While South Africa has made major strides in promoting women’s rights, the country still has a long way to go in ensuring that women occupy strategic positions of leadership.
“What remains a vexing challenge is ensuring that we move with the necessary speed in transforming the quantity in terms of numbers to quality in terms of women occupying strategic leadership positions such as the Premiership and the highest office in the land — the Presidency,” Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Susan Shabagu, said said.
Speaking during the National Assembly debate on International Women’s Rights Day, Minister Shabangu praised the policy of the ruling ANC of reserving 50% representation for women in all decision-making structures.
She said this has helped women ascend to important positions in both government and legislatures.
The Minister said she remains optimistic that 50% representation is achievable as government is taking strikes to redress gender imbalances and promote women’s rights.
The vigorous implementation of women quotas, she said, has gone a long way in challenging the attitudes and changing the mind set of society.
Sunday marks International Women’s Day (IWD). The day is used annually across the world to reflect on progress made, call for change and celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who played an extraordinary role in the history of their communities and countries.
This year’s United Nations theme is Equality for women is progress for all, which emphasises how gender equality, empowerment of women, women’s full enjoyment of human rights and the eradication of poverty are essential to economic and social development. It also stresses the vital role of women as agents of development.
Minister Shabangu said the day should revive new impetus for the world to collectively attend to the unfinished business of ensuring women’s empowerment and gender equality.
She said South Africa should look to the National Development Plan to realise the ideals of the Freedom Charter of non-sexism and a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it.
As the country deals with the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality, of which women bear the disproportionate burden, Minister Shabangu said nothing should be done for women without women.
“The empowerment of women is not an act of charity or the result of a humanitarian or compassionate attitude. The empowerment of women is a fundamental necessity of development, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition of its victory.”
Getting SA talking
In the spirit of the 1955 People’s Congress, Minister Shabangu said her department will convene national and provincial dialogues.
The dialogues will be hosted in the format of workshops scheduled through municipal districts.
They will take place from this month and will be a platform for discourse on the strides made towards the attainment of women empowerment and gender equality in South Africa.
“The dialogues will give women a voice to tell their stories, what they want and how they want it. In this context, the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter will serve as a platform of assessing our achievements in the arena of gender equality, women’s empowerment and above all, the realisation of a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it,” said Minister Shabangu.
The outcome of the dialogues will contribute to the development of the ‘Report on the Status of Women’, which will be launched by the President on 9 August 2015 – National Women’s Day.
The outcome of the dialogues will also facilitate the mapping of a Sustainable Development Agenda for the 21st Century.