EC women ready to turn labour market tide

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
By: 
Thando Cezula

East London - Eastern Cape women have had enough of the systematic oppression and marginalisation they say they experience within the province's labour market.

This emerged at a workshop organised by the Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) in East London to focus on how the government's New Growth Path involves women.

Masimanyane Women's Support Centre executive director, Dr Lesley Ann Foster, said it was time for women to become organised, mobilised and vocalised in their quest to end marginalisation in the labour market.

"If we are really serious about addressing the economic development challenges that face women, we have to start supporting each other by committing ourselves to initiating a women's social movement that will seek to address this marginalisation. We need a programme of action!" said Foster.

She said women needed to think on a larger scale, be innovative and create new markets in which to operate their businesses.

DEDEAT MEC Mcebisi Jonas acknowledged that the marginalisation and oppression of women within society was a reality.

"Structural underpinning factors of women oppression economically are still real in post-apartheid South Africa. The economic and social transformation measures have not been sufficient in narrowing the gap between men and women," said Jonas.

He said even though the province had achieved a lot in increasing political representation for women, this wasn't a true reflection of what's happening in society.

"The gender equality achieved in government must transfer to other spheres of our society, especially in the business sector and the labour market," said Jonas.

The Eastern Cape's Socio Economic Consultative Council (ECSECC) corporate affairs manager, Nomsa Mbovani, said even though the country had many good policies in place to achieve gender equality within the labour market, they were not being implemented by many companies.

"A lot of women are still overlooked by their male counterparts within business. It's up to us to stand together to confront this challenge," said Mbovani.

Mbovani said another challenge facing women is their own communities who don't support their efforts to penetrate the labour market.

"Our communities must stop discouraging women, because what we do is ultimately for the good of the community. People need to understand that women are capable of doing whatever men can," said Mbovani.

She said possible solutions to increase women's prosperity in the labour market would be to create a support system that stimulates women entrepreneurship and to encourage women's involvement in sectors and professions that are occupied by men.

Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) member, Nokonwaba Matikinca, said her organisation supported the workshop and hoped tangible outcomes would emerge from the workshop.

"We hope this workshop will culminate in a number of things, including training for women in producing quality goods so they can supply the big retailers," said Matikinca.