The Bishop: Rt. Rev. Dr J.S Luphuwana
General Secretary: Bro. M.S. Zondi
Treasurer General: Bro. E.V Mdlalose
Ladies and Gentlemen
Congregants, Family and Friends
It is a great honour for me to address the Women Mite Missionary Society (WMMS) Conference of the Ethiopian Church of South Africa.
It is fitting that we converge today in a church environment to talk about the influence of women in society because almost 80% of South African population adheres to the Christian faith.
Although we are a secular state, the freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution.
The role of this Church and many others in the life of our nation is commendable.
Not only do you provide spiritual nourishment to the soul, but you are actively involved in matters of social justice and projects aimed at lessening the burden of the poor while empowering all people to reach their potential.
Today is a special day in the calendar of our country as we mark sixty three years of the 1956 historic Women’s March.
South Africa commemorates Women’s Month in August, as a tribute to the thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of the pass laws to women.
This historic march was a turning point in the role of women in the struggle for freedom.
As Government and society, we use the women’s month as an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on women's achievements, while shining a spotlight on the current challenges they face.
As we honour our forebears who took up the fight for equality into the seat of the then Apartheid government, we must pause and ask, what our role is today as women.
To do justice to the subject of women and their influence on society, we need to ask ourselves what the Holy Bible says about us.
From my reading of the Scriptures, it is clear to me that women are not the children of a lesser God.
We, as women are created in the image of GOD. According to (Genesis 1:27; 5:1-2) we all bear the stamp of God's own image, thus men and women were created equal.
Jesus of Nazareth was born of a woman not a man.
At Sinai, God commanded children to honour both father and mother (Exodus 20:12)
God exhorts men to honour women, ‘show her honour as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered’ (1 Peter 3:7).
So some men who rape and murder women have no place in the Kingdom of God, for their prayers will surely be hindered.
God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.
As we know, the Son was born of a woman. God could have decided otherwise. In short, our grace is derived from a woman.
I posit that Jesus was the greatest feminist of all time. In fact, Christ's first recorded, explicit disclosure of His own identity as the true Messiah was made to a Samaritan woman (John 4:25-26).
He always treated women with the utmost dignity—even women who might otherwise be regarded as outcasts.
He blessed their children (Luke 18:15-16), raised their dead (Luke 7:12-15), forgave their sin (Luke 7:44-48), and restored their virtue and honour (John 8:4-11).
Thus, He exalted the position of womanhood itself.
Amongst His talented Twelve, (disciples), He included many women amongst them. Jesus' disciples included several women (Luke 8:1-3), a practice almost unheard of among the rabbis of His day.
Not only that, He encouraged their discipleship by portraying it as something more needful than domestic service (Luke 10:38-42).
Bishop and congregants now that we have established women as equals in the realm of Christianity, let’s nose dive into the government’s role in reversing years of women subjugation.
On the transformation of the statue books, a lot has been achieved.
Since the dawn of democracy a plethora of progressive legislations have been enacted.
South Africa's progressive legal framework, has been hailed by both politicians and scholars as one of the country's success stories.
The legal framework provides for both the protection and promotion of the rights of women and attempts to address their historically disadvantaged and subordinate position.
Central to this is the South African Constitution (Act 108 of 1996), which gives women unprecedented rights, particularly in its Bill of Rights (chapter 2).
In addition, the Constitution makes provision for a Commission on Gender Equality (chapter 9) to promote the attainment of and respect for gender equality.)
Thus strengthening the Commission for Gender Equality is a key aspect to sustainable action towards addressing gender equality.
Perhaps the powers of this Commission must be strengthened so that it can have a judicial bit so that those found wanting in women empowerment stakes can be punished.
Numerous laws have also been promulgated to ensure that proactive measures are taken to protect women's constitutional rights.
Labour laws are specifically 'women-sensitive'.
The Labour Relations Act of 1995 (section 203(2)) makes provision for Codes of Good Practice such a Code on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases.
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 (amended in 2002 to include the domestic worker sector) guarantees, among other things, maternity leave, job security during pregnancy, minimum wages, housing and health care for previously excluded groups, such as domestic workers.
While the Employment Equity Act of 1998 includes women as a 'designated group' to which affirmative action measures apply.
In addition, the BBBE Act of 2003 demonstrates its commitment to black women in its aim to increase the ownership and management of existing and new enterprises and increasing their ‘access to economic activities, infrastructure and skills training.’
In the socio-personal realm, important legislation includes the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996 (which recognises women's right to abortion without the consent of another person).
There is the Maintenance Act of 1998, the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act of 1998, and the Domestic Violence Act of 1998 (which defines violence as encompassing various forms of abuses and gives broad power to courts to shape the conditions of a protection order).
We have also institutionalised gender machinery (structures in the state mandated with monitoring legislation and policy for gender equality. This is in line with the Beijing Platform for Action, article 201.
All these measures (policy and legislations) have been noted as a significant milestone in the quest for women's rights in South Africa.
Also on the political front, we aren’t doing shabbily. One such occasion that calls for champagne and roses occurred on the 30th of May 2019, when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his cabinet to steer the ship of the 6th Democratic Administration.
In his televised address to the nation, the President made a momentous and historic announcement. He said: ‘For the first time in the history of our country, half of all ministers are women.’
South Africa also broke new ground in the 2019 elections with 46% women in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures and 50% women in cabinet.
This represents a four percent increase, up from 42 percent after the 2014 elections.
The 46% women’s representation in Parliament puts South Africa in eighth position in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) rankings for women’s representation in lower houses or National Assembly.
Currently, Rwanda, Cuba and Bolivia have surpassed the 50% mark for women’s representation in national parliaments.
The provincial legislature with the highest women representation is Mpumalanga, where half of the legislators are female.
The provincial legislature with the lowest gender representation is the Western Cape, where just 35.71 percent of representatives are women.
Obviously, the African National Congress is not a leader of government in the Western Cape.
All the speakers in the national and provincial legislatures are women.
The representation of women in provincial legislatures mirrors the national level at 46%: a thirteen-percentage point increase from 2014. This is the highest proportion of women since 2004.
Lady Bishop and congregants, we are the first to admit that despite a favourable legislative regime including the Commission for Gender Equality amongst many measures to advance and protect women’s interests, much more needs to be done.
But something doesn’t add up.
Despite nearly 25 years of democracy, women still languish in the shadows, taking up most of the domestic and child-caring responsibilities while still having to slog it out in the corporate space.
Few women today occupy managerial positions, and even fewer serve on the boards of listed companies.
Although according to the last Census women outnumber men, few women actual do paid work. If they do, they are paid less than men.
Yet, more women are likely to graduate from university, yet still are not the owners of wealth, the economy or land.
If a woman is working, her work day is certainly not an eight-hour stint in the office, they still have to do households chores including child rearing, and cooking for their husbands amongst others.
In this maelstrom of anti-women, is society especially one defined as a most religious not being hypocritical in our faith?
If women played such an important part as disciples of Jesus, what has changed?
Why is that only 22.9%, of working women occupy top executive decision-making positions of the labour market in our country?
According to the 2017 Businesswomen’s Association of SA census, the share of JSE-listed companies with female directors decreased from 35.9% in 2015 to 25.6%.
This is in spite of the fact that companies with the highest percentage of women on their boards tending to outperform those with lower percentages, in terms of higher returns on sale, a greater return on invested capital, and a higher return on equity.
At State Owned Companies (SOEs,) female Directorships have grown at a slower pace than for JSE-listed firms, although from a higher base.
Between 2008 and 2017, the share of female Directorships has increased by 0.4 percentage points, but female Executive Directors account for only 9.2% of total female Directors.
It is a concern that the share of SOEs with at least three female Directors has also shrunk by ten percentage points to 85%.
The share of women Executive Managers at SOEs has decreased to 28.5%.
Despite gender equity targets and making up the majority of workers in the Public Service, women account for only 41% of senior management positions. As salaries increase, the gap between the share of women versus men at the senior management level also increases, with 2.5 men for every woman at the highest salary.
Even more shameful is that in one of the largest State department, Basic Education with nearly three in every four (72.5%) teachers on the state’s payroll in South Africa are women. But according to the most recent data only 37.3% of school principals as at June 2018 were women. It’s a small increase from 2004, when it was at 34%.
There has been little improvement in the share of women in leadership positions at South Africa’s higher education institutions (HEIs) since the Census first examined the issue in 2015.
Women fill only 15% of decision-making Vice Chancellor positions. Although women hold the majority of Chancellor seats, this is a largely ceremonial role with little decision-making power. Only nine women hold the position of Dean in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) schools.
Less than a third of Executive Director and Manager positions are held by women, offering little opportunity for women to move from the managerial level to top leadership positions.
On a positive note, more women than men continue to enrol at universities and women attain 62% of total degrees.
Although fewer women than men enrol in STEM courses, the share of women who graduate with a STEM degree (21%) is higher than men (17%).
I am saddened therefore to say the struggle for total emancipation of women is far from over. We must unite and lead a united front to confront patriarchy and defeat it once and for all.
I thank you.