Speech by Mastorey Morutoa on the detabe on International Women\'s Day

8 March 2007

Madam Speaker

Madam Deputy Speaker

Hon President

Hon Deputy President

Hon. Ministers and Deputy Minister

Hon. Members of Parliament

All extinguished guest present in national gallery

International Women\'s Day

Historical background

It is an annual day for recognition of and struggle for women\'s economic, social and political rights, opportunities for awakening self-consciousness among women workers, and for the unity of the working class.

Women\'s Day emerged out of the simultaneously growing worker\'s and women\'s rights movements during the rapidly industrialising period of the early 20th century. In United States in 1908, the Socialist Party\'s newly formed Woman\'s National Committee, responded by calling for the Party to designate a day each year to campaign for women\'s suffrage.

International Women\'s Day is an important occasion for women all over the world. It is not only an occasion for women from all continents to celebrate our triumphs and achievements, but to take stock of what still needs to be done.

In South Africa we also have a lot to celebrate. During the brutal years of Apartheid women were at the forefront of the battles against that dreaded system of systematic oppression. Our history is filled with the stories of the heroic deeds carried out by patriotic South African women who were not prepared to heed to the yoke of Apartheid.

Women in urban and rural areas, black and white, rich and poor, the religious and non-religious, stood together side by side, to fight and emphatically defeat Apartheid.

The struggle for women\'s emancipation in South Africa is as old as the struggle itself. In the first instance, it is worth noting that women played a central role in production (and reproduction) during the pre-colonial era.

As a response to increased attempts of apartheid government to enforce a systematic control of movement through pass laws, women stood up against Prime Minister Strydom and organized a massive anti-pass march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on August 9th 1956.

Two years before the historic women\'s march, the first women\'s charter was adopted at the founding conference of the Federation of South African Women in the same year that Bantu education minister Hendrik Verwoerd enforced a separate and unequal education system for African children.

Way before the advent of feminism in the West in the 60s and 70s, South African women started a movement that situated women\'s emancipation within the context of a broader liberation struggle. At its core, the Women\'s Charter denounced and challenged a struggle for liberation that benefits only one section of the society.

Since 1994 South African women have achieved many milestones. These include one among the highest proportions of women parliamentary representativity in the Continent, a constitution that guarantees the right of women to dignity, protection and access to opportunities. Many women have made their mark in the political and business arena. We have a woman deputy president, two women speakers of parliament and a record 12 Ministers in our national cabinet.

Madam Speaker,

South Africa performed very well in respect of the indicators mentioned in the gender and millinium and development goals, to which our government has subscribed.

The third MDG presribed indicators are:

  • Indicators 9: Ratio of girl to boys in primary, secondary and teritary education
  • Indicator 10: Ratio of literate females to males of 15-24 years old
  • Indicator 11: Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
  • Indicator 12: Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament

Despite the fact that we have performed very well on the MGD\'s specified indicators, I want to point to a few achievements as well as areas that still need attention.

Women and Poverty

More than 1 billion people in the world today, the great majority of who are women, live in unacceptable conditions of poverty, mostly in the developing countries. Poverty has various causes, including structural ones.

Poverty is a complex, multidimensional problem, with origins in both the national and international domains.

The globalisation of the world\'s economy and the deepening interdependence among nations present challenges and opportunities for sustained economic growth and development, as well as risks and uncertainties for the future of the world economy.

The gender disparities in economic power sharing are also an important contributing factor to the poverty of women.

Migration and consequent changes in family structures have placed additional burdens on women, especially those who provide for several dependants. Macroeconomic policies need rethinking and reformulation to address such trends. These policies focus almost exclusively on the formal sector. They also tend to impede the initiatives of women and fail to consider the differential impact on women and men.

While poverty affects households as a whole, because of the gender division of labour and responsibilities for household welfare, women bear a disproportionate burden, attempting to manage household consumption and production under conditions of increasing scarcity. Poverty is particularly acute for women living in rural households.

Women\'s poverty is directly related to the absence of economic opportunities and autonomy, lack of access to economic resources, including credit, land ownership and inheritance, lack of access to education and support services and their minimal participation in the decision-making process. Poverty can also force women into situations in which they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

Gender Mainstreaming

It is a globally accepted strategy for promoting gender equality. Mainstreaming is not an end in itself but a strategy, an approach, a means to achieve the goal of gender equality.

Mainstreaming involves ensuring that gender perspectives and attention to the goal of gender equality are central to all activities - policy development, research, advocacy/ dialogue, legislation, resource allocation, and planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes and projects.

Pertaining, to gender mainstreaming in business. In the next five years, as it embarks on its R84bn infrastructure programme, power utility Eskom has to appoint two new staff every working day - and it is adamant that one of them will be a black woman.

The need to recruit 5 000 skilled employees will impose unique challenges even for Eskom, widely acknowledged as SA\'s most empowered company. Having launched an affirmative action and employment equity drive in the early 1990s - well before it became a moral and regulatory imperative - Eskom is in a better position than most to meet the skills crunch head-on, while retaining its empowerment momentum.

The SOE\'s have been tasked with spending more than half of the R400bn government is setting aside to improve public infrastructure over the next few years. However, in this Endeavor they have to contend with shortages in key skill categories, particularly engineering, technical and project management skills.

The sharp decline in technical and artisan skills in SA over the past decade is hurting the private sector as well, but the damage is more severe at SOEs, where more aggressive employment equity policies have led to an exodus of skilled and experienced white staff.

Results of the 2006 South African Women in Corporate Leadership census reveal that, while the number of women in top leadership positions is growing, there are signs that the momentum is slowing down on some fronts.

Madam Speaker,

Women in South Africa are moving from all dimensions, we have recently launched the Progressive Women\'s Movement of South Africa.

This empowers women to dialogue more on issues pertaining the improvement of their lives. The other convenient platform for women to dialogue on gender mainstreaming issues is the South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID).

From the 28th to the 30th of January 2006, women of South Africa, representing mainly NGO\'s from all nine provinces, gathered to participate as members of civil society in the African Peer Review Mechanism, a system created by the African Union to encourage African Countries to improve their governance, and to provide a mechanism for monitoring the political and developmental issues on the African Continent.

Women presented the following recommendations;

  • They identified an urgent need to build the leadership capacity of women.
  • To harmonise traditional and informal systems of governance.
  • To establish a national coordination.
  • Monitoring and evaluation mechanism.
  • To strengthen the relationship between government and civil society.
  • They also urged the protection of women\'s mental, sexual and bodily integrity at home, work and in public places.

The convenors had been inspired by the outcomes of a Peace and Reconciliation Dialogue with women from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). During three national conferences, South African women, united in their diversity, came together to agree on a Plan of Action for the development of their communities and to find ways to engage with their sisters in South Africa and on the continent on similar issues. In addition to the Peace Dialogue with women from the Democratic Republic of the Congo hosted, a further Peace Dialogue took place with Women from Burundi.

Trafficking in Women

The trafficking of women and girls has emerged as a serious form of violence against women and girl children in recent years. Populations vulnerable to trafficking are growing in Africa, which increases the supply of potential victims for traffickers and the potential deleterious effects on all segments of African society. The victims may be economic migrants, political asylum seekers, those rendered homeless or jobless after natural disasters or civil conflict, or individuals looking for a better way of life.

Civil conflict, political instability, famine, HIV/AIDS and economic stagnation mean the number of individuals; particularly women and girl children, in desperate situations are growing. Civil conflicts and HIV/AIDS are dramatically increasing the number of orphans and child-headed households in Africa. In eastern and southern Africa, the dramatic rise in households headed by children may create fertile ground for traffickers.

In 2000, Nations of the world, realising that the majority of the people on our planet are poor and yet there exist in the same planet, enough resources to ensure that no child goes hungry, goes without access to health care, to education and to shelter amongst other things, they adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Sixteen Days of Activism - [365 Days of Action to end Gender Violence]

Gender equality and women\'s rights have been championed at the highest level since the advent of democracy in 1994. Several progressive steps have been taken to end gender violence. These include: comprehensive legislation; specialised services; institutional mechanisms; and public awareness initiatives. Each year the Sixteen Days of Activism presents an opportunity to heighten awareness; renew commitments to ending all forms of violence and cement partnerships between civil society, government, the private sector and development partners.

During the 2004 Campaign, President Thabo Mbeki reiterated that the Campaign should be extended to include a programme of 365 days of action against gender-based violence. The 16 Days of Activism Campaign will have strong linkages with the 365 Days of Action initiative.

The 365 Days of Action to End Gender Violence South Africans from all walks of life gathered in a conference from 3rd to 5th May, to sign a declaration and develop a framework towards a national action plan to end gender violence and child directed violence. This conference emanated from an identified national need to make the 16 Days of Activism Campaign a yearlong initiative and was hosted under the theme of "365 Days of Action to End Gender Violence.

In conclusion, Madam Speaker

We find it ludicrous to have some males who behave like the policemen in Mpumalanga who decided to have a female prisoner detained in a male cell, as a result to that this women was gang raped in the process.

We don\'t condone the fact that the women was found to have exceeded the limit of alcohol consumption, but this does not justify the fact that SAPS is one of the critical stakeholders that plays a major role in the implementation of laws that are passed by Parliament to promote the rights of women and in this case one of its officials who should be enforcing these laws violated this women\'s rights.

We urge all stakeholders whom are suppose to implement laws that are meant to emancipate women to walk the talk. I thank you!