Remarks by the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Ms Lulu Xingwana, at a Press Conference on United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles hosted by Business and Professional Women South Africa
10 Sep 2012
Ladies and gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to be part of this noble initiative and to deliver a keynote address.
We are here to reaffirm our commitment to the objective of building society that strives relentlessly towards genuine women empowerment and gender equality. We are here to recommit ourselves to the United Nations (UN) Women’s Empowerment Principles. I am confident that, arising from the commitments we will make today, we will collectively move with speed to implement programmes that will accelerate the realisation of a true non-sexist corporate environment.
We value this initiative, which is a partnership of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Department of Trade and Industry and the Business and Professional Women South Africa (BPWSA). I wish to salute South Africa’s CEOs who have already signed CEO Statement of Support for UN Women’s Empowerment Principles and those who will be signing today.
Programme Director, South Africa has some of the most progressive policies and programmes that seek to advance women empowerment and gender equality. An array of measures introduced since 1994 to promote women empowerment and uphold gender equality, have drastically improved the position and conditions of women in our country. Women occupy influential positions in government and play an important role in decision-making processes.
The living conditions of the majority of ordinary women have undergone significant qualitative change. Women now have access to housing, water, electricity, education, social services, healthcare and other services. We are encouraged by these developments, but believe that more still needs to be done.
We note with satisfaction the steady increase in female enrolment and graduation in higher education, especially in the field of science, engineering and technology. The number of black female graduates with doctoral degrees in Science and Technology increased from 38, 8% in 2002 to 44, and 7 % in 2008. This is a good trend, as we want women to venture into these new fields, and to transcend what is considered traditional female careers.
In government, we are doing relatively well with regard to the representation of women in leadership positions. Our target is 50-50 on women representation. In the national executive, we have 14 Cabinet Ministers and 15 deputy ministers. In addition, five out of nine premiers are women, which mean the majority of provinces are run by women.
The representation of women in Parliament increased from 27.8% in 1994 to 44.0% in 2009. Similarly, the representation of women in provincial legislatures has increased from 25.4% to 42.4%.
While significant strides have been made to empower women and promote gender equality, women still bear a disproportionate burden of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Women continue to be marginalised and discriminated against in terms of economic opportunities, the labour market as well as access to land, credit, and finance. The main challenge relates to the practical translation of our progressive policies and legislative frameworks into implementation.
We remain concerned at the continued exclusion and under-representation of women at executive level of many corporate companies. The results of the 2011 Businesswomen Association (BWA) South African Women in Leadership Census paints a sad picture. It is disheartening that in this day and age there are still companies that have a 0% women representation of directors and executive managers.
According to BWA census, women are clearly in the minority amongst their male counterparts in the leadership positions. Women hold only 4.4% of CEO/MD positions, 5.3% of Chairperson Positions, and 15.8% of all Directorships. The same report indicates that in the public service, women hold 35% of all Senior Management positions. We are concerned at the continued exclusion of women and the slow pace at which they were being incorporated into the corporate space at senior level. In addition, the high level of violence against women, remain a matter of national concern.
We have come to the conclusion that the empowerment of women cannot be left to market forces. The women of our country are encouraged by Cabinet approval of the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill for public consultation. We are confident that through this Bill, we will be responding to the calls made by women who find themselves discriminated against on the basis of their gender.
The Bill provides for the following:
- The elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls, and women and girls with disabilities
- The elimination of all practices that violates the rights of women to social, political, economic and cultural freedoms
- It strongly calls for equal participation of women in the economy
- It strongly calls for equal representation of women in position of decision-making (50/50) in private sectors and all spheres of government
- It supports public, private and civil society with guidelines for gender equality/ women empowerment, and provide feedback on areas of weakness
- It monitors all legislations that address inequalities, discriminations against women, violence against women, access to services and economic empowerment
- It enforces through regulations, provisions in the Act when promulgated
We are confident that through the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, we will be responding to the calls made by BWA and many women of our country who find themselves discriminated against on the basis of their gender. The Bill was gazetted on the 29 September and the deadline for public inputs is 26 September 2012.
Ladies and gentlemen, South Africa has made commitments through the Constitution, various pieces of legislation and international conventions to respect, promote, protect and advance the rights of women. We have a duty and obligation to honour these commitments and to give concrete expression to our Constitutional obligations.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) defines in detail the vision of a society that the country strives towards – the “creation of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa”. The Constitution guarantees equal and inalienable rights to men and women and provides the mandate for both government and civil society to uphold the values of equality and remedy the triple oppression heritage which continues to shape our society today.
I urge all CEOs who are here with us today to become ambassadors of women empowerment and gender equality in your respective companies and industries. Let us utilise every available platform to promote the values and objectives of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles. The economic inclusion and empowerment of women is not an act of charity. It is an economic imperative.
The achievement of a sustainable long-term growth that benefits everyone is only possible when everyone has equal opportunity to participate. Affording women and men the opportunity to contribute at home and at work will enhance growth and development and promote a fair and just society for all.
As a department, we have registered significant progress since our establishment in 2009. We have entered into bilateral agreements with relevant government departments to ensure co-ordinated support for women’s participation in the mainstream economy (e.g. in energy, education, health, agriculture and tourism). We continue to create and find opportunities and platforms that strengthen women’s power and positions as they seek to improve their own existing businesses or acquiring businesses or land for business purposes.
We are facilitating funding support for women with agencies such as the IDC and DBSA. We are also initiating collaboration with State-Owned Enterprises such as Eskom and Central Energy Fund (CEF) to mainstream career and professional development for girls, young women and women with disabilities in the various sectors, including green energy.
Engagements and collaborations with national social responsibility formations are underway. For example, working with the Motsepe Foundation, we will emerge with a best practice model for gender-responsive budgeting (GBR) for South Africa’s government across all spheres. This will allow us to account for government budget allocation in relation to gender equality and women empowerment and to do proper reporting on measurable interventions.
Considering the conditions of the labour force comprehensively, we still need to engage with sectors in mining, transport and manufacturing, among others, as well as the unions. Collectively, we must ensure that the pains that those who came before us like Mama Emma Mashinini, and the efforts that people like her put into place are not in vain. Her history in the labour movement is well documented in her autobiography – Strikes have followed me all my life, a touching life in the world of work to draw lessons for a better future. In this book, you will see how much children of labourers suffer during moments of difficulties.
We reiterate our call to the industry and private business leadership to partner with our department and to support government initiatives by, among other things, implementing legislation, policies and programmes that are meant to promote women empowerment and gender equality. Together, we have a responsibility to promote economic access by women in rural areas, young women and women with disabilities. We have a historic responsibility to ensure that all women across the country have equal access to opportunities.
As a department, we will welcome invitations from you to make contributions to your short, medium and long-term plans and indicators so that, together, we can be able factor in gender perspective measures in development initiatives. Drawing from the experience of other countries, we would like to see a Women’s Fund in place.
We need such interventions to support women entrepreneurs, start-ups and international trade. We reiterate the call made by the Department of Trade and Industry to all corporate CEOs to join forces in supporting Business and Professional Women and the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles to fast-track the economic empowerment of women.
I hope that this programme will become part of our annual calendar where we come together as government, private sector and other stakeholders to reflect and recommit ourselves to enhancing and promoting women empowerment and gender equality.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities
10 Sep 2012
[ Top ]