Deputy Minister Nomaindiya Mfeketo’s Address on the Occasion of Women’s Intergenerational Dialogue, 31 August 2016, Cape Town

Provincial leadership of the ANC and ANCWL
Political parties and Women’s Formations represented
Civil Society formations
Community of Khayelitsha
Distinguished Guest
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am very pleased to be here today and indeed honoured and privileged to address you on the occasion of the Inter-Generational Dialogue on Women. This occasion is timely as we mark the last day of women’s month in South Africa. The theme chosen by our government for the 2016 women’s month celebration is “women united in moving South Africa forward”. It is therefore against this backdrop that we are holding this Inter-Generational Dialogue today.

As you are aware, the year 2016 marks an important historic milestone for us women as we celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings. Our country will always be indebted to the women who participated in the 1956 march.

Throughout our history women have fought tirelessly for gender equality and empowerment. The Women’s Charter and the 1956 march greatly contributed to the full participation of women in all spheres of society that we see today.

Because of the sacrifices of many unsung heroes and heroines, we now live in a country governed by a Constitution which recognises women as equal citizens, with equal rights and responsibilities.

The 1956 march and others before by thousands of fearless women are testimony to the role of women in bringing about our democracy. During the 1956 march about 20 000 women of all races marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the discriminatory pass laws which had restricted the movement of black people in the country.

This important moment in our history has been celebrated since 1995 as Women’s Day, and is the focal point of Women’s Month celebrations. During Women’s Month our nation recognises the important role of political activism by women during the struggle for liberation against colonisation and apartheid.

It is also an opportunity to reflect on the gains we have made since 1994. Over the past 22 years South Africa has made significant inroads insofar as gender equality and women empowerment is concerned. We have made noticeable progress in putting in place legislation and policy frameworks for advancing equality and empowerment for women.

I must be quick to say that we are not only celebrating the strides made by past generations of women but we are here to also recommit ourselves to keep their vision and legacy for gender equality and women empowerment alive. We are here to renew our unwavering commitment to work towards the realisation of an inclusive society within which women play an equally important role in all spheres of life.

Therefore our collective actions to promote gender equality and women empowerment continues, and  is not limited to the calendar month of August, neither it is limited to our borders.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Despite the significant progress over the last 22 years in changing the lives of women in our country, many women continue to face obstacles such as limited access to economic opportunities.

Education of young women remains a pressing challenge with most girls not being able to complete their secondary education. ‘Makhe sithethe bafazi’ Why is it that after 22 years of governance some of our children still face the same challenged that we faced. What happened to community programs such as ‘each one, teach one’. Are we as parents really involved in our children’s life? Do we know who their friends are and how they express themselves in sports or even in the classroom?

Not knowing who is influencing your child and what they experience on a day to day basis can really endanger their future. Our mothers were forced to be away from home due to the nature of the society that we grew up in. Today, however, we freely entrust strangers to educate and raise our children and then become surprised when they or we become strangers to each other.

Program Director, this province is famous for having produced a number of women icons who contributed not only to the political consciousness of women but to the broader struggle against colonialism. I am reminded by the heroism of Mme Dora Tomana who became active in the Communist Party of South Africa as early as 1942. These are the examples that we want our children to look up too as they build from the proud history of empowered women who grew up in the same environment as they do now.

We must never forget that in order to unite as women and craft ways to move forward, we must be able to honestly confront the programs we have put forward as tools for women empowerment. Equally so we must be able to identify the challenges that are visible and experienced every day despite the laws and programs we have in place.

The Challenges of Gender Equality in Africa

When the Women of 1956 waged a struggle against discrimination, their aim was not only for the empowerment of themselves or their surroundings. The women of 1956 had a vision for the total liberation of women in Africa and the world. We must acknowledge that globally African women face an unequal burden in poverty, illiteracy and disease.

Women are 52 per cent of the population, but they have unequal access to economic, political, social and cultural opportunities. When we review progress made in the adoption by the AU of 2010-2020 as the African Women’s Decade we must question what this means for the Gender Agenda. We must question what this means for the ordinary women who has to wake up in a society that still doesn’t value her worth. The Woman’s decade highlights a grassroots approach to development, but what are the practical programs on the ground that women can engage with.

Let us remember that our inherent ability as women to give life, makes us the protectors we are, we are care givers and educators. Let us in our community and every corner we live in nurture young women into realising their full potential and also ensure that the struggle for women’s empowerment is firmly entrenched in the mind. 

We can only move South Africa forward, only if we work together, the government cannot do it alone. We need the collaboration and support of civil society, business, and communities.

Ladies and Gentlemen

In spite of these declarations the majority of women remain employed in agriculture where productivity and incomes are low. Many of those employed outside agriculture are in the informal sector where jobs are vulnerable.

The objective of the African Women’s Decade is to reinvigorate commitments to accelerated implementation of agreed global and regional commitments of gender equality and women empowerment. We must draw inspiration from Mme Dora and all other women leaders who came before us. Who believed in the role of women in determining their future through self-empowerment. They set up local schemes for women empowerment, most notably sewing groups which ensured that members of the community, particularly children, are provided with the necessary warm clothes in winter.

As we gather here we must note and state honestly if there is inadequate political commitment to match pronouncements on restoration of gender equality with respect to access, participation and advancement of women. The wisdom of history tells us that change will occur, but it won’t happen overnight. We need to consistently fight small battles, which will eventually add up to great achievements. We should also not shy away from the big battles either, for no one else will fight for our cause, we need to be in the driving seat for change to occur in the territory of gender equality and women empowerment.

Ladies and gentlemen

I mention all these stats and challenges that remain because they are markers in our journey to achieve our continental objective of Agenda 2063, in particular the Gender Agenda. They help us review the progress we have made and to measure how far we still have to go.

The vision of Africa expressed in Agenda 2063 is one of an Africa whose development is people-driven. Especially relying on the potential offered by its women and youth. Under Agenda 2063, it is envisaged that there will be gender equality in all spheres of life and an engaged and empowered youth.

Our aim by 2063, is for all forms of violence and discrimination (social, economic, political) against women and girls to be eliminated. This means an end to all harmful social practices and that all barriers to access to quality health and education for women and girls would be non-existent.

The Africa of 2063 would see fully empowered women with equal access and opportunity in all spheres of life. This means that the African woman would have equal economic rights, including the rights to own and inherit property, sign a contract, and to register and manage a business.

The Africa of 2063 would see attainment of full gender parity. It would see women occupy 50% of elected offices at state, regional and local bodies, and 50% of managerial positions in government and private sector would be women. The economic and political glass ceiling hindering women’s progress would finally have been broken.

As I conclude Program director

When we talk about building on the sacrifices and efforts of the women of 1956 we are talking about fulfilling the promises of the Africa we want to see in 2063. Ours is to track the progress made thus far and to share the knowledge of the challenges that remain with the youth. It is through intergenerational dialogue that we can be able to not only pass on the baton but to continuously build on the gains of the generations that came before us.

Our struggle is one, and so will our victory or defeat in the search for a more just and equitable society. It is the yesterday of the 1956 generation that brings us here today. However it is our today and what we do with it that will create a tomorrow for all our children. Let us lead with unity and dignity in ever space we find ourselves in as women in society.

I Thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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