Address by the Minister of Women, the hon B Dlamini (MP) on the State of the Nation (SONA) debate in the National Assembly

13 February

Honourable Speaker;
Honourable President of the Republic of South Africa Mr Cyril Ramaphosa
Honourable Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa Mr David Mabuza
Honourable Ministers
Deputy Ministers
Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow South Africans

Honourable Speaker,

I stand here today representing the interests of fifty one percent of the population of South Africa. The struggles waged by women over centuries have ensured that we have made important strides towards our national goal of a non-sexist society.

South Africa`s democracy is founded on the Constitution which gives the three arms of the State: the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature the power to eradicate patriarchy. We have Chapter 9 institutions that were established to protect human and women`s rights. We have a vibrant civil society that ensures gender equality principles are mainstreamed in all institutions.

It is the struggles and suffering of women led by Charlotte Maxeke, Mama Albertina Sisulu, Sophie de Bruyn, Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Phila Ndwandwe, Nomkhosi Mini, Dulcie September, Cecilie Palmer and many others that ushered in the rights and freedoms for women that are in our Constitution. This freedom not only benefitted the millions of Black women but also White Afrikaner and English speaking women, and LGBTQIA+ Communities.

What did the ANC-led Government inherit in 1994?

Madam Speaker, Women were systematically excluded from the social, political and economic spheres under a racist, sexist and violent Apartheid regime. Women`s lived experiences differed according to race, geography, economic status and educational levels.

As women we have made significant strides in ensuring that we are better represented and have a VOICE in parliament, in the judiciary, in cabinet, in the public service, and in society at large. The percentage of women in cabinet increased from 11% in 1994 to 48% in 2018.

Women`s representation in parliament increased from 28% to 42%.

The number of women in senior management in the public service increased from 5% in 1994 to 42% in 2018.

These are our achievements as the ANC-led government which have seen to South Africa`s improvement on the global gender inequality index. We have made important advances in improving women`s access to quality healthcare, quality education, skills development, and the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Our social protection system has a direct impact in alleviating the poverty facing women and girls. This shows our commitment to building an inclusive and caring society based on social solidarity and social justice.

The rights of women workers have been entrenched through progressive labour laws introduced by the ANC government over the past 25 years. This includes the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Employment Equity Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act, and the National Minimum Wage Act.

Madam Speaker,

Women continue to face a deeply entrenched system of institutionalised patriarchy. This is defended and reinforced by the justice system, our political parties, our education system, our families, the media and our religious systems.

Among the greatest challenges facing our society is the scourge of gender-based violence, which is deeply rooted in the colonial and apartheid past. South African society has declared a war against women.

Mr President, you have responded to the call for the fight against gender-based violence with your commitment to increase the budget for gender equality and women`s empowerment under the leadership of the Department of Women. This budget will enhance the rollout of Thuthuzela, Khuseleka and Kgomotso Care Centres, shelters for women, white and green door safehouses, and the National Gender-Based Violence Command Centre.

The Presidency continues to work with women from across all sectors to ensure that the resolutions of the Presidential Summit on Gender Based Violence and Femicide are implemented.

We are currently building a national multi-stakeholder Council which will be adequately funded. The composition of the Council will be representative of all South African women, and the LGBTQIA+ Community and will be governed by legislation.

The eradication of Gender-based violence requires a comprehensive and systematic response by all South Africans, by all sectors. Mr President, your exemplary leadership in the fight against gender-based violence must be emulated by other leaders in government, civil society and the private sector. Gender-Based Violence must become a household debate.

The police and the courts must be better capacitated and equipped to support victims and survivors of gender-based violence, to prevent secondary victimisation and to ensure justice is done.

We pay tribute to Cheryl Zondi and other young women for their bravery and courage in the face of a brutal and uncaring judicial procedure.

The live broadcast of the case against Omotoso has allowed citizens to witness what victims of sexual offences go through under cross examination. It presented an opportunity for us to revisit our court processes in order to protect women.

We welcome the appointment of the new National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Shamila Batohi. We remain confident that under her leadership the prosecution of sexual offences will place at the centre the needs of victims and survivors.

We support the recommendations of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities for a national audit and registration of all places of worship. The time is now for the total eradication of the abuse of women and children under the guise of religion.

Tomorrow is the 14th of February and we are reminded of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. We remember Karabo Mokoena, Zolile Khumalo, Susan Rohdes, and countless others who died at the hands of the people they loved.

In September 2018, Nicholas Ninow was arrested for the alleged rape of a 6-year old girl.

We stand by Criselda Dudumashe and Babes Wodumo and many other women who have been abused by their intimate partners.

The abuse of women - young and old, rich and poor, famous and not famous shows that violence against women and children cuts across all race and class groups.

We fully support women who are incarcerated for killing their partners defending themselves against gender violence.

It is for this reason that women need to stand together on a single platform of action to fight violence against women and children.

We urge women to heed the call of the #365Days #HearMeToo Campaigns by participating in the gender-based violence hearings that will be launched in March.

We are aware and understand the challenges of mental health faced by young women. Women such as Khensani Maseko find themselves making the choice of taking their own lives rather than having to face their rapists and re-live the trauma in their homes and places of learning that protects rapists every day.

We call on Traditional Leaders to work with Government to eliminate child marriages, Ukuthwala, Ukuhlolwa, and other harmful practices affecting women and girls.

President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the GBV Robot on Women`s Day, 9th of August 2018 as part of the campaign to mobilise women to take precautionary measures, seek help and to walk away from abusive relationships. To amplify the campaign, the department launched the Men`s Robot as well as the Children`s Robot.

Madam Speaker,

Government is already responding to the cries of young women in our country on the provision of sanitary dignity products. The Department of Women will in 2019/20 lead the coordination of the nationwide rollout of the sanitary dignity programme in selected quintile 1-3 schools.

We thank the women who raised their voices and fought for these gains. We will launch the programme on 28 February in Mpumalanga.

Youth and women cooperatives are to be involved in procurement, manufacturing, storage, distribution and waste management in the sanitary dignity programme.

We have relaunched the National Gender Machinery, working with civil society. The National Gender Machinery is critical to achieving our gender equality goals. Every government department, the Offices of Premiers, and Mayor`s Offices must have a Gender Focal Point. This must be at a minimum level of a Chief Director and located at a strategic decision-making level to drive the gender agenda.

Working together with the National Youth Development Agency, we are preparing for the Young Women`s Assembly to ensure that young women`s voices are well represented within the National Gender Machinery.

We have developed a framework on gender-responsive planning, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and auditing. This will ensure that quality indicators and targets are included in all government plans to show what each department will do for women empowerment and gender equality.

President Ramaphosa appointed the Gender Advisory Committee that will monitor the progress all sectors of society are making to improve the quality of lives of women. Under the leadership of Professor Vivienne Taylor, who is also a member of the National Planning Commission will review progress made over the past 25 years, and the challenges that persist.

Madam Speaker, looking forward:

Our interventions on women`s economic development must provide African women with access to sustainable capital; lower barriers to entry for women in asset management, invest in micro-enterprise cooperatives, especially women involved at grass-roots levels, to raise them from the bottom of the economic pyramid. Government must provide technical assistance and incubator programmes to ensure scalability of businesses.

We must strengthen our relationship with the LGBTQIA+ Communities. We must ensure that they are not marginalised, ostracised and killed by society. We commit to fight all forms of corrective rape.

The President has taken bold steps towards growing the economy and creation of jobs. The Presidential Jobs Summit, the Investment Summit, the Stimulus Package, the Infrastructure Fund and the Public-Private Growth Initiative are some of the main drivers of this agenda the President has outlined. The ANC Government is resolute in the inclusion of women in all these initiatives and ensuring that women benefit in all strata. We will introduce legislation that will ensure adherence and compliance to gender equality and women`s empowerment, across institutions of the state and in the private sector. Women must benefit from government`s commitment to preferential procurement, with budget set asides. This must be explicitly addressed in the Public Procurement Bill.

We will recognise and reduce the burden of women`s unpaid labour, including care work. Women`s unpaid labour and care work must be measured and included in the Gross Domestic Product. Government must start working towards paying women for care work. There must be equal pay for work of equal value. We will ensure women`s access to more productive land. Land expropriation without compensation must benefit women.

We must continue to bridge the digital divide, reduce the cost of data, and improve ICT Infrastructure in rural areas to ensure that women and girls are not left behind by the 4th Industrial Revolution. We must expand access to Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Innovation by women and girls.

In Conclusion

Madam Speaker,The ANC has consistently placed the rights and freedoms of women high on the national agenda.

We therefore call upon all women of South Africa to make a wise choice on the 8th of May 2019 and vote ANC.

I thank you