for women and their eventual participation in our country’s mainstream economy. It is my firm conviction that we cannot discuss issues that relate to our wish for women to participate in the economy of this country, without a clear understanding of the bigger economic picture.
At the very onset, I need to confirm that promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women is a key priority for our government. We are convinced that empowering women translates into greater prosperity for families, communities and economies ultimately leading to sustainable development.

The year 2010 also marks fifteen years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, which is an intergovernmental agreement on gender equality. The agreement calls for removing obstacles to women's active participation in all spheres of public and private life through a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural and political decision-making.

The National Industrial Policy Framework (NIPF) and the Industrial Action Policy Action Plan (IPAP)

It is important that we understand that the IPAP builds up on the NIPF and actually represents a significant step forward by our government in scaling up efforts to promote long term industrialization and industrial diversification. The intention is that we scale up our efforts well beyond our current reliance on traditional commodities and non-tradable services.

The purpose of our Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) is to expand production in value-added sectors with high employment and growth multipliers that compete in export markets as well as compete in the domestic market against imports. The Action Plan places emphasis on more labour absorbing production and services sectors; including the increased participation of historically disadvantaged people and regions in our economy.

Our Department of International Relations and Cooperation will, in the context of economic diplomacy, be providing the necessary support to the Dti in its investment promotion drive abroad, including supporting programmes that are aimed at generating the necessary Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) from countries such as China, Brazil, Russia, Japan, the USA and the Middle East. 

I wish to call on you comrades to further engage MEC Pitsi Moloto and his team, including TIL, to further strengthen their working relations with the Dti and Business Unity South Africa, especially on the aspect of your inclusion in business delegations of the Provincial and National leaderships when they go abroad.

SAWEN

During his recent Budget Vote Speech, Minister Davies explained that it remains clear that women continue to struggle with regards to starting, growing and sustaining their business. He reassured us the Strategic Framework on Gender Women's Economic Empowerment will highlight integrated solutions for women in various areas including directly tackling the “barriers hindering their participation in the economy”.

The Minister also spoke about the South African Women Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN) and confirmed that this Network will be strengthened as an institution that will advance women economic empowerment. As a networking forum for individuals and organizations that are committed to the promotion and advancement of women entrepreneurs, the ANC WL has all the all the reasons to support SAWEN.

We need to participate in activities of SAWEN, as it seeks to facilitate and monitor the socio-economic advancement of women entrepreneurs and their positive impact on the country’s economy. Only when we give SAWEN the necessary recognition shall it be able to serve as a national vehicle that brings women together and addresses the challenges they face; lobby government, public and private institutions; and to facilitate access to business resources, information and opportunities for South African women entrepreneurs in a way that promotes their effective participation in the global economy.

We are encouraged by the fact that SAWEN has so far managed to facilitate business linkages between South African women and those from Sweden and the United Kingdom; facilitated business linkages amongst South African women entrepreneurs; and played its part in exposing more women to various local and international business forums.

Programme Director,
Our government has reiterated its firm belief that women, the youth and people with disability, dominate the second economy and must be the target for mainstreaming.  It is thus important for us to note that initiatives such as access to finance, procurement opportunities and jobs have been set aside, in order to avoid marginalizing these groups.
We appreciate the various interventions that the Dti has since developed, that are intended to assist women. These interventions include, but not limited to:

  • The Isivande Women’s Fund, which represents just one of other strategies to improve women's access to formal finance in the absence of personal savings and gender bias existing institutions.

    We are excited that the main target group will be Black women at the bottom of the economic ladder, with the Fund assisting in start-up funding; business expansions; business rehabilitations and turnarounds; franchises; and providing bridging finance.
  • The Specialist Co-operatives Unit, dedicated to assisting Co-ops, which is called the Co-operative Incentive Scheme, a 90:10 cost sharing grant, a grant, for qualifying registered Primary Co-operative in the emerging economy.
  • The Bavumile programme, which is a capacity building programme for women in Art and Craft and Clothing and Textile. This programme is aimed at assisting women in product development, product packaging and pricing and basic business management trainings.
  • The Black Business Supplier Development Programme, which deals with the aspect of access to finance, especially for those previously excluded from the economic mainstream remains a barrier to participating meaningfully in the economy. This programme seeks to ensure that small black businesses with potential are given the necessary assistance to grow their enterprises and become more competitive.

Programme Director,

Our battle for the economic emancipation of women needs real entrepreneurs and not “tender-preneurs”. Here we are talking about people, who can see opportunities and are willing to take risks and produce goods that can be sold. These are people who become the driving forces behind production; they are innovators and initiators who introduce new products and new techniques; and they are the risk takers.

As women seek to claim their space in this new phase of our liberation, the economic emancipation of South Africa, we will need  a new cadre of women who will emulate the spirits of Bo-Mama Charlotte Maxeke and Lillian Ngoyi, that of dedication, dynamism and sacrifice. If we want women of Limpopo to claim their share in the growth of our economy, our economy needs enthusiastic, diligent and committed women entrepreneurs.

Program Director and Dear comrades,

The victory of the ANC in Limpopo in the 1994 elections may be ascribed to the immense contribution of the ANCWL which was spearheading election campaigns in rural areas and farms. Women formed the core election machinery of the ANC in campaigns and even in the actual voting process. Having so courageously helped bring political independence to this country, what should now stop us to be the architects of our economic independence – in an environment so fertile with good interventions by government?

Through the Progressive Women’s Movement the ANCWL has managed to build cohesion and unity of purpose amongst women’s organizations in Limpopo in pursuance of the strategic objectives enshrined in the constitution and other laws of the Republic of South Africa.

Indeed, women’s representation in senior positions of government is fairly satisfactorily, but the greatest challenge is in the private sector were women still occupy the bottom ladder of the economic despite many legal instruments that are biased towards women.

For example, the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa 2010 Census of Women in Leadership Census revealed that although women represent almost 52 percent of our adult population,  women constitute only 19.3% of all executive managers and as low as 16.6% of all directors in the country.
The same census also found the number of women CEOs and Chairpersons in our corporate sector to be (at best) just a handful. 
This year's Women's Day celebrations take place under the theme: “Working Together for Equal Opportunities and Progress for All Women: Forward to the Decade of African Women”.

This theme is inclusive of both the national calling for a united approach to addressing issues by working together as one, as well as the African Union’s “African Women’s Decade” which will span the years 2010 – 2020. This Decade is a mechanism to accelerate the implementation and attainment of the goals stated in the various, declarations, protocols and conventions the AU has adopted.

As South Africans celebrate Women's Day, we should acknowledge that much still has to be done in order to achieve the true emancipation of women from the adversities they have endured because of their gender, race and social status. It is for this reason that we wish to encourage everyone here present to take the interventions designed the Dti seriously, as they promise to usher in a new era of practical women economic emancipation and empowerment.

Despite the difficulties and hardships that women continue to experience, our government had made big strides in advancing the course of developing women in our country. Examples include, amongst others:

  • The establishment of the Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities consolidates our programme to continue the development of women in our country.
  • The Women’s Empowerment Fund and the Employment Equity Act continue to ensure the appointment and support for women in top leadership positions in government and the private sector.
  • Economic empowerment programs for women - for example, income support structures and programmes like women in housing, South African Women in Mining, Women in Energy, Women in subsistence farming and other programmes for rural women.
  • Our international program through bilateral mechanisms such as the Joint Commissions and other initiatives like IBSA – are platforms that women can harness to advance their economic development. Business forums that we convene when we visit other countries like we did recently at the State Visit to Russia have not been fully leveraged by our women entrepreneurs.

Programme Director

The ANC Women’s League in Limpopo needs to do everything possible to bring women together, and ensure that women take control of their own destiny. Furthermore, we need to ensure that women have equal access and control over productive resources and economic opportunities that are available.

Indeed, National Women's Day is a day to commemorate women's struggle for change.  It is a day to celebrate the progress which has been made towards improvement of quality of life of women. It is the day for reaffirming our commitment to the work towards the liberation of women, and ensuring the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of women, because, we understand that by empowering women, we empower a nation.

It is hearting to see that the women in Limpopo abide by the slogan: “Nothing about us without us!”

Ndoni Khanyile had women like us in mind when she wrote in her poem entitled “She” that:

She is the essence of womanhood
The heart of sacred femininity
She holds the key to all creation
The truth of Being is encrypted
in Her skin
She is the wisdom held in
The deepest wrinkle
The lines of Her palms
shape the destiny of humanity
She is what we all were born from
She is the mother
She is the core
Her heart beat life into all things
Before the beginning
Before voice was made light
She was there
She was there
She was there

Malibongwe Igama la Makhosikazi malibongwe!
Ga le retwe leina la basadi ga le retwe!
Wathintha Abafazi – Wathintha imbokodo!

Thank you

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