Speech by Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Ms Lulu Xingwana, on National Women's Day, Polokwane, Limpopo
9 Aug 2011Honourable President
Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Premier of Limpopo
MEC and members of parliament
Mayors of Polokwane and Capricorn district
Members of the diplomatic corps
And representatives of the United Nations (UN) and other development agencies
Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality
Representatives of gender organisations
Women of Limpopo and South Africa as a whole
I welcome you all to this 55th anniversary of the historic march of women. On this day in 1956, more than 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria opposing oppressive apartheid laws. They marched against the pass law in particular which condemned black people into homelands requiring them to carry a dompass when they were outside of these Bantustans.
Women took it upon themselves to oppose colonial rule and apartheid. As early as 1913, women protested against carrying these identity passes. The pioneer of the women’s struggles – Charlotte Maxeke – led the formation of the first women’s organisation, the Bantu Women’s League in 1918 to resist these pass laws.
Women participated in all elements of our struggle against apartheid and joined the ANC in 1943. Five years later, they formed the ANC Women’s League to respond to repression that affected them as blacks, as workers and as women in particular. They also organized across political and racial lines to form the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) in 1954.
It was under this umbrella of FEDSAW that on August 09, 1956, women marched to the seat of an extremely repressive government to present their petition against carrying passes. August 09 was declared National Women’s Day to remember this courageous act of women at a time when political resistance was met with severe brutality including arrest, torture and murder.
This year in particular, we pay tribute to two important women who were part of the historic march to the Union Buildings in 1956. I am referring to the unfortunate passing away of Mama Bertha Gxowa and Mama Albertina Sisulu. As we start this month, we also lost another gallant fighter in the struggle for rural development, uMaMolo of Women in Agriculture and Rural Development.
We therefore have made an extra effort, Mr President, to make this Women’s Day and Month to be even more successful this year in honour of these great leaders who dedicated all their lives to the struggle for gender equality, freedom and democracy.
We consulted women from many sectors. We held national summits with rural women and young women. We met women in the media, in business and in the trade union movement. We started this Women’s Month with a National Women’s Conference in Boksburg which brought together more than 1 000 representatives of women from across the country.
In all these engagements Mr President, women are speaking with one voice that they want economic empowerment. They want gender equity in the redistribution of land, agricultural support and other programmes for rural development. Women are the most unemployed and will therefore have to be targeted in government’s effort to create jobs. They also want 50/50 gender parity in all decision making positions.
It is within this context that we adopted the theme for National Women’s Month this year to be:
“Working together to enhance women’s opportunities to economic empowerment”
Programme Director, you have allocated me a task of introducing a leader that is well known to each one of us gathered here. President Zuma was born eNkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. He got involved in the struggle for freedom from a very young age, joining the ANC in 1959. He joined the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto weSizwe in 1962.
He was arrested and spent 10 years in Robben Island with Nelson Mandela and other imprisoned leaders of the ANC. After his release, he was instrumental in the re-establishment of ANC underground structures and later became the Chief of Intelligence Department. During his time in exile, he lived in many countries in the continent and served in the National Executive Committee of the ANC.
He was one of the first ANC leaders to return to South Africa to begin the process of negotiations after the unbanning of the ANC in 1990. He played a key role in bringing peace to the province of KwaZulu-Natal that was highly affected by political violence. He was elected the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC in 1991, became its National Chairperson in 1994 and deputy President in 1997.
At the historic conference of the ANC held here in Polokwane, President Jacob Zuma was elected the President of the ANC and became South Africa after 2009 general elections.
This is a man who has led our organisation and country into taking major steps towards the attainment of gender equality. It was under his leadership at the Polokwane Conference that the ANC adopted the principle of 50/50 gender parity. As the President of the country, he went on to establish the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities as a means to advance the struggle for gender equality and empowerment of women.
Today, South Africa ranks high amongst countries with the largest number of women in parliament and cabinet in the world. This is as a result of his leadership and the advances of his organisation, the African National Congress.
Mr President, the women of South Africa are waiting to hear your message on this historic day in the struggle for gender equality in our country.
Bua Msholozi bua.
Issued by: Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities
9 Aug 2011
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