JOHANNESBURG, Dec 15 — The Chairperson of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Baleka Mbete has urged women in South Africa to resist the erosion of their achievements such as gender equality and women empowerment and called on them to jealously guard the gains they have made in the fight for women empowerment.

Addressing the ANC Women’s League’s National Policy Conference in Boksburg near here Sunday in preparation for the ANC’s National General Council in 2015, Mbete warned that progress made to address inequality and protect women remained under threat.

The ANC Women’s League is trying to reclaim its space — as a powerful bloc which influences leadership positions and policy formulation.

“These achievements are continuously under threat. From time to time we hear some dissenting voice wanting to reverse some of the gains we achieved through women activism. We have to accelerate the eradication of the remnants of the historical injustices that are still prevalent in our society.” Mbete said.

“Women should guard jealously their hard-earned victories; they must not take things for granted. We have to watch jealously what happens to the gains that we won through our own activism.”

Mbete, who is the most senior woman leader in the ANC, did not want to be drawn into the debate on the intensifying call for a woman president. She said the debate was being used to undermine the good push that the ANC had made to empower women.

Meanwhile, stalwart and former Women’s League leader Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said empowering women should not be about numbers but quality. The ANC has a 50/50 quota system for its members of parliament and National Executive Committee.

“My view has always been that it is not the quantitative representation of women in Parliament. It has never been about that, it is the qualitative representation of women in Parliament. You can’t take one of us from the back veld of Pondoland harrowing mealies on the field there and put me in Parliament ….. it doesn’t work that way,” she explained.

Madikizela-Mandela said the ANC Women’s League had a tough journey ahead as patriarchy still ruled the day. “I really, truly wish them luck because you know, South African politics, not only even just within ANC, is a patriarchal society; so patriarchal you can’t claim that we are all equal. Women are still women,” added Madikizela-Mandela.