SA on right track to address gender issues - Xingwana

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Polokwane - Despite challenges of gender based violence and poverty, South Africa has come a long way to ensure the emancipation of women in all sectors of society, says Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana.

Speaking at this year's Women's Day celebrations at Peter Mokaba Stadium, Limpopo, she paid tribute to the 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 to demand an end to the oppressive apartheid pass laws. The pass laws condemned black people to the homelands, requiring them to carry identity passes when they were outside the Bantustans, as they were referred to by the apartheid government.

"Women took it upon themselves to oppose colonial rule... August 9 was declared National Women's Day to remember this courageous act of women at a time when political resistance was met with severe brutality including arrest, torture and murder," Xingwana said.

She told President Jacob Zuma, who gave the keynote address at the event, that women were "speaking in one voice that they want economic empowerment."

"They want gender equity in the distribution of land, agricultural support and other programmes for rural development."

Women were the most unemployed and will therefore have to be targeted in government's efforts to create jobs, added Xingwana.

ANC Women's League President and Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, said despite the fact that there was parity in education, this did not translate to equal opportunities in employment.

At its 2007 national elective congress, the ANC adopted the 50/50 gender policy that allowed for an improved representation of women in political leadership positions.

"We are bemoaning the fact that poverty is still very rampant among women. It is time for us to fight against patriarchy and demand a non-sexist society that is equal. As we struggle, we remember the gallants of our struggle who defied apartheid for us to enjoy this democracy today [and] our government, among many other things," said Motshekga.

Both men and women needed to accelerate their work in championing gender equality. "We say the age of hope is upon us. We must make sure we work together to achieve the emancipation of women in this century."

In a surprise move, Motshekga further called on President Zuma not to "overlook" a woman when he appoints the country's new Chief Justice to replace the outgoing Sandile Ngcobo, who vacates the position on 14 August.

"We say, Mr President, that women have the same education and are equal to the task and ready to do the job. When you make that appointment, don't overlook a woman," Motshekga said to loud applause from the packed stadium.

Constitutional Court Judge Sisi Khampepe has been reported to be among the frontrunners to replace Ngcobo. If appointed, she would be the first woman to head the highest court in the land.