Speech by the Minister for Public Service and Administration, Lindiwe N Sisulu, during the celebration of the women's day at Gallagher Estate
31 Aug 2012Programme Director
Heads of Portfolio Institutions Executive management and staff from the Portfolio Institutions
Esteemed Guests, and
Ladies of note
Thank you for making this occasion possible as we close Women's Month to honour possibly the longest struggle of all time, the struggle of women of all classes, of all races, of all beliefs: a basic human rights struggle.
But let me return to the present. We as a nation are still in shock and grief about the Marikana tragedy. Allow me to use this occasion to extend our deepest condolences to the communities, families and most of all, the women affected. As we are all gripped with the scale and sheer implausibility of it all, often the real tragedy was only glimpsed at. The real tragedy is not how it happened or why it happened, that is our failure collectively.
The real tragedy revolves around the women of Marikana, who lost their loved ones, because their world as they knew it had come to an end. Their tenure and their reason for being in Marikana wereprobably because of their husbands being employed at the mine. The sensationalism of the horror of it all and the attendant blame game overshadowed these victims. Their voices may never be heard as they were silenced by the ghastliness of the turn of events.
A studythat has been made of miner's lives, such as in Marikana" Implats strike: an independent report", points to a terrible social conditions and this case we deal with a possibility of an even greater pain - that these women could possibly have been the "mine wives". Perhaps there is another wife in the rural area, completely oblivious of the existence of the other wife. And so the repercussions go on.
From the dusty shacks of Marikana to the posh boardrooms in Sandton to the Union Buildings and Batho Pele House, women struggle in the same way. The revolution whose manifestation was the march in 1956 with 20 000 women of all races marching to Pretoria to present a petition against gender oppression, is yet to deliver tangible fruits to many of our women. We raise this matter to emphasise repeatedly the road ahead, not to diminish the significance of the road already travelled. We owe it to those who struggled tirelessly to bring us to where we are, to in turn, tirelessly carry through the gains that are now bestowed in the Constitution.
Yesterday we held a Women's Parliament in Cape Town where we assessed the progress we have made. We concluded, as you can expect, that at a level that is at best political tokenism, we stand above other countries. Our political representation makes us one of the best in the world.
At the top political level women representation is an impressive 38% women Ministers, 48% women Deputy Ministers, 40% women Members of Parliament and 60% women Premiers. However, when we measure other sectors, ie the economic sector, only 4.4% of CEOs and MDs of listed companies are women and 25% of the CEOs of State Owned Enterprises are women.
Although the latter is not a pleasing state of affairs, consider this - globally, South Africa compares much better to countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, United States of America and New Zealand in terms of women representation at directorship and executive management level. We might not be doing too badly in comparison to these, but for the targets we have set ourselves and what is possible, we are performing far below requirement. Far below countries like the Philippines, which have achieved 50% women representation.
The failure of the private sector to tap into the existing pool of qualified women represents a lost opportunity for development where it counts most - at the decision making structures. We assessed in addition, a number of areas where the ground has been laid for us to exploit, or forever lag behind.
According to the Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) that determines the scope and magnitude of gender inequalities, South Africa is ranked 9th in the world in terms of political empowerment, but ranked 55th on economic participation [WEF, 2010]. The reflection of this report indicates that gender inequality is blatant on the economic front, with men still dominating corridors of power.
Needless to repeat that full liberation of women will not be fulfilled without economic emancipation.
Although present at the professional, specialist level, women remain largely absent in the senior and top management levels especially African women. The presence of "glass ceiling" in top management positions for women must be addressed.
Women's rights are constitutional rights. As a constitutional democracy, gender equality is enshrined in our Constitution which stipulates that:" Everyone is equal before the law and has a right to equal protection and benefit of the law".
This provision does not only enshrine equality but it goes further to outlaw unfair discrimination on listed grounds or any other ground. To give effect to this right, there are national laws, e.g. The Promotion of Equality and the Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act and the Employment Equity Act which are in line with international prescripts.
Furthermore, Chapter 9 of the Constitution provides for institutions supporting our constitutional democracy. Relevant to the protection of women's rights is the Commission for Human Rights, the Public Protector, the Gender Commission and the Public Service Commission, enjoined by the Constitution to promote these principles throughout our Administration and through our Public Service, the lives of women at the most basic level.
And now finally we have a Women Ministry with executive authority to ensure that the prescripts of the law are adhered to. We have the enabling law to ensure women's rights. We noted that where we fail, we fail because we have not exerted the necessary energy and commitment.
We examined each sector of society, the economy and the state. It occurred to me then that whenever we talk of the economy, we talk of the private sector and completely miss out on an extremely important sector for women and its influence on their lives. That reality dawns on me with crisp clarity 18 years into our democracy, because it happens to be my major preoccupation right now. That sector is the Public Sector. That sector which we are all here to honour and re-commit to. And that sector which employs possibly the highest number of women in formal employment. That sector which, properly structured should aim at the provision of services to women.
When we provide government services we improve the lives of women at the most basic level. When we provide tap water, we cut our women's days shorter as we save them the back breaking chore of having to fetch water at a stream or at some communal water source. When we provide electricity, we make the lives of women better and safer. The list is endless. It made me think if we should not change our motto to "Women First". Imagine how that would change the way we perceive the role of the state. Imagine how that would restructure our priorities. Affirm women, put them first and we will have laid the principles of equality very firmly. But then again, this is only me imagining. As I can imagine you are imagining the uproar!
It is women sitting in this room who are expected to live and defend women values, whilst empowering those who are less fortunate to vindicate these rights. This department ought to lead in galvanising other departments into action that will see sensitisation of citizens on the enforcement of women's rights.
The legislature has done a lot but until protections they have enacted are enforced, they will remain ink and paper. Law enforcement agencies, civil society, women professional groups and other progressive organisations would have to come to the party.
This would mean that women themselves must be visible wherever they are, whether in a small village of Equthubeni in Engcobo in the Eastern Cape or Mashashane in Limpopo to the squatter camps of Alexander. Because only women can make a difference.
The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) has the responsibility to ensure Government has followed up on its commitment of establishing gender focal points in every department. This is to promote gender equality. We further have to attend to the caveat in all of this, whether the conditions of employment for women have taken the reality of our women. Or conversely, if our social reality has taken into account the role that women now play as workers, especially state employees. There is merit, I would think in the state paying more for women employees than it does for men. For the simple reason that women still perform the additional responsibility of child rearing, a responsibility that shapes the kind of society we are or would like to be.
Here again, I dream. I dream, of a country where the state takes responsibility for its young, where working mothers are paid more than working fathers, where every workplace provides for child care, where maintenance courts operate on Saturdays so that working mothers have access to it.
As we are getting closer to the end of the fourth administration, we need to put more efforts into monitoring the pace of gender transformation. It remains our task to make sure that government departments and public entities have policies and programmes aimed at advancing the inclusion of women in areas that matter.
DPSA has a constitutional mandate to ensure that the public service is diversified at all its levels and categories. The Employment Equity Act and Skills Development Act are the vehicles to be utilised to ensure that there is true empowerment of women through skills development and affirmative placement into positions of authority.
Internally, the department ought to live up to these expectations. This means that henceforth my focus will be on women representation at the higher levels of the department. On the other side, Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA) should drive capacity building programmes on diversity management and anti-discrimination to create awareness in the public service and broader society.
We must intensify our efforts in driving gender mainstreaming and also incorporate the "take the girl child to work" programme for experiential exposure and training. Our initiatives must be practical. We should also encourage women to fight against prejudice and deep-rooted sexism in society that is meant to block their voice from echoing in the upper echelons of government and big business.
Better still, we should build one another's self-esteem within the confines of womanliness. Women must freely participate in life's callings such as nuptial vows or motherhood without a fear of being pushed to periphery. Women must keep in mind as well, that excellence and elegance are our strategic imperatives. I implore you to be well-groomed all the time.
Finally, we cannot honour women without singling out those women who stand out for their contribution to women, the heroines of our struggle. In particular this year, Charlotte Maxeke. My tribute also goes to our Olympians, our women medalists Bridgitte Hartley and Caste Semenya for their splendid performances. And last night Natalie Du Toit won South Africa's first gold medal at the Paralympics.
Caster in particular needs to be celebrated at every Women's Forum. She has suffered the most cruel, most inhumane treatment. Enough to crush anybody and she was only 19 years old. She overcame all of that, because she has the strength of a woman and only women can overcome and vanquish.
Yet another woman requires particular singling out. Shéri Brynard, whose story touched my heart. She is a 30 year-old South African woman from Bloemfontein with Down's Syndrome who received the Youth Mover of the Year Award and has definitely set new boundaries for people like her, by qualifying as an assistant-teacher in a public school and becoming a motivational speaker nationally and internationally. She overcame all of that, because she has the strength of a woman. She dared, because she is a women.
This is what Shéri said as she was receiving the Award" I now know that my life has meaning in spite of the fact that I have Down Syndrome. I will thank the Lord that He made me just the way He did. I will show people that everyone who makes the best of their circumstances can be proud of who they are in spite of any disabilities or other problems."
There are so many other women like Shéri who are refusing to be victims of their circumstances, having understood that change is a way of life and all of us are change agents. Some have been rightfully honoured by society while others remain unsung heroines. We have to record our struggles to ensure that history will definitely remember their tireless efforts against all odds.
I thank you.
Cell: 083 645 7838
Issued by: Department of Public Service and Administration
31 Aug 2012
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