More to be done to achieve gender equality

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pretoria - While progress has been made in efforts to achieve gender equality, more work needs to be done before women are on an equal footing as men, says Home Affair Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Delivering the keynote address at the award ceremony for the Caroline Von Humboldt Prize at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, the minister called for more opportunities to be given to women.

She also called for policies and laws to advance a non-sexist and developmental agenda.

"It seems that despite some advances in the emancipation of women, males and females continue to interact in a social context that is essentially skewed towards a masculine paradigm," she said.

The minister noted that South Africa has always tried to reduce the gap between theory and practice.

"Women have therefore been active participants in the debate and movement for the promotion of women's equality since negotiations for our democracy during which it was agreed that gender issues should be mainstreamed.

"Our governance model has therefore been characterised by the creation of government structures charged with promoting women's rights and status in addition to supporting the involvement of women in policymaking structures," she said.

While the African Union had committed to achieve gender parity by 2020, South Africa was aiming to reach that goal by 2015, Dlamini Zuma said.

On the issue of South Africa hosting the COP 17 climate change summit, the minister noted that climate change afforded opportunities to change economies while involving women to a greater degree since women and children will bear the greatest brunt of climate change.

She also called for the involvement of women in the fields of science and technology, a field that was traditionally dominated by men, to be accelerated.

The Millennium Development Goals, could be easily achieved if anchored on the third goal which refers to women in decision making, the minister added.

"If women are in decision making [positions] they can ensure that poverty is addressed because this affects 70% of women, they can ensure mother and infant mortality is addressed and that children will go to school."

The minister said the women in these positions of decision making must further create conditions for the advancement of other women in traditionally male dominated areas.

"Policies to promote the development of women, such as those in government, are unfortunately not reflected in industry, academia and the judiciary which is a pity since these are very important sectors shaping the destiny of a society," Dlamini Zuma added.

The academic sector also needed to be transformed to ensure that women became part of institutions' leadership and not just traditional fields like the humanities or education.

"We should aspire to a world which is non-sexist and non-racial, where people can be judged on their ability and not on their sex. For any country to reach its full potential it must use all its talents and women make up slightly more than 50% of the world's population. If women are left out of this participation, the world will be operating on 50% of its strength," she said.

Costanza Toninelli was the recipient of the research award that was named after the university's co-founder, Willem Von Humeboldt's wife.

Dlamini Zuma congratulated Toninelli describing her as an extra-ordinary young woman who had not only done exceptionally well in physics but was also multi skilled with good technical, communication, social and organizational skills, and was competent in many languages.