Debate on “16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children: Enough is Enough – 365 Days to End Gender Based Violence” by Cde Teliswa Mgweba

 

3 December 2019

The debate on the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence on Women and Children follows the official launch of this campaign by the President few days ago in Lephalale, Limpopo. During this launch, the President alluded to the fact that the ‘crisis of violence against women and children is a great shame on our nation. It goes against our African values and everything we stand for as a people. We grew up knowing that men and boys respect women and protect children. Boys and men were taught to never, ever raise their hand against a woman. But that way seems to have been lost by some men in our society[1]
 

Again, this debate comes at the hills of the Joint Sitting called by the President in September following what he referred to as ‘a very violent and brutal war which is underway against the women of South Africa’.

 

The President further outlined that government has developed Emergency Action Plan to address the crisis of gender-based violence. He outlined five principal areas as measures to strengthen existing interventions as well as introducing new measures. Among these measures, is to improve the economic power of women in South Africa. 

 

Our participation in this debate will be focusing on the issue of women empowerment as one of the measures advanced by our government to bring about gender equality and participation in the economy. Our believe is that subjugation of women is rooted in socio-economic design of our societies, therefore if we are to fully ensure that women occupy their rightful place in society, at the centre of that must be economic empowerment of women.
 

The ANC has led South Africa in ensuring that the empowerment of women is brought to the centre of development. Therefore, women should be in the forefront and play important role, actively participate in influencing decisions and direction on women economic empowerment and radical socio –economic transformation of South Africa’s inclusive economy.

 

This assertion is in line with, what the Deputy Minister of Trade and industry, Ms Nomalungelo Gina said that” As women we need to take cognisance of our capabilities and positively contribute in building an inclusive economy for our country,”  

 

This assertion clearly demonstrates the need to mobilise and organise women for economic empowerment, as women’s equality and socio-economic independence are important for domestic development and growth, and are a vital part of sustained development and democracy.

 

However, the transformation of our economy has not been at a pace required to serve all people. Unemployment remains high, the country has high levels of income inequality.

 

In addition , the recent studies conducted by the B-BBEE Commission for 2017 and 2018 show that black women still occupy less managerial or executive positions compared to males and white people on the boards of entities listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), standing at 18% in 2017 and 21.63% in 2018, despite women being the majority in this country. Further, in terms of ownership, black women were sitting at about 9% in 2017 and 10.1% in 2018, which remains low considering the demographics. (ibid)

 

However, even, though the economic transformation remains sluggish, the ANC Government has made great strides in empowering women, and as such, since the advent of democracy, the ANC Government has made great improvement in changing the lives of women, by implementing policies and programmes that supports women economic and social development, as such  

  • Currently, women comprise 58% of all students enrolled at universities and colleges around the country,
  • Forty-seven per cent of MPs are women. 
  • This year, the ANC Government has achieved 50/50 gender parity among Cabinet Ministers for the first time[2]

However, the notwithstanding the successes outline above, there are still barriers to be overcome to ensure women empowerment, such as;

  • The most key barrier that hinders women economic empowerment is the lack of access to funding for small and medium size businesses, mainly those led by black women in general and African in particular, youth and people with disabilities
  • Skills development and business training
  • Problem of accessing markets for emerging farmers
  • Displacement of local, in particular township enterprises by big retail businesses
  • Access to land by rural, informal and urban communities

 

Thus the ANC has a plan which seeks to eradicate barriers that hinders women economic empowerment, which its Government is committed to accelerate and implemented at a faster pace, resolute to mobilise and unite women of our country and South Africans in general around the common challenges facing women in South Africa, especially persistent realities of unemployment, poverty and inequality, which impacts more on African rural women than their men counterpart.

 

This is alluded in the 2019 ANC January 8th statement that The ANC is forging ahead with plans to bring about a more inclusive economy. We will draw more women, more rural people and more youth into the economy through programmes that extend ownership to workers, through expanding access to digital skills training to young people, by developing and supporting technological and digital start-ups, and a more concerted focus on SMMEs, cooperatives and township and village enterprise’[3].

 

Transforming the economy to empower women

The ANC is of the view that the empowerment of women remains an important part of our employment equity and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment policies. And therefore, by working together with its social partners, we can be able to restore our economy and create economic opportunities, especially for women and youth. 

As such the ANC Government has set aside in the coming financial year, R124 million from the Social Relief of Distress programme, in order to buy goods and services from women and youth-owned cooperatives and small businesses. 

 

Over the last four years, state-owned companies had spent a total of R100bn on goods and services from women-owned businesses. And in the last year, state-owned companies had enrolled over 2,700 female students in training programmes to become artisans, technicians and engineers.

The ANC Government is committed to expand its work in special economic zones, by having specific programme to support women’s participation across the value chain, and bring more women into the Black Industrialists Programme. A programme, although only five years old, has already surpassed its five-year target for women entrepreneurs. It has approved R6.6bn for women-owned businesses against a target of R4.4bn.

Our government has scale-up small business support measures, including access to funding and set up incubation centres in townships and rural areas. Facilitated access to markets for small businesses, co-operatives and township and village enterprises. At least 30% of government procurement spend will be allocated to goods and services from these enterprises.

 

Government will help grow Small Enterprises, Co-Operatives and the Township and Village creation and innovation and encourage all forms of entrepreneurship.

 

One area in which the ANC can have the greatest impact on improving the lives of women, especially rural women, is in access to and ownership of land. The ANC must confront the issue that women are being denied the right to own land in the name of culture and tradition. 

 

The ANC therefore encourages women take note of the opportunities that its Government is availing to grow the inclusive economy to benefit all people, by

  1.  The ANC calls upon women to participate in the Black Industrialists Programme,
  2. Take advantage of support from other incentives programmes of the departments, such as the DTI.

 

 Education as a tool to empower women

The ANC is of the view that quality education must unlock the energy and creativity of South Africa’s young and working people, by building their skills and capacities, which is critical to the eradication of poverty, unemployment and inequality[4].

Moreover, the ANC Government is continuously opening up the doors of learning to all, by focusing on quality and innovation, equipping young South Africans for the world of tomorrow.

Through extending fee free higher education for the poor and ‘missing middle’, as well as initiating a mass apprenticeship programme across the economy.

The ANC urge Women to grab these opportunities as they empower themselves economically.

Moreover, the ANC commends the government initiatives geared at assisting women economic empowerment, below are some of the initiatives

 

·B'avumile Skills Development Initiative

·Technology for Women in Business (TWIB)

·South African Women Entrepreneurs' Network (SAWEN)

 

SAWEN aims to fast-track support provided to women in addressing challenges faced when establishing, strengthening and sustaining their enterprises.

 

Strengthening women solidarity

Women of our country should embrace the vision of the ANC, which is informed by the morality of caring and human solidarity…recognises the reality of unequal gender relations, and the fact that the majority of the poor are African women and the need for them to pursue gender equality in all practical respects[5].

 

Therefore, Women of our country have to unite first under common issues that are critical to women emancipation, to continuously take up issues that affect women in general, moreover, issues of rural women and the poor. Learn from the struggles of other women in other countries and linking up those struggles to their own. Take up joint national, regional and international campaigns to always put the agenda of women struggles in the open domain

 

Deepening gender equality in society

Since 1994, South Africa has made significant progress in putting in place a comprehensive and multidimensional legislative and Policy framework for advancing human rights, equality and the empowerment of women.

 

The ANC call upon on labour and civil society to deepen their activism to ensure that equal pay for equal work is enforced, moreover, that women are protected from sexual harassment and other discrimination in the workplace.

That women mobilise and organise themselves, become vocal and lead the agenda of equality and challenge all forms of discrimination, and super exploitation against women.

That men join women and fight side by side in confronting violence against women and children, to address cultural and religious practices that discriminate on women.
 

Conclusion

The ANC is of the view that there can be no true liberation of women unless they are economically empowered.  The ANC is making a clarion call to society and all social formations to join Government to address practically and seriously the issue of women economic empowerment, to ensure women are given meaningful opportunities in life. 

And furthermore, the ANC is calling upon the private sector to open up more spaces for women, especially young women entering the job market, emulate Government by getting rid of job experience requirement for new job seekers. 
 

Also call on the private sector to roll-out more training programmes, internships and mentorships, offer more bursaries to female students especially in critical skills needed by our economy.

 

I conclude by quoting Thomas Sankara when he said that ‘Emancipation, like freedom, is not granted, it is conquered. It is for women themselves to put forward their demands and mobilise to win them. In this, way, our revolution has not only laid out the goals to be attained in the struggle for women liberation but has also indicated the road to follow and the methods to use, as well as the main protagonists of this battle’[6].


[1] Ramaphosa, Launch of 16 Days, 2019

[2] Ramaphosa, National Women’s Day, 2019

[3] ANC January 8 Statement, 2019

[4] ANC Manifesto 2019

[5] Strategy and Tactics, 2007

[6] Thomas Sankara Speaks