Republic of South Africa Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected as the African Union Commission Chair at the Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 15-16, 2012. She is the first woman and Southern African to be elected to the post.
Statement on Women`s Day
8 August 2012
The African National Congress salutes the women of the country and the world for their role in sustaining humanity and having waged prolonged struggle to occupy their place in our various societies.
Women have managed to impact on the structure and relations of society particularly as it relates to the place and role of women after centuries of oppression and deprivation. The ANC believes that the struggle for gender equality is a struggle of society including men.
As we celebrate the Women Day tomorrow, on the 09 August 2012, we pay tribute to our heroines who led daring struggles of emancipation against male domination and patriarchy. We also want to acknowledge the role of women in the hundred years of the ANC`s existence. We also pay tribute to Pan African Women Organisation (PAWO), for their 50 years of relentless struggles of women in the continent in solidarity with the women of the world.
It is also with pride for all of us and all women in the continent and the world that as we celebrate this important women`s day one of our daughters of the soil Comrade Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was elected by leaders of the African Continent to head the African Union, a first for women in the Continent. We are confident that her leadership in the AU will bring peace, stability, unity and economic progress and integration. We wish the women`s day march as a reenactment of the 1956 march every success. We also call on men to join the march.
Viewpoint| by Angie Motshekga
Qualitative empowerment and meaningful emancipation of women
We have emerged recently from the 2nd Conference of the Progressive Women Movement of South Africa (PWMSA) and the National Policy Conference of the African National Congress (ANC) in which the current status and empowerment of women have come under focus.
Out of these critical reflections we have acquired renewed energy sharply to take the gender question in South Africa to a higher level spurred on by the general consensus that beginning with the 1994 democratic breakthrough, great strides have been made on the matter of qualitative empowerment and meaningful emancipation of women, within and without the ANC and government.
Unsettling questions and concerns emerging out of the dialogical reflections of progressive women, and also gaining some momentum in the public discourse, are around the extent to which gains of transformation from apartheid and 'internal colonialism' have, or have not, translated into a better life for the majority of women, the African women in particular.
Among others, are the views that change has not reached women within the working class and the poorest of the poor and that the goal of 50/50 gender parity appears to be elusive. Factors that fuel some of these genuine concerns could be located in the slow pace of transformation in the private sector with respect to women's empowerment and representation at board and senior management levels.
Perhaps these are the coordinates of the perspective which says, pregnant with pessimism and a deep sense of disillusionment, that "after initial gains women seem to be losing the political edge" (Mail & Guardian Supplement on Women's Month, 26 Aug - 1 Sep 2011).
It is in this context that I believe we should begin to interrogate to what extent democratic South Africa has been able to advance the progressive agenda of women's empowerment and emancipation.
The 2012 PWMSA conference at the Walter Sisulu University, in the Eastern Cape, had a telling theme: "the involvement of women in the economy."
From such a theme and flow of discussions, delegates from across the political spectrum could discern the current state of the women's struggle and the nature and content of challenges on the way towards a non-sexist society that would be characterised by approaches to and treatment of 'women's rights as human rights.'
The ANC Women's League (ANCWL) had sent a high-level delegation under the stewardship of its national President, Mrs Angie Motshekga, who is also South Africa's minister of Basic Education. The League leadership had just emerged from the ruling party's (ANC) policy conference in Midrand, from 26 to 29 June 2012.
Therefore, such leadership had been in a better position to share with progressive women its vision on what needs to be done effectively to resolve the women's struggle for gender equality, empowerment and full emancipation. This is the longest revolution, according to Juliet Mitchell in her socialist critique of the problem of the subordination of women, titled Women: The Longest Revolution, 1966 (in marxist.org: The Leading Marxist Site on the Net).
In Mitchell's view, this problem "of the subordination of women and the need for their liberation was recognized by all the great socialist thinkers in the nineteenth century. It is part of the classical heritage of the revolutionary movement" (marxist.org: The Leading Marxist Site on the Net).
I think we have come to a stalemate partly due to this reality shared by Mitchell and many others, that the agenda for the liberation of women has at certain moments in history assumed "a subsidiary, if not an invisible element in the preoccupations of socialists" and progressives. This state of affairs the ANCWL interrogates in earnest in the seminal ANC Gender Paper.
The ANC Gender Paper was the first intervention of this nature in the history of the ANC to be made by women before plenary as was the case on the occasion of the 3rd ANC National General Council in September 2010, in Durban, where it was first presented. It was latter refined, as informed by material conditions on the ground, for the 2012 ANC National Policy Conference. This document constitutes the basis for discussions and broader consultation ahead of the 53rd ANC National Conference in Mangaung, in December 2012.
Central to the ANCWL's outlook and approach, as reflected in its Gender policy document prepared for the ANC Policy conference, is a consciousness of the special-type triple subordination of women, obtaining particularly in ex-colonies on the African continent and elsewhere. This ideological orientation has over many years of struggle shaped our strategy and tactics as the political home of women.
The 2006 Declaration of the Progressive Women's Movement which was adopted at the Inaugural Conference in Mangaung, on 5-8 August 2006, spoke of this situation as "the triple fold struggle characterised by class, race and gender oppression."
The gender question had always been located within the national question in South Africa whose objective had always been to unite all South Africans behind the vision to create a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
The ANC president of the exile period, Cde Oliver Reginald (OR) Tambo, articulated in clear terms this theory and practice of the women's struggle in September 1981 at one of the ANC women's conferences, in Luanda, Angola: "The mobilization of women is the task not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike... There is no way in which women in general can liberate themselves without fighting to end the exploitation of man by man."
In spite of the perspective of the popular women's movement we had adopted vis-à-vis the philosophy of the feminist movement, we had been conscious of "the problems inherent in the widespread practice of assuming the existence of common interests, ideologies, politics, and experiences". We knew that "identities are a contested terrain" (Marxism and Class, Gender and Race, 2001).
From as early as the 1900s, women have been in the forefront of the broader struggle to create a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society. As early as 1913, under the leadership of Charlotte Maxeke and others, they staged a daring combat against oppression and exploitation. They protested against discriminatory laws that restricted free movement of Africans - like the pass laws whose rejection triggered the massacre in Sharpeville, in 1960. Their struggles led to the formation and recognition by the ANC of the ANC Women's League in 1948.
Out of this revolutionary process was produced strong leaders and national heroines who moved us 'two steps forward' towards the humanization of South African society and the creation of a caring and loving society.
These are exemplary women who gave their lives, selflessly, so that we can all be free, women leaders the calibre of Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoye, Amina Cachalia, Albertina Sisulu, Adelaide Tambo, Bertha Gxowa and many others.
It was for good reason women launched the PWMSA, to unite progressive women and strengthen our gender machinery for the final onslaught on patriarchal power, traditionalism, social exclusion and cultural domination.
Each year, on 9 August, which only became a national holiday after 1994, democratic South Africa remembers the historic march of 20 000 unarmed women to the Union Buildings, against the draconian pass laws of the time. This year is no different. National Women's Day is a milestone in the women's struggle for a better deal.
The significance of the historic Women's March lies in the fact that it had exposed the disempowering myth of women as politically inept, immature and perpetually tied to the home like a dishcloth is to the kitchen. And so, as we celebrate this year the ANC's 100 Years of Selfless Struggle, so must we remember to chronicle the immense contribution of women in building the ANC and lifting South Africa out of the clutches of a racist, sexist and exploitative regime.
To a large extent there is great progress in the empowerment of women. The aspirations of women for equality are contained in the post-apartheid Constitution of 1996 which goes a long way in guaranteeing rights of women.
In an article on Women's Day, South Africa's Ambassador to Italy, Ambadassor Thenjiwe Mtintso, demonstrates categorically the extent to which the quality of life of women has changed since 1994:
"Not only has the ANC and its government opened democratic spaces in society for the participation of women in all spheres of life and for the creation of real democracy and a non-patriarchal society, but it has also led the same campaign in [the Southern African] region and the [African] continent.
"The ANC government played a critical role in the adoption of the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) Gender Protocol with its programme for gender equality and the commitment of the not less than 50% quota for women in all decision-making structures in SADC countries by 2015."
The country has embraced the declaration of 2010 to 2020, by Africa's Heads of State and Government, as the African Women's Decade. The Constitution of 1996 is consistent with gender-sensitive prescripts of the African Charter for Human and People's Rights which says:
"The State shall ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the rights of the woman and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions."
South Africa's progressive legislative framework is aligned to the international system and instruments for promoting human rights of women, including the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
By 2009, the country was in the 6th best position in the Global Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum. It had made significant improvements in female labour force participation (ipsnews.net). In 2010, it ranked number 49 out of 102 OECD countries on the Social Institutions and Gender Index. At the time, it was number 3 in the whole of Africa.
In 2010, more females than males were enrolled in tertiary institutions, at 56.4%. The South African Schools Act of 1996 has provided a framework for advancing the democratic transformation of society, combating racism and sexism and all other forms of unfair discrimination and intolerance.
Three years ahead of the 2015 target for Millennium Development Goals, we are set to realize universal access to primary education, including for the girl-child. The country has initiated programmes for increasing the number of girl-learners who take Mathematics and Science at school. Projects include the Girls Education Movement and Techno-Girl that are intended to encourage girls to study Maths, Science and Technology.
Focus on education is key to empowering women and attaining the 50/50 quota. Education has a tremendous multiplier effect that brings lasting benefits to individuals and communities and thus the need to promote the campaign of making education a societal responsibility. Our skills shortage was evident during the infrastructure drive that came with South Africa's hosting of the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010 wherein a considerable number of engineers were imported into the country.
The 2012 ANC National Policy Conference has reiterated the organisation's commitment to champion the 50% quota for women in all spheres of national life. Currently, 43% of Cabinet ministers are women, with 44% in Parliament.
The 2011 Women in Leadership Census of the Businesswomen's Association of South Africa (BWASA) has confirmed that:
"The South African government has been noted for its efforts towards gender equality: Many of the country's ministers, deputy ministers, directors-general and deputy directors-general are women."
It has found that in the tally of women at all levels (from the lower skilled to senior management) in government, there are more women (56.3%) employed in government departments than men (43.7%). And has concluded:
"South Africa is not lagging far behind some of its international counterparts and is indeed, in some instances, leading in terms of gender inclusion." In countries such as France, Spain and Switzerland, women represent 40% of ministerial positions (BWASA) compared to 43% in South Africa. Another view represented in the Mail & Guardian Supplement on Women's Month (26 Aug - 1 Sep 2011) is that "this may be good on paper, behind it all is a raging debate on what it means on the ground".
An interesting, yet most certainly unsettling question often posed by women feeling their revolution has dragged on long enough, even 18 months into democratic South Africa, is: "Do the numbers reflect mere tokenism, or have they effected real changes for women living in South Africa."
The 2012 Women's Month has posed for progressive women these pertinent questions seeking to critique most critically the content and quality of the gains that had been made for and by women. Answering these questions would be very critical as it would then tell us to what extent can and should women celebrate 100 Years of Selfless Struggle or bemoan 'one hundred years of solitude.'
Notwithstanding what we have said about the trajectory of women's empowerment that we have enunciated in South Africa after 1994, through an empowering constitutional and legislative framework, there should not be any contradiction in terms were we to say that the country is still ranked among unequal societies.
This is so given the huge legacy of the past we had to grapple with and the concomitant triple challenge of inequality, poverty and unemployment from which, as we argue in the ANC Gender Paper, women suffer the most. As in many other countries, particularly in rural communities and informal settlements, women bear the brunt of devastating hunger, gender-based violence, HIV and Aids and other poverty-related diseases.
The United Nations' World Food Programme Gender Policy and Strategy has reported that gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty, estimating that 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls (Bua News, 7 March 2012).
We need practical steps. Regrettably, I do not think at the 2nd Conference of the PWMSA we were able to say how do we proceed with the women's agenda, also at an economic level, practically and with sustainable gains for women even for those at the grassroots. We should have gone sufficiently far in showing how we would stimulate and inspire "the involvement of women in the economy" but also concretely spell out the institutional mechanisms required to direct and manage.
Much still needs to be done to empower women. In fact, on female representation at board and management level, the 2011 Women in Leadership Census says "change has been marginal" especially in the business sector.
According to this Census, "although women make up more than half the South African population and 45% of the workforce, this is not reflected in the leadership of the workforce." There were only 15 women CEOs and 18 women chairpersons from a total of 339 companies (BWASA). In the Foreword, it is proposed: "if left to market forces and without any enforcement mechanism, this situation will continue." Empowerment, like wealth, does not trickle down.
The ANC Gender Paper articulates far-reaching recommendations on fundamental issues key to transforming the oppressive reality defining what it means to be 'woman' in a dominantly patriarchal society. One of critical priorities is the Gender Equality Bill, which, once law, will provide the framework for speeding-up the 50/50 gender parity.
Intensifying the campaign to support women in starting up enterprises and growing existing ones, as well as affirming and supporting women farmers through, among other things, land acquisition, equipment and skills, are some of the means the ANCWL believes will accelerate empowerment. We would begin to fast-track women's involvement in the economy were we to get financing institutions to avail funding for women's empowerment programmes in the country and on the continent. Another practical intervention would be to provide specific training programmes to maximise the skilling and employment of women, a priority the ANCWL is resolved sharply to promote.
Beyond these minimum programmes, as Juliet Mitchell has said, "until there is a revolution in production, the labour situation will prescribe women's situation within the world of men" (marxist.org: The Leading Marxist Site on the Net). The country will empower and emancipate women to the extent that it strengthens measures for tackling abuse and violence against women. We have in mind, inter alia, law reform on bail and sentencing, victim empowerment, legal literacy, and expanding access to the courts especially for women in rural communities. These are some of the ways we think will help arrest gender-based violence and "the subordination of women".
In the final analysis, global prosperity and peace will only be feasible once all the people of the world are empowered to order their own lives and to provide for themselves and their families. These should necessarily include the marginalised and "wretched of the earth" who are condemned to peripheral lives on the strength of disempowering notions of power - like gender, race and class.
There is ample research showing that in Asia, Latin America and Africa, where women have been given the chance to succeed through increased educational opportunities, families are found to be much more stronger, economies are growing, and societies are indeed flourishing. In a nutshell, for "the longest revolution" to be resolved, in the wisdom of Juliet Mitchell: "the main thrust of any emancipation movement must still concentrate on the economic element - the entry of women fully into public industry."
Angie Motshekga is the President of the ANC Women's Leaugue and Minister of Basic Education. This article first appeared in The Thinker Vol 12, August 2012.
Malibongwe igama lamakhosikazi!
Women unite in fighting poverty, inequality and unemployment
The 2012 National Women's Day took place during a significant year, the celebration of the ANC's 100 years of selfless struggle. It was a struggle in which women played a pivotal role to bring about freedom and a society free of poverty, inequality and racism.
We pay tribute to many generations of women for their sacrifices, patriotism, hard work and commitment. We salute Charlotte Maxeke, the founder of the Bantu Women's League a precursor to the ANC Women's League, a woman of substance who was a pioneer in many fields - science, education, missionary work, social work and leadership. She led the first campaign against pass laws in Bloemfontein in the Free State, as early as 1913. The Free State Provincial government honoured this heroine by renaming Maitland Street on which she led the march, as Charlotte Maxeke Street.
We honour the women who followed in her footsteps, the 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings against pass laws on the 9th of August 1956. Among this group were Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophie Williams-De Bruyn and Albertina Sisulu. Lillian Ngoyi eloquently described the pass laws as "a badge of slavery in terms whereof all sorts of insults and humiliation may be committed on Africans by members of the ruling class".
We would like to single out for special mention, women in rural areas for their sterling contribution to the struggle. Amongst many activities, we celebrate the historic uprising against pass laws in Zeerust. The women's revolt began in 1957 in Lehurutse and spread to other villages in Zeerust, such as Dinokana, Lekgopung, Motswedi and Gopane. Mobile trucks were being sent by the racist government to bring "dompasses" to women. Women defied even their traditional leaders who were instructing them to cooperate and take the dompasses. In honour of the heroism of these women compatriots, the sites of the anti-pass marches in Zeerust will be declared as heritage sites.
In urban areas around the same time during the 50s, we salute the women who campaigned against the prohibition of brewing traditional beverages at home. Brewing had been outlawed so that men could be lured into government beer halls to spend their meagre wages. Women boycotted and picketed the beer halls, forcing many to close. Two of the leading figures of the Cato Manor anti-beer hall campaign of 1959 were Mary Thipe and Dorothy Nyembe.
We will always remember and celebrate the role of organisations such as the Black Sash movement which bravely promoted human rights and justice, in the face of repression during the struggle against apartheid. We salute all women for their resilience against pass laws, severe repression, the internecine violence that engulfed our townships during the 80s and 90s, arrests, torture and all sorts of violations of human dignity.
We honour the women who joined Umkhonto Wesizwe, taking up arms in defence of their country and in the quest for freedom. A Women's Monument will be built on Lillian Ngoyi Square here in Tshwane, profiling the critical role played by women in the realization of our democracy. The driving force behind the actions of all these generations of women was to build a National Democratic Society - a nonracial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa, free of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Today we look back at what we have achieved since the attainment of the freedom they fought so hard for, especially with regards to promoting gender equality. It is a matter of considerable pride that many of the rights and freedoms women fought for are now entrenched in the Constitution of our country. Gender equality is now a constitutional imperative in our country. This is further reinforced by various pieces of legal instruments, including the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, the Employment Equity Act, the Domestic Violence Act, Maintenance Act, Sexual Offences Act and the Civil Union Act.
Internationally, we are parties to various instruments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Beijing Platform for Action, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, as well as the AU Gender Policy, among others. We celebrate far and wide, the recent election of the first woman chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Under her leadership, we are confident that the status of women and children in the continent will be further entrenched.
Other key structures promoting gender equality are the Commission for Gender Equality and the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities. While we still have a lot of work to do, we are satisfied with the progress made thus far in improving the status and quality of life of women, in only 18 years of freedom. We are making progress on women's occupation of leadership positions. The ANC government remains determined to ultimately meet the 50-50 target on women's representation. In the national executive, we have 14 Cabinet Ministers and 15 deputy ministers. In addition, five out of nine premiers are women, which mean women run the majority of provinces.
The representation of women in Parliament increased from 27.8% in 1994 to 44.0% in 2009. Similarly, the representation of women in Provincial Legislatures has increased from 25.4% to 42.4% respectively. However, the 2011 Business Women in Leadership census conducted by the Business Women's Association of South Africa shows that gender balance remains slow in the corporate boardrooms. The census reveals that although there is a slight increase in the employment of women in top executive positions, this increase is minimal.
What is more disturbing is that there are still companies that have a zero percentage of women representation as directors and executive managers. The 2011 report of the Commission for Employment Equity indicates that more must also be done to improve the representation of people with disabilities at top and senior management levels in both the private and public sectors. The representation of women at the senior and top management levels of the public service also remains inadequate.
Experience has shown that voluntary mechanisms of gender equality are inadequate. For this reason, we have directed to Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities to fast track the Gender Equality Bill, so that we can enforce gender parity measures across all sectors of society. We are also amending the Employment Equity Act, in order to introduce new measures such as the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. It will impose sanctions on employers that fail to prepare and implement an employment equity plan. Enhancing gender equality in the private and public should not be viewed simply as a compliance issue to pacify the Employment Equity Commission.
It is a fundamental principle of democracy and human rights. Women's rights are human rights. Given the legacy of colonialism of a special type and apartheid, we have a lot of work to do to improve the living of conditions of millions of our people, especially women. We know that it will take years if not decades to completely eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment, but we will soldier on to achieve this goal of the founding mothers and fathers of our struggle for freedom. We will soldier on because we can see results.
We are happy to have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing the number of people living on less than one US dollar a day. Most of the achievements in reducing extreme levels of income poverty can be ascribed to government's comprehensive social protection programme. This includes extensive income support programmes, access to free education and primary health care for the poorest and the provision of free basic services to indigent members of our society.
With regards to expanding basic services, the electrification programme has been a great success. In 1994, only 30% of South African households had access to electricity. To date, Eskom has connected over four million households to the national electricity grid since 1994. In rural areas, electrification has increased from 12% in 1994 to almost 60% currently. In addition, close to 450 000 people were supplied with basic water supply between April and December 2011.
We are also making real progress on improving women's access to health care services. We have aggressively implemented new policies to increase universal access to free antiretroviral treatment to ensure that HIV positive people live full productive lives. Treatment is made available to HIV positive pregnant women, babies born to mothers who are HIV positive as well as everyone with a CD4 count of less or equal to 350. Our objective is to increase access to anti-retrorival drugs to 2, 5 million South Africans by 2014.
We are also celebrating the fact that the transmission of HIV from mother to child has dropped from 8% in 2008 to 2.7 per cent in 2011. We congratulate and thank all women and health professionals for making this programme such a phenomenal success. We are also delighted with the results of the third South African National HIV Communication Survey on HIV Counseling and Testing. The survey shows that the percentage of people ever tested for HIV increased from 55% in 2009 to 64% in 2012, for a total of 17.4 million people. Our priority health programmes also include increasing life expectancy, and in particular the reduction and ultimate eradication of mother and child mortality.
South Africa has adopted the African Union's Campaign to Accelerate the Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa and we are determined to achieve good results to protect the lives of women and children. With regards to safety and security, since 1994, our Government has been working tirelessly to eradicate violence against women and children. The enactment of the Domestic Violence Act was an important milestone. We urge women to use this law to protect themselves.
We urge communities to help government to eradicate violence against women through reporting such crimes. Domestic violence in particular should not be treated as a private matter. It is a crime and must be reported to the police. As a nation we must unite against all hooligans who attack and sexually assault women and girls. The recent reported rape of a woman aged 94 years of age, who is the same age as our own Madiba, depicts a sickness in our society that must be nipped in the bud. Women must be free to walk anywhere, day or night, without fearing attacks. The police stand ready to deal with such criminals.
We will continue supporting programmes such as the Thuthuzela Care Centres to reduce secondary victimisation and to improve conviction rates. Women have raised the need to conscientise and train officials in the coalface of helping women access justice. In this regard, we have trained 180 prosecutors on the comprehensive manual on child maintenance matters to improve access to maintenance payments to support children. In addition, a total of 349 prosecutors have been trained to implement the new Child Justice Act, and 102 were trained on the domestic violence law, and 79 to manage on human trafficking cases.
Government has also set up a task team to investigate the revival of sexual offences courts, which recorded impressive conviction rates in certain parts of the country in the past. There are other measures that will yield positive results. Key amongst these is the re-introduction of the family violence, child protection and sexual offences units within the police service. Another positive development is the approval of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, which will yield concrete results against such crimes. Most importantly, communities and all of us must support families and women who are victims of domestic violence. We must also support families of missing women.
We had such a sad case with the late Constable Francis Rasuge of Pretoria who went missing for years until her remains were found. I also wish to highlight the case of Miss Nandi Mbizane, who lived in Centurion in Pretoria who disappeared on the 4th of March 2012. Law enforcement agencies are doing their best to solve the case. We are aware that there are a number of similar cases that we may not know about. Our thoughts are with all affected families.
Government working alone will not be able to eradicate violence against women and children or women and child abuse. We are therefore pleased to work with projects such as Brothers for Life, as well as established civil society organisations such as Soul City and the Sonke Gender Justice. These organisations remind us that men have an important role to play in combating violence against women and children. We congratulate them for promoting the participation of men so positively.
Our ultimate goal is to build a society where women can be free from violence and from conditions that hold them back from achieving their full potential. Let me emphasise that in all we are doing as government, we are building a society in which we must work together to solve problems. We are building a society where we do not just ask what government can do, and or complain about what government has not done yet. We must build a society in which we all pull together to tackle challenges.
South Africa is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of promoting universal access to education. The number of girls attending primary, secondary and tertiary education has improved significantly. This is important because education is central to development and can serve as a catalyst to address gender disparities. Moreover, education is the primary vehicle by which vulnerable children can lift themselves out of poverty, as President Nelson Mandela once told us.
There are some serious difficulties in education delivery in provinces such as Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. The national government has intervened to assist in restoring quality learning and teaching. We will do our best, working with communities, to reverse current difficulties and deliver quality education in these provinces. We are encouraged by the steady increase in female enrolment and graduation in higher education, especially in the field of science, engineering and technology.
The number of black female graduates with doctoral degrees in Science and Technology increased from 38, 8% in 2002 to 44, 7% in 2008. This is a good trend, as we want women to venture into these new fields, beyond what is considered traditionally female fields. We cannot complete the emancipation of women, without promoting economic emancipation. We encourage women to play a meaningful and direct role in key industrial sectors as articulated in the Industrial Policy Action Plan.
The sectors include chemicals, advanced manufacturing, green energy, agro processing, metals, and the automotive sectors. We also have a number of programmes as vehicles of supporting women-led and women-owned enterprises, run by the Department of Trade and Industry amongst others. These include the Isivande Women's Fund which provides finance, targeting registered enterprises which are at least 60% women owned.
The Bavumile Skills Development Initiative identifies talent in the arts, crafts, textiles and clothing sectors among women enterprises. Its main objective is to improve the quality of products produced by women enterprises and cooperatives to ensure their market readiness. The Technology for Women in Business programme rewards with annual awards, women enterprises that use technology to grow their businesses. We congratulate the 2011 winner, Dr Moretlo Molefi, who pioneered a product in telemedicine.
Government also runs the Techno Girl Programme which encourages girls to choose careers in engineering, science and technology. A total of 100 girls per province participate. We also have programmes promoting women in farming and women in construction. The ultimate goal is to enable women to contribute to economic growth, job creation and the fight against poverty and inequality.
The country has to promote women's emancipation in a comprehensive manner, and should also include sports and recreation. Firstly, let me congratulate all South African athletes competing in the Olympics Games currently underway in London. Let me congratulate and welcome back home, the South African Olympics swimming team that arrived back this morning.
Together with the conquering rowing team, they have presented South Africa as a winning and shining nation on the world stage.
This year, our qualification standards for the Olympics were set a bar higher than the previous years to ensure that the team brings back home more medals than was the case in Beijing in 2008.We are truly proud of the achievements, but we need more medals. The instruction was that they should come home with 12 medals. We wait in anticipation and know that they will continue doing their very best for this beautiful country.
We have seen developments during the Olympics that we can improve on especially regarding women in sport. We have seen earlier on, in the qualifier championships that our women's teams led the pack with Banyana Banyana and the national Women's Hockey team, the Smoothies, qualifying for the Olympics. This happened despite the skewed resourcing of these women's teams, in comparison to their male counter parts.
We know how best these teams can do with more support from all of us and we must all play our part, government and the private sector, to build a winning sporting nation. We have also decided to formalize and professionalise netball, which is the most popular women's sport in South Africa.
Working in cooperation with Netball SA, government will now host an annual four-nation netball tournament, called the Netball Diamond Challenge. Participating countries will be South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania and Malawi. The tournament will begin on the 11th of August, and will run until the 18th of this month, in Johannesburg and Cape Town. To further increase the pool of netball players to be available for selection to the Protea team, we will launch a full professional netball league from April 2013.
If we succeed in these programmes as we intend to, we will not only improve the sport and our competitiveness. We will also empower many more young and active women socially and economically, and create more positive role models for our children. The Department of Sport and Recreation will host a National Women and Sport Indaba later in the year to discuss how to develop women in sport further, building on these lessons and current programmes.
It has been a long road since Charlotte Maxeke's first anti-pass march in 1913, followed by many women's campaigns until 1994. We have made substantial progress. We know too, that there is a lot more that we must do working together as government and the people of South Africa. As our late stalwart Mme Helen Joseph outlined years back, progress has indeed been made.
She said; "I … don't doubt for a moment that the revolution will result in a non-racial society. I have just come from being a patient in Groote Schuur Hospital where they now have integrated wards. For the first time in my life, I have seen it working. The patients were mixed, the staff was mixed, and the medical officers were mixed; it was totally integrated. It was beautiful. White and black together. And it works. To me that is terribly exciting".
In addition, we know that all of it will work because of the participation of women. We were told thus by our late stalwart and mother, Albertina Sisulu. She said in 1987; "Women are the people who are going to relieve us from all this oppression and depression. The rent boycott that is happening in Soweto now is alive because of the women. It is the women who are on the street committees educating the people to stand up and protect each other".
We praise the name of South African women from all walks of life.
This is an edited extract of the address by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the celebration of National Women's Day.
The Women's Liberation Struggle
As we celebrate the centenary of the African National Congress since its formation in 1912, we have been looking back and honouring the past presidents of our movement, however we can't forget the enormous contribution made by the courageous women of struggle and the fight for gender equality which continues even today. The mere fact that all of those past presidents were men indicates the challenges for equality faced by women.
Even within the ANC when the organisation was first established women were not allowed to be members, they had to be satisfied playing a background role, serving tea at meetings instead of actively taking part. This demonstrates the enormous leaps and bound women have made in progressing to where we are today. However it hasn't been an easy journey.
It is this struggle for equal rights within the greater struggle against Apartheid that makes the contribution of women like Charlotte Maxeke so much more remarkable. But just because women weren't properly organised a century ago or recognized by the movement does not mean they stood idly by doing nothing about the injustices they faced.
Just a year after the establishment of the Africa National Congress, women began to organise themselves, despite not being allowed to be members of the ANC they held the first protest against the oppressive pass laws in Bloemfontein. This was the real start of the women's struggle in South Africa and the first protest organised by black women, influenced largely by a young and vibrant Charlotte Maxeke.
The women's struggle largely centred around the pass laws which regulated the independence and freedom of movement of black women, and made them easy targets for victimisation by police and other law enforcement officials. 5000 women signed a petition and handed it over to the Minister of Finance in the then Orange Free State province. It was women in Bloemfontein who started the Orange Free State Native and coloured Women's Organisation and the beginning of the resistance to pass laws.
The women of this country are known to have an amazing ability to mobilise and unite for common cause, it could be the result of the protective instinct women have for their families that spur them into action when faced with injustice and persecution. This is where the strength of our women in the struggle emanates from the ability to be unified in large numbers. The women of Bloemfontein won this battle and after years of militant persistence, they were excluded from the restrictions imposed on male migrant workers in the 1923 Native (urban areas) Act.
In 1931 the Bantu Women's League was formed and the same remarkable woman, Charlotte Maxeke, was their first President. She was a visionary, ahead of her time and was no ordinary lady, she was the first black South African women to graduate with a degree and had a passion for tackling the social injustices affecting women. She was also an advocate for social cohesion and got women of other races involved in the fight against unjust laws and the ongoing oppression of women.
Women continued to actively mobilise but it was only after 30 years in 1943 that they were officially allowed being active members of the ANC, and the ANC Women's League (ANCWL) was formed in 1948. But the men of the organisation still saw women as inferior using women mainly for catering and mobilisation. This didn't deter women and the main issues they focused on were pass laws, the bantu education system and the elimination of beer halls.
It was during the 1950's were the women's struggle gained momentum. The National Party government spurred the wroth of women in 1952 when again pass laws were enforced to effect the movement of women in urban areas. Women realised the need to engage and work with women outside of the ANCWL, they formed valuable alliances with women from the trade unions and other political organisations. Out of this the Federation of South African Women (FSAW) was born.
The women's umbrella body type organisation focused largely on women's issues with the objective of improving the quality of life for women. At FSAW's founding conference in 1954 the Women's Charter was drawn up, which is still used as a reference document for gender issues today. The Women's Charter was an extremely progressive document that demanded equal rights for women and challenged gender stereotypes. This document was presented to Verwoerd's government by a delegation of women.
A major gain for gender equality was when in 1955, when at the Congress of the People in Kliptown, FSAW was given equal participation rights as other male dominated organisations and was integral in drawing up the freedom charter. 56 years ago on 9 August 1956, after months, some say even years of preparation and build up, the women of South Africa, this included blacks, whites, coloureds and Indians, joined forces and marched on the union buildings this was the biggest mobilisation of women in South Africa.
Around 20 000 women joined this anti-pass march and this was the point when women decisively began to change the political landscape of the country. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication by some of the great women of the ANCWL, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Dorothy Nyembe, Sophie du Bruyn, Ray Alexander and Rahima Moosa, just to name a few. It was in this year as well that the men in the ANC noted the potential of women in the struggle and Lilian Ngoyi, then President of the ANCWL, became the first women to sit on the ANC NEC, making her not only a leader of women but a leader of the people.
She was a women who can still be looked up to as a role model and an inspiration to continue the women's liberation movement which is far from over. Despite being a black women, suffering under triple oppression, she was at the forefront of the revolutionary struggle and had thousands of followers in the African National Congress. Ngoyi also understood the importance of gaining international support to oppose the Apartheid regime and travelled extensively to tell of the atrocities being committed at home by the then government.
She was also able to convincingly explain the progressive policies of the ANC to an international audience and assisted greatly in the international democratic movement. For her outspoken enthusiasm and defiance of Apartheid Lilian Ngoyi had her fair share of persecution. She was arrested and charged with high treason along with 155 other comrades at the end of 1956 and was subjected to various types of bannings and house arrests, but it never stopped her dedication to the fight for what she believed in.
However even though women had gained some ground among men, they were still, for the most part seen as weak and dependent on men, their traditional role was still seen as being at home, looking after children which hampered their participation in the ANC. The struggle for gender equality took a back seat to the struggle against the evil apartheid system. Apartheid was never viewed as separate to the issues of women, but surpassed them and women were extremely active in their role in the struggle. The banning of the ANC and the ANCWL in 1960 forced women to work underground to further the struggle. This development seriously hampered the integration of women into the leadership of the ANC.
The women's struggle was consumed by the struggle for the freedom of the South African people. However in 1984 another major gain was achieved through the influence of our women. The ANC accepted the attribute "non-sexist" into its constitution for its vision for a new South Africa. Thus establishing the ANC as a non-sexist organisation and non-sexism itself as a pillar of the ANC. After the unbanning of political organisations the ANCWL was re-launched, once this happened a major concern of the ANCWL was to commit the mother body to the emancipation of women and have this reflected in leadership positions within the ANC and have women treated as equals. Women had faced a triple oppression of race, class and sex. With the dissolution of apartheid it gave women the opportunity to focus on the gender struggle directly.
In 1991 women were dealt a major blow when patriarchy within the ANC resulted in the rejection of the ANCWL proposal for a quota system within the ANC NEC. But this sent women back to the drawing board and during the 90's the focus for women was gaining recognition as equals, a fight that still continues today. After the dawn of democracy and the creation of our constitution and laws, women have made many gains. We have one of the most gender sensitive, liberal constitutions in the world. Women have also been integral in the development of laws that protect the rights of women and children such as the anti-domestic violence act, and laws that pertain to sexual offenses and the protection of children.
At the 2007 ANC conference in Polokwane women fought for 50-50 gender parity on all ANC Structures and this time the position of women was adopted by the conference. The conference also agreed to the establishment of a Women's ministry. Today we see women sitting in key positions in Government, and a woman is the chairperson of the ANC. Last month we saw a South African women being elected as the first female chair of the African Union Commission. As women we have been on a long and arduous journey to achieve what we have today, and now as women we find ourselves celebrating the centenary of the ANC.
It took 35 years before women were accepted as full members of the ANC, and it took 56 years before a female took up a position on the NEC, it took us again 95 years to achieve 50 - 50 gender representation. In the years of the struggle before 1994 women were focused on over coming racial oppression rather than prioritising women, despite women's own plight they were actively involved in the liberation struggles. We have equal rights written in the constitution protecting women but women continue to be burdened by the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality. Now women face new challenges going forward and the economic transformation of women was a priority highlighted in the gender commission of the ANC policy conference.
The enemy is no longer the Apartheid system; the new enemy affecting women is gender-based violence such as rape and domestic violence which plague our society, this is not a women's issue but something all South Africans need to work together towards in order to emancipate women fully. Despite our progressive laws everyday women still suffer under a patriarchal system where men dominate and believe they are better than women.
The past 100 years have seen much progress but the struggle for a truly non-sexist society and gender equality at every sphere of that society continues...
Troy Martens is the spokesperson of the ANC Womens League.
Women are a force to be reckonned with
8 August 2012
ANC Women's League at Congress
It has been a remarkable 56 years since the women of this country made, possibly the boldest stand against the oppressive Apartheid government at the time. Over 20 thousand women from different race groups mostly from the ANCWL, descended upon the whites only Union Buildings in Pretoria to deliver a memorandum, opposing the pass laws which prevented women from moving freely in urban areas. This critically changed the political landscape at the time and established the women of South Africa as a force to be reckoned with.
It has been 56 years since that bitterly cold Thursday of 1956, but that cold did not deter the strong will of the women who wanted to change their political, social and economic standing in society. Ma Sophy de Bruin, who was among the four brave women leading the march said the elements will be as they were that Thursday, this women’s day which coincidentally also fell on a bitterly cold Thursday.
Today -partly in thanks to those 20 000 women who braved not only the cold, but also the very real threat of persecution - we live in a very different South Africa. They have left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten by our daughters and their daughter’s daughters.
As modern women, living in a new South Africa it is time to take the lead from those brave women and forge our own legacy the one we want to leave behind for generations to come. We have gained so much with democracy; women are seen as having equal rights to men in every respect. We have progressive laws that enable women to achieve much, we have 50% gender parity on ANC / Government structures and have celebrated the establishment of a women’s ministry. However this is not the time to sit back, fold our arms and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. The struggle for a truly non-sexist society continues.
Patriarchy still plagues this society threatening to undermine the huge gains we have made as women. These gains and equalities need to go beyond the paper they are printed on and filter down to women on the ground. Women are still the victims of rampant domestic and sexual abuse which is perpetrated in the main by men who feel they are superior to the women they inflict these crimes upon. Our courts are overflowing with these violations of the laws and policies our forbearers instituted, and our law enforcement agencies are burdened with having to track down those responsible for this social ill that should be totally eradicated. Women still live under the triple oppression of poverty, inequality and unemployment. While women have made many gains we are not seeing enough women actively participating in the economy and they occupy few of the key strategic positions in industry. Women make up the majority of the population and we need to start seeing the real reflection of that in all spheres of society. Young women and girls need to ensure that they go to school and educate themselves so that we can carve a future and contribute to a South Africa we can all be proud of leaving behind. Women have been liberated from the constraints of political oppression but going forward we need to be free of social and economic oppression in a truly non-sexist South Africa.
It is with this in mind that the ANC Women’s League will be joining women from all walks of life to celebrate 56 years since the historic 1956 women’s march.
As the only remaining leader of the four Women who lead the Women’s march of 56 ma Sophy de Bruin, still an active ANCWL NEC member, passes on this simple message to the young people of today, “Build upon what was prepared for you 56 years ago, “reach for the sky” is no long enough to just dream about, for you it is now possible to reach and go beyond. Happy Women’s day”.
Details For Women’s Day Celebrations.
Date: 8 – 9 August 2012
Time: 18h00 – 06h00
Venue: Tshwane City Hall
Women’s March Led By Ma Sophy De Bruin
Date: 9th August 2012
Time: 09h30 – 11h00
Venue: Tshwane, Lilian Ngoyi Square To Union Buildings
Formal Women’s Day Programme Including Address By President Jacob Zuma
Date: 9TH August 2012
Venue: Tshwane, Union Buildings
For media accreditation, please contact Tumelo Taunyane with the names and ID numbers of those needing accreditation, send details to email@example.com accreditation can be picked up in the morning of the event.
Issued By: Troy Martens on behalf of the ANCWL
ANC Women’s League National Spokeswoman
Contact: 078 120 9880
ANC Women`s League National Spokesperson
078 120 9880
011 376 1055