Remarks by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, National Consultative Workshop on Women and Climate Change, Sunday, 07 August 2011

Program Director

The Dean of the Female Diplomatic Corps, High Commissioner Agrina Musa

Madame Assetou  Koite, President of the Pan African Women’s Decade

Dr Zacharias Augustino, UNDP Resident Country Representative, co-sponsor for this National Consultative Dialogue

Mayors of various Districts and local Municipalities
Speakers of various Districts and local Municipalities
Our Veteran, Cde Lydia Komape
Senior government officials
Pronvincial Leadership of the ANCWL
Honourable guests
Ladies and the few gentlemen

May I start of by saying how wonderful it is to be in a room filled with women from all the provinces of South Africa, and in particular the women that have built and nurtured me from Limpopo. I know that we have women gathered here from the districts of Sekhukhune, Fetakgomo, Molemole, Lepelle-Nkumpi, Elias Motsoaledi, Aganang, Modimolle, Bela-Bela, Ba-Phalaborwa, Maruleng, Mookgopong, Peter Mokaba and the Vhembe District. Halala, women of Limpopo, halala! We also have women from all the provinces of South Africa, so again we say Halala, women of South Africa, Halala!

When the women of South Africa converged on the Union Buildings fifty five 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.

Today, we have all assembled here to affirm the wisdom and farsightedness of those women who declared that: "Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo; uzokufa!"

This historic anti-pass march of 1956 placed women at the forefront of the political struggle against racial oppression, indignity and gender discrimination. Their bravery shaped the history of our country and helped to highlight the plight of our people.

During this month we continue to honour those 20 000 strong women who were instrumental in putting South Africa on the path of gender transformation - who marched to the Union Buildings, in  Pretoria on the 9th of August to denounce the pass laws system.

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.

You will all recall that Charlotte Maxeke, who was born Charlotte Makgomo Manye, came from 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) from Sekhukhuniland, 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.

Tomorrow is our day as women.  But it is also a day to remember all those great women whose memory and legacy inspire our struggle today for the transformation of our country.  The five priorities we have set for ourselves as the current ANC Administration are but a stepping stone to lead us to a South Africa that women such as Mme-Charlotte and Ma-Ngoyi gave their youth and struggled for.

Program Director

I am told that more than 400 women participated in very vibrant discussions here today, and I am also told that the wealth of knowledge and experiences that women shared here is a testament to the way in which women as the care-givers, nurturers and custodians of their homes, their communities and the land instinctively know what the issues are around climate change. So when we talk about climate change, it is really nothing new to us: we are the ones who tend to the land, worry about crops that are failing, walk long distances to fetch water. So we understand what the issues are. In fact, I believe that you had your own COP17/ CMP7 Mzansi style here today! And I look forward to receiving your report and your recommendations for myself and Minister Molewa tomorrow.

Programe Director

Year after year, through the ongoing struggles for basic rights, for respect, and for equality, the women of this country have taken on more and more leadership roles in the great challenges of our time.

We are here because of a long line of women that took the lead in the struggle for national liberation, thus African women have a lot that they can draw on for inspiration. We have a long history of great women throughout the Continent; women with public profiles, as women patrons of the arts, women as scholars, and women as warriors who have shaped our history, our art, our culture and values.

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. And in as much as Women's Day is about the celebration of the achievements of women in our society, it is also about the reminder of the injustices still suffered by women all around the world.

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:

  • 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.

  • Through interventions such as the rural and local economic development programmes and social safety systems we continue to reduce the burden of women-headed households who bear the brunt of poverty.
  • Policies that economically empower women as we surge ahead with transformation, growth and development of our economy from the terrible legacy of our unjust past.

  • Legislation that promotes women’s rights and protects them against sexual, domestic, economic and other forms of abuse.
  •  Policies, structures and practices that seek to mainstream gender equality within the public service and in society.

  • On Poverty reduction, the country has taken a number of steps to mainstream gender perspectives in poverty reduction strategies.

  • 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.

Programme Director

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.

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

Thank you

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