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Programme Director

Chairperson of the ANC KwaZulu-Natal Province Comrade Senzo Mchunu

Members of the PEC present

Members of the ANC Women’s Leagues PEC and various other League leadership structures

Women Leaders from various fraternal organisations

Members of the ANC Youth League Provincial Task Team

ANC Veterans

Members of the Tripartite Alliance Present

ANC Officials

Members of the media

Distinguished Guests

Comrades and friends


It is my singular honour to be asked to deliver a lecture on this august occasion tonight. I am deeply humbled by the honour. And, I wish to heartily thank the organisers and all of you present today.

One distinguished gender activist and stalwart of our anti-apartheid struggle uMama Charlotte Maxeke once cautioned: "This work is not for yourselves - kill that spirit of self, and do not live above your people but live with them. If you can rise, bring someone with you."

It is within this spirit Programme Director that I wish to address you tonight as a servant of the people. The grand idea as Comrade Maxeke said we do not live above the people but live with them. 


Programme Director as the African National Congress, our commitment to eliminate racism, oppression and exploitation from our society was always intertwined with the question of the emancipation of women.


Comrade O.R Tambo summed the problem up when he opened the ANC Women`s Conference in 1981: “The struggle to conquer oppression in our country is the weaker for the traditionalist, conservative and primitive restraints imposed on women by man-dominated structures within our Movement, as also because of equally traditionalist attitudes of surrender and submission on the part of women.”


In its extraordinary statement penned in Zambia; the ANC National Executive Committee in 1990 addressed the question of women emancipation succinctly. The ANC NEC statement said: “The experience of other societies has shown that the emancipation of women is not a by-product of a struggle for democracy, national liberation or socialism. It has to be addressed in its own right within our organisation, the mass democratic movement and in the society as a whole.”


The ANC eloquently pronounced that the majority of South African women, who are black, are the most oppressed section of our people, suffering under a triple yoke of oppression. Boldly, it said the liberation of women is central to our people`s struggle for freedom.


Since then our movement has been unflinching in its programmes to empower, emancipate and liberate women.


However; Programme Director it will be a distortion of history if we believe that the struggle for women emancipation only began in 1985 and within the ANC structures. For the benefit of our younger comrades allow me to sketch a historical picture of women struggles in South Africa dating back a century ago.


History of the Women’s Struggle


This month marks 60 years of the Women’s Charter; 58 years of the historic Women’s March; 96 years since the industrious and a visionary woman named Charlotte Maxeke started the first formal women’s organization the Bantu Women's League.  

This historical fact proves that women played a prominent role in the struggle for equal rights long before any formal women’s organizations came into being.  As early as 1912, in what was probably the first mass passive resistance campaign in our country, Indian w omen encouraged Black and Indian miners in Newcastle to strike against starvation wages, and in 1913, Black and Coloured women in the Free State protested against having to carry identity passes, which White women were not required to do. 

In 1918, Charlotte Maxeke started the first formal women’s organization (Bantu Women's League) which was created to resist the pass laws. In the 19 30s and 19 4 0s there were many instances of mass protests, demonstrations and passive resistance campaigns in which women participated. By 1943, women could join the ANC and by 1948, the ANC Women’s League was formed with Ida Mtwana as its first president. 

The women’s struggle became more militant in the 1950s.  Thousands of Black, Coloured and Indian women took part in the Defiance Campaign in 1952, which involved the deliberate contravention of petty apartheid laws. But, the year 1954 marked the turning point. 

Sixty years ago on the 17th  April 1954 visionary women of all races from across the length and breadth of our country, met in Johannesburg at the founding conference of the Federation of South African Women (FSAW) and adopted what became known as the Women’s Charter. The Women’s Charter preceded the Freedom Charter by a year. This point to the strong leadership that is inherent in women. We are trailblazers of note. The Charter expressed the philosophy and aims of the newly established organisation. In short, the charter was a rallying call for total emancipation of women and calling for an end to the segregation, sexism and apartheid regime. The charter recorded unambiguously the aspirations of women; in part it called for:  

1.     The right to vote and to be elected to all State bodies, without restriction or discrimination.

2.     The right to full opportunities for employment with equal pay and possibilities of promotion in all spheres of work.

3.     Equal rights with men in relation to property, marriage and children, and for the removal of all laws and customs that deny women such equal rights.

4.     For the development of every child through free compulsory education for all; for the protection of mother and child through maternity homes, welfare clinics, creches and nursery schools, in countryside and towns; through proper homes for all, and through the provision of water, light, transport, sanitation, and other amenities of modern civilisation.

5.     For the removal of all laws that restrict free movement, that prevent or hinder the right of free association and activity in democratic organisations, and the right to participate in the work of these organisations.

20 Years on in a Democracy

Programme Director; we are pleased that 20 years into our democracy, the key aspirations of these visionary mothers, sisters and women have progressively been realised. We must admit that a lot has been achieved but much more needs to be done to completely eradicate the legacy of triple oppression of women in particular Black women.

Responding to this challenge the ruling Liberation Movement, the ANC in its 53rd National Conference held in Mangaung, 2012, resolved that whilst progress has been made in the development of women, there is a need for the establishment of a Ministry that focuses on women development. The conference emphasised that there is still a need to effectively implement programmes and policies geared towards the development of women, in particular those that live in abject poverty, the disabled and the most vulnerable in society this includes access to opportunities and access to free basic services. It called upon all of us to continue to systematically fight patriarchy in society. The conference further called for the increased access to economic opportunities for women, this includes targeted procurement from women companies, SMME’s and this includes transforming the economy to represents women demographics.

We can report here that yes indeed there is a dedicated Ministry for Women Affairs. Siyabonga! ANC led government.

According to the Human Science Research Council’s 2014 report entitled “Women leaders in the Workplace” a lot indeed has been achieved in the last 20 years. The report’s author Jane Rarieya says eloquently that the past 20 years of democracy in South Africa have seen significant strides being made to ensure that gender equality has become a societal reality.

Indeed, South Africa has received international recognition for these efforts and is currently ranked 16th in the world by the Global Gender Gap Index, a framework used by the World Economic Forum to capture the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities among countries in the areas of economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.

Just to put these strides into perspective let us look at the 2012 – 2013 Commission for Equity Annual Report. It says women’s participation in top management grew by 6.1 between 2002 and 2012. And, women’s participation in senior management grew by 8.5 percent within the same period.

Some other notable achievements of the last 20 years include the appointments of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chair of the African Commission; Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director and Under-Secretary General, UN Women; Ms. Geraldine Frazer-Moleketi, Special Gender Envoy to the African Development Bank; Judge Navi Pillay, outgoing Chairperson to the UN Human Rights Commission, as well as Ms Yvonne Chaka Chaka, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to mention but a few bears testimony to the gravitas of women leadership in the country.

The greatest achievement so far achievement is that our young democracy is ranked number 10 out 152 countries as having made huge strides in having women parliamentarians. We currently have 163 women parliamentarians out of 400 members of the National Assembly. This constitutes 40.8 percent.

In the national executive (cabinet) we have 20 men and 15 women Ministers as well as 20 men and 16 women deputy ministers. 



Challenges Facing Women Today

The glass ceiling

Despite the gains of the last 20 years, challenges remain. Stats SA’s Gender Statistics report, released in July 2013, puts it all quite baldly. South African women are still less likely to be able to read, and less likely to have a tertiary education. Most of the population who lives under the food poverty line – less than R305 per individual per month – is female. Though the average life expectancy of women is better than for men, female deaths peak earlier, between 30 and 34. When women die, often nobody troubles to register the death. “That happens because there is nothing to inherit from a woman and a lot to inherit from a man,” Statistician General Pali Lehohla explained at the report’s launch.

Equally disturbing is that according to the Business Women's Association in its Women in Leadership Census 2012 report: “Only 4% of the CEOs of JSE-listed companies are women and only 6% of the people who chair such companies are women. Of about 400 companies listed on the stock exchange, only 12 were headed by women in 2011.”

Other research indicates that while women make up 43.9-% of the workforce, they constitute only 21.4% of all executive managers and only 17.1 % of all directors in South Africa. Less than 10% of South Africa CEOs and chairpersons (9.7%) are women. This situation is totally unacceptable.

This issue is not peculiar to South Africa alone; the 2012 G20 Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders demonstrated that while women made up a sizeable percentage of the workforce in most countries, this was not reflected in their representation in leadership.

Women and Poverty

While the battle of the boardroom is being fought fiercely, women also suffer another burden - that of poverty. In its diagnostic report, the National Planning Commission had this to say: “Poverty among women-headed households is higher than the average and women continue to earn less than men, even though differences in years of education have largely been narrowed. About 61 percent of women live in poverty, and 31 percent live in destitution, compared with 39 percent and 18 percent of men respectively. The decline in poverty since 1995 has been relatively small given rising per capita income, a growing economy and significant social policy interventions (Bhorat & Van der Westhuizen 2011a).

Programme Director tonight, we call upon all sectors of society to begin a last mile of this emancipation by breaking the remaining barriers that still stand in the way of women’s total freedom.  We know that when it comes to equity in the workplace in particular the private sector women are underrepresented for no other reason except that they are women as illustrated by the HSRC report I have quoted.

However, we are pleased that the public sector is again leading the pack with the introduction of the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill. The Bill calls for the progressive realisation of at least 50% representation of women in decision-making structures in all senior management in the public service. It also aims at improving access to education, training and skills development.

The Bill seeks to promote and protect women's reproductive health, and eliminate discrimination and harmful practices, including gender-based violence.

We particularly thank the President of the Republic uBaba Jacob Zuma for championing the greater inclusion of women in the national executive. The struggle of the Class of 1954 and 1956 was indeed not in vain. We salute in order of no preference the sacrifices of women like Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, Bertha Gxowa, Albertina Sisulu and  20,000 women who took part in the historic march on the apartheid government on 09 August 1956. We owe a debt of gratitude to all women who were part of the struggle and others who contributed in various ways.

Violence against Women in South Africa

A. The Extent of the Problem

  1. Murder:

The killing of a woman by her partner is the most extreme consequence of domestic violence. According to a survey analysis by the South African Medical Research Council, “… in 2009 one woman was killed by a partner every eight hours in South Africa.” (Research Brief, August 2012)

  1. Abuse:

Statistics reveal that over half the women of Gauteng (51.2%) have experienced some form of abuse (emotional, physical or sexual) in their lifetime and 78.3% of men in the province admit to perpetrating some form of violence against women. (The War @ Home, SA Medical Research Council, 2010)

3.     Rape:

·         In a research study, 28% of men reported having perpetrated rape.

·         Rape mostly starts in the teenage years; three quarters of men who rape do it for the first time before the age of 20.

·         Men are also rape victims; about one in 30 men (3.5%) have been raped by a man.

4.     Violence against children:

·         More than a third of girls have experienced sexual violence before the age of 18 (e.g. unwanted touching, forced sex or being exploited into sex by much older men).

·         15% of children report occasions in their lives when one or both parents were too drunk to care for them, and one in two children experience emotional abuse, neglect or witness violence against their mothers at home.

B.    Impact

·         The most immediate impact of violence on health is seen in our health facilities, where an estimated 1.75 million people annually seek health care for injuries resulting from violence.

·         Women who have been raped are at risk of unwanted pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Over a third of them develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which if untreated persists in the long term and depression, suicidal tendencies and substance abuse are common.

·         Children who have been exposed to emotional, sexual and physical violence are at an increased risk of contracting HIV as well as suffering from depression, suicidal tendencies and even becoming substance abusers.

C.    Why the problem of violence?

·         Poverty and social inequity are key drivers of violence. Inequality in access to wealth and opportunity results in feelings of low self-esteem, which are channeled into anger and frustration. Violence is often used to gain the sought after respect and power, whether through violent robbery, rape, severe punishment of children or violence against partners.

·         Widespread exposure of children to violence promotes anti-social behavior. In South Africa, growing up as a child in a home with two biological parents is increasingly unusual. A majority of children are born outside marriage and there is generally no expectation of fathers having a social involvement in the lives of these children. Frequently, children are raised by family members who are not their biological parents. Without their parent’s protection, children are extremely vulnerable to abuse and neglect.

·         Studies have shown that girls who were exposed to physical, sexual and emotional trauma as children are at increased risk of re-victimisation as adults. Exposure of boys to abuse, neglect or sexual violence in childhood greatly increases the chance of their being violent as adolescents and adults, and reduces their ability to form enduring emotional attachments.

·         Widespread abuse of alcohol and drugs is another key factor. South Africa has one of the highest per capita alcohol consumption levels per drinker in the world. Many of acts of violence occur after alcohol and drug abuse, especially fights, some types of homicide and rape. Many victims of violence are also rendered vulnerable by alcohol.

·         Law enforcement in South Africa is generally very weak. Few perpetrators are effectively punished, with the result that laws fail to provide deterrence and victims often have little faith in the system. In addition to this, there has been a conspicuous lack of stewardship and leadership in the area of violence prevention from Government, despite the massive problem violence poses to the country. (South African Medical Research Council Policy Brief, November 2009)

Mitigating the effects of Violence against Women and Children

What is government doing?

·         Government has established a Council on Violence against Women and Children. The Advisory Council comprises of key government departments, civil society organisations and other relevant partners. It coordinates comprehensive initiatives implemented to stop the scourge.

·         The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill  provides government with the legislative authority to fast-track the empowerment of women and address issues of enforcement and compliance towards the attainment of our target of 50/50 gender parity.

·         Development of a barometer to measure the number of women who will benefit from the five million jobs that we seek to create in the next 10 years under the New Growth Path, will highlight the high impact of unemployment on women.

·         Government provides support to children to fight child poverty.

·         More than 10,5 million children benefit from the child support grant, while we provide foster care benefits to over 563 000 vulnerable children.

·         Government subsidises close to 800 000 children at early childhood development centres to enable children from poor households to obtain early education. In addition, more than eight million children at primary and secondary schools benefit from school-feeding schemes.

·         On 6 June 2011, Government launched the Strategy and Guidelines on Children Working and Living in the Streets. This Strategy provides guidance on the services and programmes to be rendered to children living and working in the streets.

·         The Expanded Public Works Programme and a community works programme provide short-term employment opportunities while also responding to pressing community challenges.

·         The Green Paper on Families seeks to strengthen and support families as the cornerstone of a well-functioning society.

·         Government led a national Rural Women’s Summit in May 2011 to empower women with information on how to access various departmental programmes. With the help of Government, women in Tzaneen run successful farms, mining as well as arts and crafts projects. These projects employ a number of people and their products are sold in domestic and foreign markets.

·         Since 1994, Government has developed several pieces of legislation to redress the wrongs affecting women and children. Comrades, this is one battle we may ill afford to lose. We all have to be involved. We must report crime to the police and hold them accountable to investigate and bring perpetrators to book.


In conclusion, Programme Director, it will be amiss if we don’t raise our voice and condemn in strongest possible terms the recent spates of women hijackings that often results in children’s death at the hands of criminals. This phenomenon must be rooted out immediately. We call upon our colleagues in the Security Cluster to do whatever it takes within the confines of the law to protect women and children.

At the opening of the first parliament in 1994, President Nelson Mandela declared, "Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression... Our endeavors must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child." We can only achieve Madiba’s dream if we implement these following recommendations from various researchers i.e.

Recommended interventions

  • A key role in building women’s capacity is good quality education that encourages independent, critical thought, fosters self-confidence and provides young girls with a vision of their future.
  • Address discriminatory practices in recruitment and pay equity, facilitated through the proper enactment of laws against discrimination.
  • Career breaks impact negatively on women’s leadership aspirations, therefore measures should be instituted to eliminate the adverse impact of career breaks through well-paid leave and right of return to posts.
  • The provision of family-friendly work environments, such as the provision of crèches at work for nursing mothers and flexible work schedules, will go a long way to keeping more women at work.
  • More rigorous public campaigns to challenge gender stereotypes and the establishment of programmes to increase fathers’ parenting roles are needed.
  • Women need to be legally literate to ensure the proper implementation of legislation against discrimination.

Distinguished guests and comrades allow me to express my gratitude to all of you for your continued commitment to the total emancipation of women. We must agree Yinde Lendlela.

Fellow compatriots I have outlined some of the challenges we have to face and deal with head-on. We dare not fail.

I thank you!





3. (HSRC Reports on Women in Leadership March 2011 &  October 2014)

4.     National Planning Commission Diagnostic Report



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Memorial Lecture Delivered Mrs. Angie Motshekga, President of the ANCWL and Minister of Basic Education at the Dinner to Celebrate the 2014 National Women’s Day held in KwaZulu-Natal, 29 Aug 2014


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