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DHET: Blade Nzimande: Address by Minister of Higher Education and Training, on the occasion of Women in Artisanship Event, Ekurhuleni West TVET College, Gauteng (29/08/2017)

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DHET: Blade Nzimande: Address by Minister of Higher Education and Training, on the occasion of Women in Artisanship Event, Ekurhuleni West TVET College, Gauteng (29/08/2017)

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Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande

29th August 2017

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Programme Director, Ms Lulama Mbobo, Deputy Director-General in the DHET
Chairperson of the Ekurhuleni West TVET College Council, Dr Mpho Mohlala
Members of the Ekurhuleni West TVET College Council
Principal of the Ekurhuleni West TVET College, Ms Helen Ntlatleng
Ekurhuleni West TVET College Management, Lecturers and Support Staff
Officials of the Department of Higher Education and Training
Guests of Honour who are Women Artisans and Apprentices
Learners from various neighbouring schools
Community members
Ladies and Gentlemen
I greet you all!

There is no better honour than this augurs occasion as we commemorate Women’s Month, a month that makes us reflect upon our successes and challenges towards realising full gender equality in our country.

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Importantly so, we are meeting today against the background of the Poverty Trends Report in South Africa for the period 2006 and 2015, released by Statistics South Africa last week on Tuesday, 22 August 2017. The report shows that despite the general decline in poverty between 2006 and 2011, poverty levels rose in 2015. More than half of South Africans were poor in 2015, with the poverty headcount increasing to 55.5% from 53.2% in 2011.

These figures are calculated using the upper-bound poverty line (UBPL) of R992 per person per month (pppm) in 2015 prices, which translates into over 30.4 million South Africans living in poverty in 2015. It is worth noting that while the recent increase in the headcount is unfortunate, we are still better off compared to the country’s poverty situation from a decade ago, when it was estimated that close to two-thirds of South Africans (66.6% or roughly 31.6 million people) were living below the upper-bound poverty line in 2006.

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What we are observing in this Report is that the proportion of females living below lower-bound poverty levels in 2011 was 38.1%, this proportion increased to 41.7% in 2015, whilst for males was 38.2% in 2015, a clear indication is that black females in particular black Africans are the most vulnerable.

What I have also noticed in this Report, is that we need to take stock of the relationship between poverty and education; in 2006 there were approximately 17 million adult South Africans (18 years and older) who were living below the upper-bound poverty line. Over the last decade this number has remained relatively stable, with the exception of a drop in 2011 down to 15 million adults living below the upper-bound poverty line.

Comparing poor adults with less education to their counterparts with higher education, supports the link between education and poverty. Poor South Africans with some primary education had the highest poverty share between 2006 and 2011 at 20.4% for 2006, 19.4% for 2009 and 19.8% for 2011. Adults with higher education had the lowest share at 1.4% for 2006, 3.0% for 2009, 2.1% for 2011 and 2.1% for 2015. These indications are highlighting that education remains an important tool in our fight against poverty, hence the ANC led government declared in 2009, education as an apex priority.

Findings of this Report, validate the Quarter Labour Force Survey (QLFS) released on                 7 August 2017 by Stats South Africa which demonstrated that the more the person is educated the better the opportunities of finding employment. Just in the second Quarter of 2017 graduates who were unemployed were at 7.4%, other tertiary qualifications at 17.0%, those with Grade 12 at 27.9% and those with no Grade 12 at 33.1%.

Coupled with this you will be aware of our own artisan tracer study we have commissioned in partnership with the Swiss-South African Cooperation Initiative (SSACI) which revealed that 79% of our artisans are employable (as 73% find employment and 6% are self-employed), this also confirms other same or similar studies previously commissioned, including but not limited to those by the Human Sciences Research Council.

I am also aware that numbers of females registered for artisanal trades are still low at below 25% for the 2015/16 financial year; we will continue especially with our Decade of Artisan programme, which is our artisan advocacy programme to showcase to our young women that it is cool to be a woman artisan. The National Development Plan directs us to produce 30 000 artisans per annum by 2030; we will endeavour to encourage women, especially young women to join artisanal trades, if we are to succeed in our fight against poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Women continue to be under-represented in various occupational levels both in the private and the public sectors, as demonstrated by the 17th Annual Report of the Commission for Employment Equity for the year 2016-2017. In top management females comprise of 22% while males comprise 72%, this is against the economically active population (EAP) which reflects females at 44.8% and males at 55.2%.  This under representation of females remains visible in most of the occupational levels. I have observed as well that in our universities, top management levels are occupied by 50% of Africans, 4.2% by foreign nationals, what still worries me is that females are comprising 30.5%, whilst males are at 69.5%. I have also noticed in our universities that training opportunities with regards to top management have been afforded to the white group, both white males at 37.3% and white females at 29.3% whilst African females are at 4.9% and African males at 6.0%.

We cannot be happy with these demographics, twenty three (23) years into our democratic breakthrough, it is even worse in the private sector, where white males are dominating at 44% and white females at 19.4% which is equal to 63.4% representation in senior management.

These are some of the indications that the journey ahead of us is still long though there is something to write home about, in an effort to fully empower women socially, politically and economically. The United Nations analysis of the progress made towards global gender equality notes the following:

About  two thirds of countries in the developing regions have achieved gender parity in primary education;
In Southern Asia, only 74 girls were enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys in 1990. By 2012, the enrolment ratios were the same for girls as for boys;
In sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and Western Asia, girls still face barriers to entering both primary and secondary school;
Women in Northern Africa hold less than one in five paid jobs in the non-agricultural sector. The proportion of women in paid employment outside the agriculture sector has increased from 35% in 1990 to 41% in 2015; and
In 46 countries, women now hold more than 30% of seats in national parliament in at least one chamber.
The United Nations “Women’s Empowerment Principles” suggest that “empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities”.

The further interpretation credited to these Principles and subtitled “Equality Means Business” goes on to suggest that “the private sector is a key partner in efforts to advance gender equality and empower women. Current research demonstrating that gender diversity helps businesses perform better signals that self-interest and common interest can come together. Yet, ensuring the inclusion of women’s talents, skills and energies—from executive offices to the factory floor and the supply chain—requires intentional actions and deliberate policies”.

On the home front the democratic dispensation since 1994 has arguably achieved a lot in the fight against institutionalised oppression and exploitation of women and the girl child.

A Finance 24 news article reporting on gender equality in South Africa notes the following:  “Gender equality really does matter. From a purely rational observer’s perspective, a patriarchal society is guaranteed to underperform economically because half the workforce is being disadvantaged. For another, it illustrates whether a nation’s aspirations are properly aligned. Whatever other mis-steps, since 1994 South Africa’s promotion of a non-sexist society has delivered considerable progress – it edged up two more positions to an impressive 15th of 144 countries in the WEF’s annual gender equality list, one of the few global league tables where it is moving in the right direction”.  This article indeed confirms the fact that as government our money is where our mouth is with respect to promoting gender equity.

Today I salute Women Artisans and Apprentices who are here, who were brave enough to venture beyond social stereotypes and debunk the myth that certain skills and occupations are the preserves of men only.  I will indeed honour these women.

We heard some of them relaying their sometimes difficult journeys in the world of apprenticeship and ultimately artisanship.

In one of the previous National Women’s Month events, 26-year-old Asisipho Maqhashu from Kuils River in Cape Town who is originally from Engcobo rural village in the Eastern Cape said, I quote “most of my peers dreamt about becoming teachers, but I wanted something else”, unquote.

Asisipho went on to work as an apprentice boilermaker at Damen Shipyards in Cape Town. Jocularly she further said, I quote "they don't treat me any differently; at times they forget that I'm a woman. During conversations they sometimes call me 'brah' "; unquote.

Just like all of women artisans and apprentices who are here, we need far more of this skills trajectory for women to be empowered economically so that we may win the war against poverty. Income inequality based on gender bias also needs to be confronted and reversed wherever it shows its ugly head.

One of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, goal number 5 to be precise, proposes the achievement of gender equality and empowerment.

Under this goal, the UN further notes that “while the world has achieved progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment under the Millennium Development Goals (including equal access to primary education between girls and boys), women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world.

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.

Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large”.

Programme Director, I cannot agree more with these noble expressions, we still need to do more for women.

I THANK YOU.

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