Big strides made to improve women’s lives: President Zuma

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Durban – President Jacob Zuma says important strides have been made in realising the vision of the Women’s Charter since the dawn of freedom and democracy.

Addressing the main Women’s Day celebration in Umlazi, Durban, today, President Zuma said the Women's Charter of 1954 influenced the content and spirit of the 1994 Women's Charter for effective equality, and also the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996.

“The 1954 Women’s Charter preceded the Freedom Charter, signalling the importance accorded to women’s rights in our country,” he said.

The month of August is Women’s Month, as government declared 9 August a public holiday in commemoration of the 1956 Women’s March.

On that day, about 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the inclusion of women in the pass laws, which sought to control the movements of black people.

This year’s Women’s Month is significant in that South Africa marks 60 years since the signing of the Women’s Charter on 17 April 1954 in Johannesburg. Furthermore, it is 20 years since the adoption of the 1994 Women’s Charter for Effective Equality. The country also celebrates 20 Years of Freedom.

President Zuma said South Africa has made progress in meeting the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women.

“South Africa has made visible progress in this regard, judging by the number of women holding public office and women who have entered fields that had been earmarked for men only in the past,” he said.

President Zuma said women representation in the National Assembly moved from a mere 2.7% before 1994 to the current 41%.

“We are also moving closer to our target of having more women in Cabinet and the National Executive as a whole. We have 20 men and 15 women Ministers, as well as 20 men and 17 women Deputy Ministers as of May this year,” he said.

President Zuma said despite the strides that have been made in the emancipation of women, there is still a long way to go towards full participation by women.

“To further advance progress, we have decided to sharpen the law governing equality in the workplace.  

“Women at work still experience discriminatory practices based on gender such as pay inequalities, sexual harassment and practices such as discrimination against pregnant women workers,” he said.

Women unite

Thousands of women, young and old, from all corners of the country, attended this year’s Women’s Day celebration.

Zakhele Simelane from Port Shepstone told SAnews that she is pleased government is recognising the role of women and improving their lives.

“I am happy that women now occupy high positions in government and in the private sector, and that their contributions are being taken seriously,” she said.

Magdalene Stuurnan from the Eastern Cape echoed the same sentiments, saying more women should occupy senior positions in government.

“More women are still needed in government. We want to see more women becoming ministers,” she said. –


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