The Northern Cape prides itself for being one of the only provinces in the country that had three female Premiers in succession. As we draw close to the end of August, which is celebrated as “Women’s Month” in the South African calendar, we must take stock of the achievements of women and how the ANC-led government has responded to the ideal of women empowerment.
For more than a decade, South Africa has waged a struggle against colonialism and oppression, as well as discrimination against the black majority. But the people, who bore the brunt of oppression and discrimination, are the black women in the South African society.
They suffered what we call, “triple oppression”. They were oppressed at home, under certain cultural practices; they were oppressed in society, under certain societal attitudes; and they were oppressed by the apartheid laws.
As we celebrate the 57th anniversary of the 1956 march of women to the Union building, we do so with a deep sense of respect and admiration to the women who took it upon themselves to fight for their own liberation. The likes of Lillian Ngoyi, Sophie De Bruin and others. The march of 1956, culminated in many activities against the oppressive laws against women, including the Sharpville massacre of 1961.
The break through of 1994, created an opportunity for the democratic government to level the playing fields, in our struggle to address gender equality and non-sexism. Government established institutions that assisted a great deal with the empowerment of women, like the Gender Commission, and many others.
The leadership of both government and the ANC in the Northern Cape, took the empowerment of women very seriously, and deliberately gave women very senior positions and serious responsibilities in the governance structures as well as in the political structures.
After former Premier Manne Dipico, the ANC deployed Mme Dipou Peters as Premier in 2004. She made sure that women were well represented in her cabinet and they were responsible for serious portfolios, in which they out-performed their male counterparts in many instances.
She was followed by Mme Hazel Jenkins as Premier in 2009, which also ensured that women found expression in her cabinet, running very serious portfolios. She was very strong, bold and sober in her running of the provincial government.
She took very bold and correct decisions, which sometimes made her unpopular; and that made her a leader of note. She executed her responsibilities with a high level of proffessionality and excellence up until the unfortunate incident of her collapse whilst delivering the State-of-the-province Address in 2012.
The ANC was bold enough to deploy Sis’ Crizelda Cjikella as Acting Premier for that period. This decision was a clear confirmation that the ANC believed in the leadership of women, and it was not a practice of tokenism.
She brought her youthful vibrancy and energy to position, and continued to do a sterling job in this position, bearing in mind that she was still the MEC for Education.She kept the stability in the administration, and provided clear leadership in the Executive Council, and she produced top matric results in the same year, in her portfolio as MEC for Education.
On the 23 May 2013, the ANC once again took a decision to deploy a woman as Premier of the province. Mme Sylvia Lucas was in-augurated as Premier of the Northern Cape, after much speculation in the public and in the media as to who will become Premier.
Anyone of the male Executive Council members could have been deployed to lead the province, but because the ANC believes in the empowerment of women, it was not scared to hand this responsibility to a women.
Premier Lucas is steering the ship as the captain, in the right direction, as she will be the one to deliver the last State of the Province report before the end of the current term of office in 2014. We can wait with great anticipation to hear her deliver the report on the achievements of the ANC-led government over the 20 years of democratic rule.
This posture of the endorsement of women took place at all levels of government in the province. In the Northern Cape provincial legislature, we had Mme Connie Seoposengwe as Speaker, followed by Mme Crizelda Cjikella and Juanita Beukes as Deputy Speakers. The province can report on many female Mayors and Executive mayors and Speakers at a municipal level.
A study conducted by the Office of the Premier, through the special
programmes Directorate, has recorded a number of achievements of government in terms of empowering women in the public service.
The office has developed a “Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Strategy and Implementation Plan. Its purpose is to provide an integrated framework to manage and accelerate gender transformation.
There are Gender Focal Persons in all the government departments from Assistant to Deputy Directors.
All our municipalities have Special Programmes Officers, dealing with a variety of social issues including ‘gender mainstreaming’.
The Office on the Status of Women, in the Office of the Premier, has inducted municipalities on the implementation of the Gender Policy Framework. This office further coordinated economic empowerment programmes for women in collaboration with the Department of Economic Development and others stakeholders.
We have established the Provincial Employment Equity Forum, with its terms of reference, which looks at the equity of women and the disabled in the public service.
The top five departments in the provincial administration, out of eleven, on the placement of women in senior management services positions are:
Department of Social Development with a 50% gender representation.
Office of the Premier 41%
Department of Education 38%
NC Provincial Treasury 37,5%
Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Dev. 36%
This picture shows you that work is happening to address the gender disparities that exist, but much more needs to be done to achieve the 50% representation of women in all sectors of society.
The struggle for gender equality, will not end at the end of August, neither can it be reduced to a one-month long programme. This is a struggle that must continue at are levels, in all sectors, in both the public and private sectors.
Idabi labo Mama, malibe lidabi lethu sonke!
Monwabisi Nkompela, Head of Communications
Cell: 071 109 2776