Keynote Address by the Limpopo MEC for Safety, Security and Liaison Mr George Phadagi on the occasion of the Departmental Women’s Day celebration at the Correctional Services Auditorium
30 Aug 2011
Today marks the last day of Women’s Month. The month of August is devoted to a variety of activities to celebrate and honour women of South Africa. We also during this month commit ourselves to take the struggle for women emancipation to even greater heights. These are the heights where there will no longer be gender disparities, where there will be true gender equality.
The recognition of women and South African women in particular, owes itself to the historical march to the Union Building by women on 9 August 1956. This march brought together women from all parts of the country, they represented every strata of the South Africa society irrespective of colour, class or creed. What united them was the triple oppression of women, as women, as workers and as Black people.
As they took on the apartheid prime minister of the time Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom, the women chanted their clarion call: Wathint’ abafazi, Wathint’a Imbokodo (You strike a woman, you strike a rock). The chant became symbolic of the women’s struggles for emancipation to this day and age.
This historic march took women from their traditional place in the kitchen to the head of the struggle alongside their men. Women became an integral part of the South African struggle for freedom and democracy.
South Africans, women in particular, owe it to the women of Imbokodo for how far the country has advanced in empowering women. Women who readily come to mind as stalwarts of women struggles are Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu, Bertha Mashaba and Dora Tamana who were at the forefront of the historic 1956 women’s march.
Since the 1956 historic women’s march South Africa under the able leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) has made significant strides in ensuring that the gap between women and men is remarkably narrowed.
In recognition to the significant role women played and continue to play in the transformation of the South African society the ANC government has declared the day of the march 9 August an official holiday.
Going beyond the recognition of 9 August as Women’s Day the ANC has introduced the 50/50 quota system in its organisational structures and those of the government. Since then we have seen women rising to key and influential positions in various sectors of the South African society.
We also today have a Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities led by Minister Lulu Xingwana.
We must however concede that much as we have gone so far, this is not enough. This then tells us that the struggle for women emancipation is far from over.
Positions of power in various sectors of the South African society will be empty if they are not accompanied with economic power. It is in this direction that our time, energy and resources should be directed.
It is against the background of this realisation that power lies in the economy that this year’s Women’s Month programme focused on empowering the women of South Africa economically. Women are a critical element of success for South Africa’s efforts to achieve the targets on economic growth.
The 2011 women’s month programme emphasizes the role of women as equal partners in the economic, social and cultural development of society and also aims at ending economic marginalisation of women.
Those of you who are gathered here today are very privileged. You are very privileged in many ways: you are educated, employed, speak good English and are urban based. I am raising this to draw your attention to the area where many women find themselves – the rural areas of our country.
Our rural areas and conditions there paint a picture of a South Africa that has not been touched by the dawn of freedom and democracy. When we talk empowerment, economic or otherwise, we should be talking about these areas which history has left behind.
We should agitate for increased spending in these areas where the majority find themselves in abject poverty. Once we have rid these areas of abject poverty we can then deal with cosmetic service delivery in our urban enclaves.
As we gather here today to celebrate of our achievements and of women in other sectors of the South African society let us spare a moment of reflection for those less privileged than us. What can we do to bring them into the mainstream of the South African society? What do we do to make them too feel as South African as all of us gathered here today?
Returning to the theme of this occasion, working together to enhance women’s opportunities to economic empowerment. Those of us in government are in a privileged position to use the policies and laws to bring women into the mainstream of the economy. On an annual basis, government procures goods and services to the value of billions of rands. How much of these billions are used to consistently and consciously to empower women.
We have the power, the authority and opportunity to empower women! Why don`t we do it as a conscious and sustainable intervention.
The economic emancipation of women will not drop like Biblical manna from heaven or be delivered in a golden platter. It requires our working together to take the struggle for the emancipation of women to its logical conclusion.
Let us make every month women’s month and every day women’s day.
Wathint’ abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo.
I thank you!
Issued by: Limpopo Safety, Security and Liaison
30 Aug 2011
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