Address by Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale during Women’s day celebration, Elandskraal Stadium, Marble Hall
9 Aug 2009
Members of the executive council here present
Mayors and executive mayors
Members of provincial legislature and members of parliament
Speakers and councillors
The leadership of women in the province
Stalwarts and veterans of our liberation struggle
Women of Limpopo
53 years ago today, on 9 August 1956, history was made in South Africa. The country and the international community witnessed what was never seen in the history of mankind. More than twenty thousand brave women marched to the then apartheid Pretoria in protest against the pass law. 9 August came to be celebrated as an international day of women, and one of the days to further the offensive against the apartheid regime.
After the 27 April 1994 democratic breakthrough, the government under the leadership of African National Congress declared the day a public holiday. When emphasising the fact that 9 August is a national holiday, President Nelson Mandela said: “We have declared this day a national holiday. This is in celebration of the struggles of the women over the decades and a rejuvenation of our commitment to strive for a society free of all kinds of discrimination, more especially discrimination against women”
The month of August is preciously reserved for the celebration and commemoration of the struggle of women for a free, non-racial and non-sexist democratic South Africa. This year the people of Limpopo province join other South Africans to celebrate the Women’s Day under the theme ‘Together Empowering Women for Development and Gender Equality’.
We have converged here, in Marble Hall, to honour and salute the heroic courage of comrade Charlotte Maxeke, who in 1918 led the formation of the Bantu Women’ League, the predecessor of the African National Congress Women’s League. Charlotte Maxeke is a child of this province, having been born and bred at Ramokgopa, Botlokwa in the Capricorn district. Comrade Maxeke was a strong woman with many remarkable characters. She was a fearless leader, mother and a strategist. We will always remember comrade Maxeke for her unrelenting fight against the unpopular white regime.
In the same vein, we also lower our banner in saluting some of the great women leaders who have been the centre pillars of the women’s struggle against the apartheid regime. We salute comrade Lilian Ngoyi, Victoria Mxenge, Ruth First, Ray Alexander, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Ida Mtwana, Dorothy Nyembe, Ivy Gcina, Nelly Jibiliza, Albertina Sisulu, Florence Mophoso, Ruth Mompati, Gertrude Shope, Adelaide Tambo, Mitah Sperepere, Frances Baard, Helen Joseph, Josephine Moshobane, Dora Tamana, Ellen Khuzwayo, Marie-Stella Sexwale Mabitjie, Tracy Malatjie and many others. These women, together with many others, have been an inspiration to both men and women in the struggle for freedom and women emancipation.
The gallantry and resilience of these women reengineered the method of fighting the oppressive system. There was a general consensus in the liberation movement that, with women occupying the front trenches of battle, victory was certain and within reach. The cruelty of segregation law mobilised and united women under one common agenda. The agenda was to fight for the creation of a South Africa where all people will live together in peace, with equal opportunities and equal rights.
In our meeting here today, we also recollect the adoption of the Women’s Charter, at the founding conference of the Federation of South African Women on 17 April 1954. At the said conference, women declared their aim of striving for the removal of all laws and customs that discriminated against them. At the Congress of the People in 1955 where the Freedom Charter was adopted, the women of this country declared that; all must be equal before the law. Sex, colour or creed should not be used to determine our place in society. This clearly reminds us that the struggle by women was not only limited to the oppressive conventions of the day, but also included the total liberation of both men and women regardless of race. This is why our government under the leadership of the African National Congress adopted the Constitution which is very clear on the rights of all irrespective of sex or gender.
Since 1994 we have ensured through the law that women do not become properties of other people. Women can no longer be treated as objects. In the spirit of the 1954 Women’s Charter, the Constitution provides that any discrimination against women on the basis of their gender is unconstitutional. This giant leap reaffirms our commitment as the country to the complete emancipation of women. To date, we have established structures and institutions that are dedicated to the advancement of women such as the Gender Commission, Office of the status of women in the Premier’s office and the
Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities at the national level.
There is an Employment Equity Act in place which is a guiding tool for ensuring the appointment of women in top leadership and management positions in both
government and the private sector. In line with the national equity targets, we have committed ourselves to increase the number of women senior management service members by 50 percent. This is in line with the policy of government to ensure that there is 50/50 representation in all public structures.
Our government has taken the lead in advocating for equitable representation of women in key decision making positions including in the executive. In the provincial cabinet for example, we have almost 50 percent women MEC’s out of 11 departments. This is an achievement for which the province can only be proud. We must acknowledge, however, that in the judicial sphere and in the private sector, progress on women representation still remains low. We remain committed and focused on our objective to ensure that there is gender parity in all decision making structures as required by the Constitution.
The idea of advancing the course of women development remains priority on our agenda. The establishment of the Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities is a remarkable step forward. The principal aim of the ministry, among others, is to focus on the development of women in our country. The ministry’s effort is to protect and promote the interest of women and other targeted groups. However, the government appreciates that many women in the rural areas of our province are still living in abject poverty. The women in these areas continue to live without clean water, sanitation and other basic services. Government is committed to the course of making these basic resources available through the delivery of free basic services.
As we pay homage to women, we must also assess the progress made through the Woman Caravan project of multi-purpose community centres (MPCC). This mobile information and service truck is tasked with taking some of the basic government services to the people with specific focus to remote areas. Through the Women Caravan project, the government is able to provide services such as identity document (ID) book applications, birth certificates, marriage certificates and social grants applications. Women can benefit from the services that come from this facility which is available at their doorstep.
Programme director, government through its Extended Public Works programme (EPWP) has opened the doors for women to be involved in construction business. The programme has also enabled other women to migrate from small scale construction to medium and big scale construction. During the implementation of EPWP phase two, we will ensure that the number of women who participate in this programme gets increased.
Rural development remains one of the key priority areas of our government. The ANC government is intensifying the development of our rural communities to the benefit of all. We are working on sustainable plans to install basic amenities and facilities in our villages in the manner never seen before. Some of our rural areas are rich in minerals and we must use such natural resources to contribute to the objective of rural development. As indicated during our state of the province address, our vision is to create a sustainable, vibrant and quality life in the rural areas. We want rural communities to have economic opportunities and the necessary infrastructure such as shopping malls, libraries, clinics, community halls, roads, sports facilities and others.
It is our conviction that the establishment of the Ministry of Rural
Development and Land Reform will assist in developing a comprehensive and sustainable approach to rural development. Women constitute a large percentage of the informal economy. Circumstances oblige women to collect firewood and spend long hours walking to fetch water from springs and rivers. Most women in particular in the rural areas are farm workers or domestic workers. Despite the fact that this sector is now regulated, they remain exploited and vulnerable to all sorts of abuse.
The ANC led government through the provision of basic services such water and electricity has made some positive changes in the daily routine of many rural women. The provision of electricity continues to relieve women from the obligation of collecting firewood. On the other side, the provision of water and sanitation facilities saves women from the risk of contracting disease such as cholera and other waterborne diseases. We want to urge women to play an active role in the technology industry, minerals and the energy sector. The minerals which are underneath the soil of our rural communities must be used to transform women and better their living conditions.
Programme director, it is an undisputable fact that majority of women are still excluded from the formal economy. The government is taking the lead by accelerating the integration of women into formal economy. On the other side, the private sector should find it morally correct to assist in the integration of women into this reserved economy. Women’s participation in the formal economy cannot be deferred indefinitely. We must create a conducive environment for women to migrate from the informal economy to the formal economy. We must give courage to women who are already taking their place in this male-dominated formal economy.
The government cannot renege on its promise to protect women against all manner of economic exploitation. We must use education to achieve a sustainable empowerment and development of women and our people at large. Our young women and youth should be encouraged to focus in the fields of science, mathematics and other related programmes. Our learning institutions should be provided with science and technological equipments in order to enable us to meet this objective.
The ANC led Government has established strategic relations with various universities to assist in training the educators in the fields of science and technology. It is our conviction that this approach will yield positive fruits especially in the rural schools. During the recent Durban Summit for School
Principals and Headmasters, President Jacob Zuma emphasised the importance of discipline amongst teachers and the learners.
Programme director our efforts to reduce the illiteracy level amongst women must be intensified. As indicated in our state of the province address, we shall ensure in the next five years that more learners are registered on the Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) programme. Our plan is to make available 45 new ABET centres and increase the number of enrolment by 4 000 in 2010. Already 666 ABET centres are operational with 36 344 learners registered for this year.
We cannot neglect our responsibility to educate women and children. Women must be taught about their rights as enshrined in the Constitution and other legislations. Education must also be used as a tool to redress the social equalities of the past.
The ANC led government continue to enact ground breaking legislations and policies that are aimed at putting women on the same scale as men. We have long transformed the law which prohibited women from owning property and also inheriting ownership. Our country is counted amongst those countries where women can have property registered in their own names. Women can dispose off their property at will, in any manner they deem fit without restrictions from the law. Women are human beings with equal opportunities and same rights as men. Women must be educated about their rights which they waited far too long to acquire.
The ANC led government will continue providing free basic health care services to our people. It is a fact that women and children are the regular users of our health care facilities. This means that they stand to benefit more from the work of building and improving these facilities. We have noted that progress is continuously made in the building of clinics and other health care centres, but more still need to be done to guarantee the quality of our service.
Women are at the higher risk of contracting HIV and AIDS diseases. We must intensify our campaign against the spread of HIV and AIDS among women and the people in general. We will continue to make available antiretroviral drugs to the affected people. In the same breath, educate our people about healthy lifestyle and the dangers of HIV and AIDS.
We have registered a commendable progress in the struggle for women emancipation in our country. The voyage towards the total freedom and emancipation of women is still very long. The ANC led government is urging all members of our province to be active participants in our efforts to emancipate the women of our country. This endeavour cannot be abandoned or postponed.
Working together we can do more. Victory is certain! “Wathint’ abafazi, wathint imbokodo; uzokufa” Malibongwe Gama la Makosikazi.
Happy Women’s Day
Issued by: Limpopo Provincial Government
9 August 2009
Source: Limpopo Provincial Government (http://www.limpopo.gov.za/)
Issued by: Limpopo Provincial Government
9 Aug 2009
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