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Source: The Presidency
Title: Mlambo-Ngcuka: Progressive Women’s Movement
Address delivered by the Deputy President, Ms Phumzile
Mlambo-Ngcuka at launch of the Progressive Women's Movement,
The full emancipation of women is a pre-condition for a successful
democracy in South Africa and the World. We are celebrating women
who contributed in the liberation of our country, women who engaged
in fighting the triple oppression as experienced by most women in
South Africa: the class, race and gender.
We salute women such as:
Sophie du Bryun
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Many more
Amongst women who held the light high in the darkest days we draw
from women who held their own intellectually, as revolutionaries,
activists and liberators. The women we celebrate left a legacy as
fighters against pass laws, they opened doors for women in
organisations that were closed to women including African National
Congress, which only extended membership to women in the 1940s.
They were outstanding freedom fighters!
They focused on the emancipation of women and a better life for the
Some outstanding accolades of our heroines:
* In 1905 Charlotte Maxeke graduated with a BSc degree in the
United States of America and she came back to advance the course
for her people in politics and education. She and her husband
founded the Wilberforce Institute, which became a leading teacher
training college in the then Transvaal.
* Lillian Ngoyi, in addition to being a leader of women's
struggles, a founder of the Federation of South African Women
(FEDSAW), she was also at the forefront of the Women's March as
well as being a prominent trade unionist.
* Helen Joseph, a founder member of the Congress of Democrats, a
trade unionist she was one of the leaders who was instrumental in
the compilation of the clauses in the Freedom Charter at the
Congress of the People. She was also pivotal in the formation of
FEDSAW and in the preparations for the march to the Union
Buildings. She wrote three books: If this be treason; Tomorrow's
Sun; and her biography Side by Side.
The Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) was launched in 1954
with the following key objectives: "To bring women of South Africa
together, to secure equality of opportunity for women regardless of
race, colour or creed, to remove social, legal and disabilities
constraints, to work for the protection of the women and children
of our land"
These women went on to launch the Women's Charter, which called for
* The "Enfranchisement of men and women of all races, equality of
opportunities in employment, equal pay for equal work, equal rights
in relation to property, marriage and children, and removal of all
laws, and customs that denied women such equality.
"The charter further demanded paid maternity leave, child care for
working mothers and free and compulsory education for all South
African children". By and large these demands have been adopted by
the democratic government in its legislation and in our
Constitution, though there are challenges of implementation. It was
a modest set of demands though radical for that time but very thin
on economic transformation. It was the Freedom Charter, which
followed in 1955, that had more economic demands. It is clear today
that without economic equality some of the hard-won gains social
and political rights get eroded by the patriarchal and racial
Though outlawed, patriarchy and racism still rear their ugly heads
in our country. The classical definition of patriarchy is "a social
system in which men have all the power". In South African men do
not quite have all the power yet patriarchy is still exists and it
bite! It is particularly so as we battle against an economic system
with a racial and sexist foundation. Patriarchy is very vicious on
the poorest woman with limited capacity to defend herself, at home
and in her community.
Full emancipation of women, like the struggle against passes and
apartheid needs, we are to take actions that are as significant as
that of marching to the Union Buildings and the sustained struggles
that were fought by all those women who attained our freedom. We
have to travel the complete journey and to achieve the total goals
Samora Machel captured the importance of women's status in
revolution and the desirable outcomes of our liberation in the
"The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for revolution,
the guarantee of its continuity and a pre-condition for its
victory". Economic liberation is still a missing piece.
Women leaders in politics, economy, profession, government,
non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community-based
organisations (CBOs) and general civil society must take this
struggle forward, and men must not be isolated and excluded from
this critical national task. In its best intention, broad-based
economic empowerment and women empowerment is meant to induce
commercial profitability with a positive impact of capital at a
broader community level, an ambitious task indeed.
The insistence of inclusion of women's groups in transactions is a
mechanism to institutionalise wealth sharing, which has been
trivialised and not appreciated by transactors for the value it
brings. Women have in most cases been relegated to five percent
shareholders in transactions, even when they have a much bigger
beneficiary base or ability to raise capital. Sharing wealth with
good-cause-institutions has also been ignored as the wisdom of
investing in social and charitable cause is not seen as
Impact of women's economic empowerment
Severe skills inadequacy and women economic disempowerment traps
women in poverty, while early childbearing often means an end to a
young woman's education, and having a large family severely limits
her job choices, work productivity, and mobility.
In a United Nations report the following arguments are made on
women and economic development drawn from cross-country studies;
they reveal that there are large social returns to investing in
women's education and health. Improved education for women results
in the reduced child bearing and mortality rates. Women who are
healthier and more educated will be more productive members of the
Furthermore, improving the health and education of grass-roots
women as against men produces long-term benefits for society by
improving the health and productivity of their children. By having
better educated and healthier women, we arrest hereditary poverty
en mass. Access to health and education makes a high impact if the
masses have access to quality healthcare and education.
The United Nations argues: poorly developed women's human capital
will hurt the economy and maintain gender inequalities in the
economic arena, by not equipping women to reap the benefits of
economic opportunities. It goes to reason that we sacrifice
economic development. In our context it means the growth we aspire
for will not be shared. Women are the most reliable indicators to
use in gauging positive economic trends.
Gender, poverty and trade
A publication of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
entitled "Trade, Gender and Poverty", argues that:
"The success of trade policies needed to be evaluated in terms of
whether they promoted the desired social outcomes, such as equity,
social inclusion, freedom from poverty, development of human
capabilities, realisation of internationally accepted human rights
and democratic forms of governance in an environmentally
sustainable manner. The paper also argues, among other things,
which trade liberalisation and export-oriented policies in
developing countries increase women's share of paid employment
without a corresponding decrease in their household and care
responsibilities". To offset these trends men need to take greater
responsibility both as parents and partners.
The paper concluded that, to generate sustainable enhancements in
human development, gender-based inequalities must be considered as
an integral part of the social content of trade policies at both
national and global levels, from the very inception of policy
That would require a deeper and contextualised understanding of the
interactions between gender inequalities and poverty, on the one
hand, and trade policies and performance, on the other. These are
the challenges that those of us who are policy-making have to rise
up to. Country-specific studies on the way in which gender
relations and inequalities affect trade performance would be
Another study argued that a growing body of literature shows that a
country's economic productivity is reduced when access to
productive resources is slanted towards men. With the observed
trend in South Africa, we can only cheat men and women of our
country of the benefits of growth that help many more and secure a
better life for generations ahead.
Gender make up of South African women
Women in the South African Economy
1. Education by gender:
* Women in South Africa 1996 2001
* No schooling 25.35% 11.93%
* Some primary 40.65% 51.65%
* Complete Primary 7.9% 8.11%
* Some Secondary 23.36% 24.77%
* Standard 10 2.57% 3.25%
* Higher 0.1% 0.28%
2. Women unemployment - September 2005
* African – 37,1%
* Coloured – 24,6%
* Indian – 18,6%
* Whites – 6,9%
* Average women employment is 31,7%
3. Earnings by women
* Unskilled women only - 87% of male counterparts
* Semi skilled – 106,4 %
* Skilled – 82,8%
* Highly Skilled – 73,8%
* Managers – 80,3%
Further more, disabled persons make up five percent of the South
African population. Clearly, disabled women have an additional
burden. The decrease in representivity of executive managers from
19,8% in 2005 to 16,8% in 2006 is a worrying factor. Particularly,
because the numbers indicate that there has been a significant
increase in the number of executive manager positions (from 5 558
in 2005 to 7 890 in 2006). This implies that there were
opportunities to hire female candidates, but the appointments
shifted the pendulum away from the desired goals of gender equity.
Even the state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which generally do well on
the improvement of representivity, made more appointments of male
executive managers than female. The SOEs increased their executive
management positions from 99 in 2005 to 149 in 2006. From the 50
new appointments only 10 were women.
The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) companies moved from 1 102
female executive managers in 2005 to 1 323 female executive
managers in 2006, however, more men in executive management
positions than women in that period. This indicates that there is
still a culture of prioritising men for leadership positions and
that unless criteria and selection processes are monitored it will
be difficult to maintain the momentum of improvement. While women
make up 52% of the adult population in South Africa, and only 41%
of the working South African population, they constitute only 16,8%
of all executive managers and only 11,5% of all directors in the
country, and only 6,4% Chief Executive Officers and Chairs of
boards are women.
All of this does not take away our advances in women development
and support but it is to ring alarm bells on the challenges we
What is to be done? What will our legacy be? How do we deal with
the pyramid and the women masses at the bottom of that pyramid? How
can we change the pyramid into a diamond shape? How can we place
women at a much better position in society?
The women who made the contribution to our struggle that has given
us so much could never have done it without devotion to organising
and organisation, in particular at grassroots level. To get 20 000
women marching to present over 100 000 petitions, without present
day connectivity, means this was hard-earned organising capacity,
which we have lost.
We have to organise around issues that matter to the majority of
women. Only five years ago 11% of women had no education, today
40,65% have some primary education. Of those who are educated less
than one percent make it beyond high school many still need
enhancing of capacity to be productive at the workplace and also we
have the challenge of unemployed graduates.
We still have to fight to be CEOs, to be in boards and executive
management. We have to use these positions to change things in
Private, Public and Social Sectors once we are appointed and not
maintain the status quo. Education for women therefore is a must.
It is needed to change the position of women dramatically.
The role and investment that has to be made in education must mean
we decrease teenage pregnancy and growing levels of dependency on
the State. Quality of education and functioning of the public
school's, Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) should be
prioritised as women issues.
Leadership with purpose
The discussions we will be having here must lead us to commit to a
united purpose. All of us can and must aim to make a difference. I
am talking about leadership at all levels not just to women in
prominent positions, none of us started by being national
We were nurtured and tolerated by many other people our peers, and
older women. We, therefore, must create room for younger women and
in all walks of life to allow them to lead and contribute.
Let us mentor those who are younger, above all, let us forget about
fighting for positions and focus on the much needed service.
Creating safety nets
Women and children in difficult situations need urgent
intervention! Government has done and is doing a lot to provide
safety nets and poverty alleviation programmes. Pensions, child
grants, food parcels, Reconstruction Development Programme (RDP)
houses and free basic services but government cannot do it alone.
Interventions to address the health status of women and to reverse
the HIV/AIDS impact and spread in our society need everybody. Women
who are care givers need our support and sustained commitment to
make the work of care givers sustainable. Dependency on the public
sectors to fund NGOs is unrealistic. The private sector can and
should spend Corporate Social Investment (CSI) money better. We see
year after year care givers who do so much with so little and
always struggle for funding.
We also see women in private sectors and in government not using
their influence and budgets to buy from producers who desperately
need that order to survive, instead buying corporate gifts made in
China instead of women in Soweto, Sekhukhune, Magadini etc.
When we do not go the extra mile, we perpetuate the exclusion of
women and continue to take bread from the mouths of the poor.
Economic mainstreaming of women
Having made great strides in politics, human rights, and enabling
legislation our women remain outside the mainstream economy. If we
do not together make an entry into the economic battle ground,
women will remain poor despite great progress made by our
government. We must shift the economic paradigm that is
This we have to do not only for women. We have to do it because
everything we struggled for and all the freedoms, even of those who
control the economy, are equally at risk.
There will never be shared growth or meaningful growth if we do not
bring women and young people into the mainstream economy in large
numbers and not just a handful.
The changing of an economic paradigm and education has to be our
legacy that will resonate 50 years from now at the very
That will need to go hand in hand with values that do not only
define success as wealth. We must highlight all kinds of successes
and challenges that define poor people as a burden to the private
sector and a responsibility of government. The connection that sees
the creation of value for only a few without women as or
significant group cannot be left unchallenged. Private enterprise
and capital must prove its value to greater humanity before it is
too late for all of us. Without a better life for women there is
not brighter tomorrow for all South Africans, without a better life
for women in Africa, there is no brighter life for Africa.