Comrades and Compatriots,
Today we round-off this year’s Women’s Month campaign. We’ve taken a journey across the four corners of our country. We’ve talked to women and men from all sorts of backgrounds. And all are agreed the status of women is a national issue.
Everybody knows there are efforts to end the historical gender injustice to which women have been long subjected. Our people are aware that the ANCWL and the ANC government have resolved to enhance women’s opportunities for economic empowerment, through skilling and decent jobs, among others.
And this is what informs the call, in this year’s theme, “to enhance women’s opportunities”. We’ve taken awareness around issues affecting women to a particular level. Many have heard our message that women’s rights are people’s rights.
Our people are awakening to the fact that women’s empowerment is neither an act of goodwill or a change of heart on the part of patriarchal society. It is an economic imperative.
Bridging the skills divide in various fields, getting women into areas previously reserved for men and locating them in the mainstream of the economy, are key to stimulating growth and advancement.
The empowerment of women, coupled with an enhanced role in society, will turn the tide against poverty, illiteracy, crime, disease and underdevelopment. As they rightly say, ‘to educate a woman, is to educate a nation’.
Advances we have made, with all your efforts, to win the hearts and minds of our people, in support of gender equality and women’s emancipation.
For one reason or another, which is a clear sign of progress, nobody in our travels across the country, challenged the need for gender equality and freedom for all.
The unrepentant could be hiding themselves, or cursing in the privacy of their hearts. We have no problem with that. It would be a good sign of victory for the women. It would mean women abusers are becoming conscious of the evil they do. We have transformed the political landscape radically and irreversibly.
Brave struggles of women gave us a Women’s Charter for Effective Equality in 1994, a gender-sensitive Constitution, an entrenched Bill of Rights and a Commission for Gender Equality. These are meant to protect and promote women’s right to equality, dignity and justice.
We know that much has changed with the ANC using state machinery to advance the women’s agenda. Under the ANC, we’ve laid a firm foundation for building a non-sexist society wherein all shall share in the country’s wealth. We’ve pushed for a 50/50 gender parity and have made significant progress in this regard.
We’ve ensured South Africa supports international instruments for promoting women’s rights, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly, in 1979. These and many other victories were only possible under the ANC.
The ANCWL applauds all our provinces for organising Women’s Month events across various constituencies. ‘Thank you’ to all women of South Africa for supporting all our activities and all the work we do to give women a better life.
We must also thank all our people, men and women, who heeded the call to use Women’s Month to enhance women’s empowerment in line with the theme for 2011:
“Working together to enhance women’s opportunities to economic empowerment!”
Our task as the ANCWL remains the creation of a non-sexist society. This is to be achieved as we build a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
We must continue paying tribute to the 20 000 women who stormed Pretoria, singing “wathint’ abafazi wathint’ imbokodo”.
Accordingly, we salute among others, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophie De Bruyn and Rahima Moosa.
Their sacrifices must be inscribed indelibly on our collective memory better to ensure the young do not forget where they come from.
Yesterday I joined COSATU and the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union at the Decent Work for Domestic Workers Summit, in Ekurhuleni.
It is a very important 2-day gathering in the light of the adoption of a new international standard for domestic workers.
This Summit must remind us of the enormity of the work ahead. There I said, on behalf of the ANCWL, that domestic workers, who are dominantly women, deserve decent work and all rights and benefits of citizens of a democratic society.
Politically, it is our task as ANCWL members to continue advocating, untiringly, for better living and working conditions for all women, regardless of class, race or gender. We must support women’s struggles in this regard.
We know that many of our progressive laws are not implemented to the fullest. It is this that goes to undermine our gains. Enforcement is a prerequisite for making sense of our policies and victories. Thus the need for more work on our part.
Our success in pursuit of the national women’s agenda will be influenced by the extent to which we improve material conditions of women guided by and in respect of government’s national priorities.
To build on our victories, we need to mobilise government institutions, the private sector and grassroots organisations to open opportunities for women. Empowering women through education and skills development would be a fitting tribute to women stalwarts and leaders of the historic march of 1956.
We must promote the broad goals of the National Skills Accord and the Basic Education and Partnerships With Schools. These accords we must use, in the context of the National Growth Path, to broaden access for women and the rest of society. We must strive continuously to decolonise the mind and arm women with effective tools for empowerment and self-reliance. We still need programmatic measures, like gender quotas and affirmative action measures. All these interventions are necessary because, in spite of our gains, there are still many challenges facing women.
These include: widespread poverty and its feminization; deep inequalities from apartheid days; domestic violence; HIV and Aids; joblessness; a high illiteracy rate which stood at 13.6% in 2010; gender-based access to social resources; the crisis of child-headed families and teen pregnancy.
But all these do not take away the gains women of our country have made in nation-formation. We must ensure the role of women in the struggle is properly recorded and duly recognised as part of our movement’s 100 Years of Selfless Struggle.
We must defend our gains and stretch the work we do for women over 365 Days, so we can repeat our message daily. The more we repeat the message of gender equality and women’s empowerment, the better will we inaugurate the discourse of women’s power.