Bushbuckridge: President Jacob Zuma has encouraged women to participate actively in the economy as entrepreneurs and as workers depending on their choice and circumstances.
Speaking at the National Women’s Day commemoration held at Thulamahashe Stadium on Friday, Zuma told the thousands of South Africans who packed the stadium to capacity, that the country has specific objectives for women’s empowerment.
“We want to promote access to land ownership by women in order to promote food security for many households in distress. We want young women to develop their self-confidence and to seize leadership opportunities.
“Women should play a role in the ongoing pursuit of all these goals and should not just be beneficiaries. More girls must take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics and more education opportunities must be made available for women and girls,” said Zuma.
South Africa celebrates 100 years of the contribution of women to the struggle for liberation and also in building a better South Africa.
Whilst challenges and gaps still remain, a lot has been achieved to work towards the emancipation of South African women of all races in the past 100 years.
With regards to women’s access to decision making positions, the South African Parliament which had a mere 2.7 per cent representation of women before 1994, now has 42 per cent since the 2009 democratic elections following a consistent improvement after each election.
“This puts our country in the fourth position worldwide with regards to women’s representation, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2012. We have 13 women Cabinet Ministers and 16 women Deputy Ministers. Out of nine premiers, five are women, which means the majority of provinces are governed by women,” Zuma noted.
He acknowledged that the government has not reached the 50/50 parity goal, but progress is being made towards that destination.
“More must still be done to promote equality in the public sector but even more work in the private sector which continues to lag behind. The Commission for Employment Equity Annual report 2013 indicated that white males occupy 80% of top management positions in the private sector.
“At senior management level, white males account for 69% of all positions. Thus the achievement of equality at both race and gender levels remains stagnant in the private sector. Government is finalising work on the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which will enforce gender equity compliance within both government and the private sector,” he said.
Besides leadership at decision making level, Zuma added that government judges its success in terms of access to basic services such as quality health care, education, safety and security, water, sanitation, electricity, roads and housing which reach the majority of South African women.
Zuma also called for an end to the violence and the abuse of women and girls, reiterating that government’s commitment to the fight against women and child abuse continues to rank high in its priorities.
“We announced earlier this week the reopening of sexual offences courts so that we can deal decisively with those who commit crimes against women and children. The courts will complement the work of the police Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units.”
Conviction rates continue to improve in crimes committed against women and children. A total of 1 194 life sentences were handed out by the courts to offenders between 2010 and 2013.
For crimes against children below 18 years, the conviction rate was 75 percent during the last financial year and for crimes against women 18 years and above the conviction rate was 83 percent.
Emancipation of Women
Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana noted that the country’s Constitution is the foundation upon which all initiatives towards the total emancipation of women are grounded.
“We are pleased to note that in this year our government has undertaken to ensure that women will be prioritised to access land. As a Department, we are working with rural women and are giving support to many rural women’s cooperatives, in partnership with the DRDLR and our traditional leaders.”
With regards to violence against women, Xingwana said the department remains confident that the strengthened and integrated approach coordinated by the National Council Against Gender Based Violence will go a long way to address the scourge.
She said the strengthening of law enforcement measures, particularly the re-establishment of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units within the SAPS will go a long way in fighting this scourge.
“We also commend our courts for the life sentences that will serve as a deterrent to perpetrators of heinous crimes such as rape of women children and people with disabilities including lesbian women. This shows that government is serious in dealing with this scourge,” she said.
She also commended the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development for re-launching the Sexual Offences Courts which will help cut the backlogs of sexual offences cases.
“I am pleased to also announce that the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill is under consideration. We believe that the Bill will go a long way towards enforcing programmes aimed at empowering women in South Africa.”
Thulile Ntuli, 25, said that progress has been made with regards to women empowerment as through government programmes, she and other women, have been exposed to skills to improve their lives.
“Government avails opportunities, especially for us young women, through skills development and its up to us to grab them and use them wisely. There is so much progress since we’ve seen democracy, especially now, where government ensures that more women are exposed to education and acquiring skills, which were previously dominated by men,” said Ntuli