Address by Limpopo Premier Sello Moloto during Women's Day, Mahwelereng stadium, Mokopane, Waterberg District Municipality
Theme: 'Women intensify the struggles against poverty!'
MECs here present,
The Mayor of Mogalakwena Municipality,
Executive Mayor of Waterberg District Municipality,
Speakers and Councillors,
Leadership of women formations,
Women of Limpopo
August is women's month. Like all other years, South Africans are gathered in every part of the country to commemorate and celebrate women's day. This is the day on which 20 000 women from all over the country, marched to the Union buildings in Pretoria in protest against the extension of pass laws to women. It was through these pass laws that the influx control system was enforced against black Africans in the cities. The influx control system was infamous for turning African husbands into migrant labourers. It deprived them of the basic right to live well with their women, and to raise their children in a stable family unit.
This day has become a public holiday and should serve to remind us of the important role which women have played during the struggle for freedom and democracy in our country. The day further gives us a rare opportunity to pay tribute to all our women: as mothers, as girls, as sisters, as daughters, as wives and as grandmothers. Through their action, on this day, a united and stronger women's movement took shape and was later to play a sterling role in the liberation struggle of our country.
The strong leadership and contribution displayed by extraordinary women of the calibre of: Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Ray Alexander, Ruth First, Charlotte Manye-Maxeke, Winifred Kgoare, Dora Tamana, Martha Motsoenyane and Adelaide Tambo, should continue to be a source of inspiration to all women even to this day. Their selfless contributions have opened doors not only for future generations of women, but equally for their male counterparts.
You should recall that, in the past, women were considered inferior citizens whose existence was limited to the confines of homes and care of the children. They were regarded as nothing more than possessions of their husbands or fathers. Women did not have the right to go to school, own property, earn wages, sign contracts, or take part in governance, and in the politics or elections of their country.
This has been the case in spite of records of the existence of successive generations of women matriarchs or queens, who ruled ancient Africa, since time immemorial. Egyptian queens for instance, are believed to have governed from as early as around 3000 BC, of which the first female ruler to be named by sources, was Queen Ku-Baba, who ruled Mesopotamian City State of Ur around 2500 BC. The other earlier Queen known in history to have reigned in Yemen and in Ethiopia is Queen Makeda of Sheba, whose reign lasted from 1005 to 965 BC. Our country is replete with many similar examples of female dynasties, regents and rulers who took up positions of leadership during pre-colonial times and through the periods of wars of resistance. We can safely refer to such female traditional leaders as Queen Modjadji of the Balobedu people in Limpopo and Queen Mantatise of the Batlokwa people of Limpopo. In other parts of South Africa, we know of, Queen Mother Nandi of the Zulu-speaking people and King Shaka's aunt Mkabayi ka Jama who helped shape the Zulu nation behind the scenes to what it is today, and others too many to mention.
These ancient women leaders are enough proof that women have always been in position of authority, until the colonialists settled on the African shores and corrupted our tradition and culture.
However, in the last thirteen years of freedom and democratic rule, we have seen our country taking giant steps to restore the dignity and status of women in society. In our forward march towards the full emancipation of the women of our country, we have passed new laws that protect and defend the rights of women. New policies and systems that address the issue of gender equality in all aspects of South African life are also in place. Our country has ratified many international conventions on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, as a sign of our commitment to the practical realisation of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Our country prides itself, for instance, as one of the few, where Cabinet consists of 43% women representation. We also derive satisfaction from the fact that, at least, four of the nine provinces are led by women Premiers. In addition to these, our national parliament and the provincial legislature have more than 30% women representation. At a local government level, the province has 48,8% representation of women who are councillors. These advances have made South Africa to be rated number 10 out of 130 parliaments in the world, which have high representation of women in governance. We also have four members of the Provincial Executive Council out of eleven departments who are women. In addition to this number, almost half or five of the eleven departments in the province are led by women Heads of Departments (HoDs).
Overall there has been an increase in the participation rate of women in the formal employment sectors and leadership positions, particularly in the public service, where gender representation has improved significantly. However, the major challenge now lies in the private sector, where women are still under-represented.
On the labour front, government has improved the minimum wages for domestic workers and farm workers, of which the majority are women. We also continue dealing with the scourge of poverty through a number of interventions, which include social wage measures like housing and municipal services, such as provision of free basic water and electricity. In addition to these measures, we also have safety nets in place, in the form of social security grants, that are aimed at protecting the most vulnerable, who include women and children. Government is continuing to work with all social partners to promote the all-round economic empowerment of women in: access to finance, skills development and education, and access to government procurement.
Notwithstanding these positive interventions, that we continue to make, it is quite unfortunate that over the years, we have had to contend with grave incidences of women abuse which continue to this day. Many women have experienced violence, abuse, rape, sexual harassment and are the worst affected by the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
If statistics from People Opposed to Women Abuse (Powa) are anything to go by:
* At least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime
* one in two women has a chance of being raped in their lifetime
* a woman is raped every 26 seconds in South Africa
* one in four women is in an abusive relationship
* a woman is killed every six days by her intimate male partner in South Africa
* women are more likely to be attacked by someone they know than by a stranger.
The statistics we have alluded to, show that, women and children are generally, key targets of social fabric crimes which include rape, incest, abuse and domestic violence. These are the kinds of crimes that are not easy to police as they happen in the confines of people's homes. Fighting these sorts of crimes therefore, needs all of us to dedicate our energies and efforts, throughout all the 365 days in a year, and not only during public holidays like today. In this regard, we would like to make a plea to all boys and men in the province, to treat women with respect and to rededicate themselves to the national crusade against violence and abuse.
We are also aware about the appalling increase in cases of teenage pregnancies in the province which have reached worrying proportions. Our Department of Health and Social Development is stepping up measures to deal with this situation by introducing youth friendly facilities in all 480 clinics, for peer counselling and advice on sexual matters. These facilities will hopefully assist young people to delay their sexual experiences, until they are older enough to take their own independent decisions on sexual relations.
Addressing gender equality also requires us to address certain cultural and religious obstacles that prevent women from claiming their full rights. For instance, in the rural areas where the majority of our people come from, to some extent, culture and tradition are still being used to justify the physical and emotional abuse of women and children. The challenge has always been how to ensure that our efforts succeed in breaking the silence against domestic violence and abuse, while at the same time not undermining or obscuring the good that our culture and tradition can provide.
We think that traditional and religious leaders can make a difference in this regard, by instilling change in people's perceptions, about customs and family values. There can be no question that good moral values are key, in the fight against violence and abuse. Again, there can be no doubt that in order for us to change this situation for the better, we must all start by first addressing the question of the girl child, in everything that we do.
Many of the challenges facing women in present-day South Africa can be overcome if they are approached with the same commitment and zeal displayed by women who struggled against apartheid.
By focusing our attention on these matters today, all of us are clearly sending a message that women are worthy human beings who deserve to be valued and respected as equal members of our society. We are also in a way, highlighting the point that women's rights are indeed human rights. All the material things which we want to see government providing in the short term, cannot happen, when majority in society, who are women and children, do not enjoy equal rights.
It is of no use for us, to preach gender equality in the streets, while men and women do not regard each other as equals in the household. Therefore, transforming gender relations must start in the family, where men and women constantly interface with each other on a daily basis.
The emancipation of women is central to the building of a non-racial and non-sexist society that we are all struggling for. The challenge now, for both women, and men is to seize the opportunities that are now available in education and in commerce by making the lives of every female and male worthwhile. Fighting side by side with men, women, have it within their power to change South Africa for the better.
"Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo, uzokufa!"
I thank you
Issued by: Office of the Premier, Limpopo Provincial Government
9 August 2007
Province Or State