Pretoria: The struggle for gender equality and women emancipation is far from over, says International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
The minister addressed a gathering marking the 51st anniversary of the Pan African Women Organisation (PAWO) in Pretoria on Friday.
“Today, as we are gathered here, we are renewing the support to all African women who are at the forefront of building a continent where a girl child will no longer be seen as a liability but rather an asset in building a caring, successful and compassionate society,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.
Critically, she said, the integration of PAWO into the African Union as a regional body will unlock the current operational challenges, and unleash the greater role PAWO can play in changing the political landscape of women in the continent.
PAWO was formed in 1962 in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, to champion the rights of women in the continent.
Today, Nkoana-Mashabane said the body needed to use various platforms to create awareness about women related initiatives of the AU.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that women across the length and breadth of the continent know and understand the true meaning of the AU Decade for Women, for example. If we drift from this responsibility, it will be difficult for us to deal with real issues facing women on the continent.”
Africans needed to ensure that women in the continent understood how this decade related to them at whatever socio-economic level of society. Until this trickled down to reach the ordinary women in many African societies, the desired vision of an African Renaissance would prove difficult to achieve.
Nkoana-Mashabane noted that the continent now had two Heads of State who were women — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Joyce Banda of Malawi. The Commission of the AU was also led by a woman — South Africa’s Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. SADC had just appointed a woman to the post of Executive Secretary.
“At national level, many of our countries have women elevated to positions of legislators and ministers. More and more women are beginning to climb up the executive ladder in the corporate sector.”
Internationally, a lot of work had been done to pursue the struggle for the rights of women in society, the economy, and in politics.
All these efforts were aimed at the elimination of all forms of exploitation and abuse of women in order to realise gender equality and the emancipation of women towards the attainment of peace, justice, prosperity and freedom in Africa, and the world over, added Nkoana-Mashabane.