Leadership of the Motsepe Foundation
Representatives of Women’s Organisations
Officials from Government Departments
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to address this very special occasion that we are all part of this morning. The Motsepe Foundation needs to be commended for this outstanding initiative with interest in the financial and economic well being of women. What impresses me most about this initiative and other initiatives of this nature, is that they are driven by non-governmental organisations to help government achieve part of its mandate and objectives, but most importantly, to improve the quality of the lives of our women, both in urban and rural areas.
This year, the government and people of South Africa were commemorating Women’s Month under the theme: “56 years of women united against poverty, inequality and unemployment”. In the context of budgeting, this year was challenging us to pose the fundamental question to all of us: How have we utilised the national budget to address the three triple challenges that continue to confront society in general, and women in particular?
Early this year, we launched the Women and Budgeting Initiative in partnership with the Motsepe Foundation. Together, we need to reflect on the budgeting process and economic frameworks and how these can constrain or promote the development and implementation of policies aimed at empowering women and vulnerable groups.
The Gender Responsive Budget Initiative, which is our main reason to be here today, seeks to ensure that the needs of women are specifically and equally addressed within the planning and budgeting framework. By so doing, this will enhance the building of capacity in communities, to enable ordinary women to determine where their priority economic needs and gaps are, and to also establish what resources or intervention mechanisms are needed to address those gaps.
It is only through a process like this one, that women can be able to narrow or even eliminate gender equality and the severe economic imbalances that continue to negatively affect the majority of women and girls in this country.
This initiative has a very big potential of becoming an effective tool that will eventually help us reduce the high dependence of women and girls on their male counterparts. This total financial dependence on men has become a painful destruction to all efforts that government has done to empower women in this country.
Many women are unable to report cases of abuse to the police when their partners are perpetrators. Those who lay charges, usually do not allow the cases to proceed to the end in courts. All of this boils down to economic and financial dependence on men. The economic vulnerability of women is dragging all our good efforts down. As a country, we have some of the most progressive policies and legislations that are aimed at advancing women empowerment and gender equality.
However, the challenge remains the actual translation of these policies and legislative frameworks into implementation. It is right here at the implementation stage where we find that many of the women we are trying to emancipate and empower, begin to step back because of fear of marginalisation and abuse from their partners, who are holding all the financial power at the domestic, business, and workplace levels.
As a result, our women still bear a disproportionate burden of poverty, inequality and unemployment. They continue to be marginalized and discriminated against in terms of economic opportunities in the labour market as well as access to land, credit, and finance.
One of the outcomes of the Gender Responsive Budget Initiative is to have plans with requisite resources allocated in a coordinated manner in order to address gender inequality in the national development planning and budget framework. We welcome this objective as it will take us directly to the solution.
We are even grateful that this initiative does not only target women at community level, but also planners, budget execution officers, gender focal points, civil society organisations, district council members, women’s organisations within municipalities and even ourselves as government. This is a real comprehensive approach and will help bring into reality, the main objective of the Gender Responsive Budget, which is to strengthen the capacity of provincial and local government, planners and policy-makers, so that they can prepare their provincial budget plans from a gender perspective.
Gender responsive budgets are not separate budgets for women or for men, but rather, they are actual budgets that are planned, appropriated and monitored in a gender responsive manner. However, developing good policies that are gender sensitive has no meaning without an adequate budget to implement the policy, particularly the gender aspect of it. National budgets and their associated policies are comprehensive statements of government’s social and economic plans and priorities.
If a policy framework for pursuing economic growth is not carefully crafted, the entire exercise can have negative socio-economic effects on the majority of the population.
This is what the Gender Responsive Budget Initiative will help us avoid.
As a Ministry, we are fully supportive and confident that the manner in which this initiative has been conceptualized and planned, will help us achieve the desired goals, amongst them being the boosting of women’s involvement and contribution to the budget process to make it truly participatory and inclusive.
I have learned that the initiative will be piloted in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces. That is good, because most of our country’s severely impoverished women live in these two provinces, amongst others. The two provinces also have a large concentration of rural areas, which is our very main target after all. I also support the Foundation for choosing the Health, Agriculture, Trade and Industry, and Energy sectors for the pilot phase of this programme.
I can commit that my department will identify relevant officials in the priority sectors who will be closely associated with the successful execution of this project. We are fully aware that budgets have been instrumental in perpetuating gender biases globally. We also know that budgets can be instrumental in transforming and redressing existing gender inequalities.
Mainstreaming gender into budgeting processes is critical to building an equal society. We believe that gender-responsive budgeting can be a tool to promote the socio-economic rights of women, children and people with disabilities, and is key to reducing inequality in our country.
We must ensure gender mainstreaming in budgeting processes and programme implementation to ensure that we do not, inadvertently, perpetuate gender inequalities and marginalization of women. In this regard, we must continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the New Growth Path and the Green Fund are gender and disability responsive.
Working together with government departments and other partners, we are facilitating opportunities for women in rural, peri-urban and informal settlements to participate in green economy projects such as solar energy, water purification, agriculture, construction, waste management and tourism.
The department will also monitor the extent to which women and people with disabilities benefit through the preferential procurement system in government. The department will continue to encourage companies and organisations of women to register on government entities and departments’ supply chain databases. We are also facilitating financial support and training for women farmers and women’s co-operatives with our national and international partners.
We are painfully aware that financial dependency on husbands, fathers, partners and family members has increased women’s vulnerability to domestic violence, rape, incest, abuse, and murder. We remain convinced that empowering women will help us win the war against poverty, inequality, unemployment and abuse.
Working together with the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, we want to facilitate women’s access to land. We are determined to ensure that women, including women with disabilities, become the main beneficiaries of the land reform processes. This is because the challenges of rural development, food security and land reform affect women disproportionately.
In conclusion, women of our country will be pleased to hear that Cabinet has approved the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill. We are confident that this Bill will contribute towards institutionalising mainstreaming both within government and the private sector. Through this Bill, we will be responding to the calls made by many women of our country who find themselves discriminated against on the basis of their gender.
I thank you