Placing women at the heart of economic activity

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa has assured South African businesswomen that government is hard at work to ensure women are prioritised in government’s budget.

“At Cabinet level, we have taken a decision that the budgeting process in our government is going to be gender sensitive. We are going to ensure that when we do budgets, they focus on the gender aspect of how we empower women,” said the President at a dialogue organised by Business Women’s Association of South Africa (BWASA) on Tuesday.

President Ramaphosa said he is in the process of signing agreements with Ministers that will outline how women can be empowered according to the mandates of each department.

This, the President said, would ensure that government spend lives up to the praiseworthy policies that seek to empower women but often lose traction at implementation level. 

BWASA -- an association of business and professional women in South Africa focused on initiatives targeted at women entrepreneurs, women within the corporate and other sectors -- convened the dialogue under the theme “The Economy is Woman”.

Women such as media mogul and former Bwasa President Basetsana Kumalo, NTP Board Chairperson Dr Namane Magau, Park Place Boutique Managing Director Lizelle Maurice and United Nations Resident Coordinator in South Africa, Nardos Bekele-Thomas, were among the high profile businesswomen who attended the occasion.

Through the dialogue, businesswomen from all sectors engaged the President on pertinent issues that affect women and their role and contribution to the economy.

Magau punted the importance of women’s participation in economic activities, urging the President to prioritise this.

“Extending the participation of women in economic activities requires the participation of women,” said Magau.

An esteemed businesswoman, Magau drove home the point that when women are empowered, the ripple effect is significant as these women in turn pull up other women. 

Safety and education

With gender-based violence still at the forefront of issues faced by women, President Ramaphosa highlighted safety as a key priority of government.

The President lamented that the country cannot continue operating as a place where women feel that a war has been declared upon them. 

On matters of education and the empowerment of women, President Ramaphosa said while more needs to be done, government is making inroads in this regard.

“When it comes to education, the pleasing thing is that we are finding that our schools and universities have more and more women and that for us is a silent revolution underway,” he said.

As South Africa prepares to take over as chair of the African Union in 2020 from Egypt, President Ramaphosa said bolstering women’s economic participation would form part of his agenda.

President Ramaphosa said his focus will be on continental issues such as silencing the guns. He will also use the platform to advance the voice of women.

With the floor open for questions, business women raised challenges of late payments by government entities to small businesses, sexual harassment in the workplace, underrepresentation of women in leadership and lack of prioritisation of female owned businesses.

Maritime entrepreneur Innocentia Motau explained the challenge in her line of work that has severely affected her business.

“Port productivity is sacrosanct to my business. Currently, the port is not delivering productivity,” she said.

Motau explained that the ports were also affected by State capture and have suffered severely. 

In response to Motau, President Ramaphosa emphasised the need for government to urgently address the challenges raised by Motau, as the blue economy remains a key area of economic opportunity in areas of oil, gas and transport. –