Gallant Women of our Country
Comrades and Compatriots
I feel very happy to be among bold and dependable women of Nelson Mandela Bay and surrounding areas on this occasion, together rounding up the Regional Women’s Month.
Your noble values of selflessness, dedication and ubuntu, have given me hope that united we can do more to provide equal opportunities and progress for all women.
When we walked these parts of our country last year, as part of the phenomenal 60 Days of Non-Stop Electioneering Campaign, my heart almost stopped when I saw rundown houses in which our elderly women lived. And so we committed to assist in rebuilding their dilapidated houses.
It feels good this time around to say with the help of your Municipality and the ANC Women’s League in this area, we have successfully restored the dignity of our elderly, by attending to one of their basic human needs – decent housing.
Handing over decent houses in Ward 52 and Ward 25 was indeed the best way to thank this community for supporting all our efforts aimed at creating a better life for all our people.
It is an act going a long way in demonstrating the commitment of the ANC-led government to deliver on the demands made by our people in the Freedom Charter.
What we did today symbolises, powerfully, what our people meant when they declared in the Charter that: “There Shall be Houses, Security and Comfort!”
Most importantly, these positive developments pointing to our commitment to service delivery are unfolding during Women’s Month, an important time in the life of democratic South Africa.
During this time, we take a careful and closer look at the plight of women and girl children. We reflect on struggles of women to create a caring and humane society based on the will of the people, respecting equality, justice and human rights of all.
During this time, we remember gallant women of the struggle who led the historic women’s march to Pretoria against the pass law system on 9 August 1956, including Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophy Williams and Rahima Moosa.
This regional occasion meant to close August activities affords us an opportunity to thank all of you for making the Women’s Month campaign a success and for taking the women’s struggle for equal opportunities and progress to even greater heights.
We noted, as an achievement, the declaration, by the African Union, of the Decade of African Women. We celebrated the leading role of women in development. We further noted the establishment of a ministry dedicated to women, children and people with disabilities.
Our state declared, as a victory to women, graves of Charlotte Maxeke, Lilian Ngoyi and Helen Joseph, as national heritage sites. We urged our people to take advantage of the post-apartheid legislative framework that has created a space for the socio-economic development and empowerment of women.
We used the time to educate especially young women and students about the history of the women’s struggle and about the significance of the 1956 Women’s March.
We argued, as we do today, in favour of consolidating achievements like “great improvements in the absolute status of women globally” (Pali Lehohla, 2009); the 50/50 gender parity; the 44% representation of women in the legislature; a democratic Constitution extending rights of equality and human dignity to all; progress in the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education; income support programmes for women and space for women to be heard.
We saluted pioneers and heroines of the struggle, including: Madi Hall-Xuma, Frances Baard, Dorothy Nyembe, Adelaide Tambo, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Mandela and many others.
In this month, we sought to deconstruct persistent power relations making it possible and acceptable for women to be treated as objects of patriarchal and cultural domination.
Even as we celebrated Women’s Month, acts of cruelty against women and children continued unabated. A harrowing instance is the recent cold-blooded murder of an 85 year-old woman in this Province, who was hacked to death together with her four grandchildren aged 17, 10, 9 and 5.
Also, during Women’s Month, in Tzaneen, a mother of three was grievously assaulted with a spade by her husband and admitted in hospital in a critical condition, leaving her children home alone. In this scheme of things, it is usually the poorest of the poor, mainly women, who suffer the most.
Sheer disregard for human life, for whatever reason, brings into question any nation’s commitment to the fundamental right to life and other inalienable rights and freedoms.
As we wrap women’s month, my message to you is very clear: ‘Make education a weapon of reconstruction and development.’ Former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, expressed this even much clearer when he argued a strong case in favour of the education of the girl child. He said: “There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition and promote health – including helping to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.” As we speak, the constitutional right to education has come under serious attack in light of the devastating strike of public servants. It is schools in the historically disadvantaged communities, in the townships and in rural areas, that are hard hit by this action. While we acknowledge all rights enshrined in our democratic Constitution, including the right to strike, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the principle that every right goes with a corresponding responsibility. We therefore call strongly upon all women, from all walks of life, to volunteer, according to their ability, to bring justice and respect for human rights. Education, like health, is a public service. Therefore, for whatever reason, it cannot be withheld without consequences. Together we should promote and defend the future of our children. We call upon all women of our country earnestly to emulate selfless women like Florence Matomela, a finest daughter of the Eastern Cape, and a teacher by blood and soul, who served our people with distinction, to the very bitter end. On behalf of the ANC Women’s League, I thank you and all other patriotic people of this country, for your active participation in activities of Women’s Month. We may have reached the end of August. But the struggle continues. I therefore call upon you to respond positively and to work with us until we have fulfilled the aims and objectives reaffirmed by the ANC Women’s League in its Programme of Action (2008). The League said that together we must recommit further: To fight for women’s emancipation and gender equality; To build a strong network with women’s NGOs, CBOs and children interest groups; To campaign for an end to all forms of violence against women, children and other vulnerable groups; To promote the all round development of women and help in building their confidence; To promote women’s participation in every sector of public life; To strengthen structures of the Progressive Women’s Movement; To fight poverty and underdevelopment; and To accelerate advocacy for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Once more, allow me to thank this province, the region, our gallant league, and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, for all your sacrifices and patriotic efforts, including today’s events. Malibongwe!