SA's freedom weakens when women excluded from economy

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mafikeng - South Africa's freedom is diminished as long as women remain outside the mainstream of its economy, says North West MEC for Public Works, Roads and Transport, Mahlakeng Mahlakeng.

"Our democracy is incomplete as long as women are subjugated to the periphery and are not on an equal footing in our social and cultural spheres of life.

"Our human rights are violated as long as women are reduced to second class citizenship subject to domestic violence and abuse," Ms Mahlakeng said at the Women in Construction Indaba on Monday.

She said eradicating the legacy of discrimination, inequality and fighting poverty requires the contributions that women can make to the national effort for faster and shared growth and development.

Ms Mahlakeng said her department will soon establish a structure within it Special Programme Directorate so that there is consistency, monitoring and follow-ups to issues raised with the department during the indaba for possible implementation.

"This unit will assist this process so that we do not meet year after year talking the same things differently without a solution," she said.

The MEC also noted that the National Women's Day or Women's Month is not a commercial or frivolous period but a period of solemn reflection.

"It is a reflection on how far we have come and what else we must do to ensure the full participation of women in all spheres of live.

"That is why in our freedom, we must look at how we can speed up the implementation of programmes that will improve the lives of thousands of women who live in abject poverty," said Ms Mahlakeng.

She further noted that women empowerment and gender parity is not about numbers but opening the space for women to influence meaningful change and make a difference in society.

"It is not about empowering elite women to occupy senior positions in society and government, it is about changing the lives of millions of ordinary women in urban as well as in rural settlements.

"Out of 33 management positions, I have at least 10 women as senior managers in the department, it is not bad but we should talk more than just numbers," said Ms Mahlakeng.

She warned that government including her department is about service delivery. "Our mandate was never and will never be to make people wealthy or rich," she said.

The MEC further discouraged women contractors from harping too much on issues like "what is in for me, to how can you help the department to fulfil its mandate".

"You can help us make a difference to enable us to speed-up service delivery. Therefore, it becomes your responsibility also not just government to start asking questions as patriots.

"What is it that we as women in construction who are doing business with government, can do for my country especially during hard times like these, not what this department can do for me. This is not a forum or consultation to network to get a government contract," she said.

She also warned that soon the department may even have to reprioritise, by scaling down tremendously on programmes and divert resources previously allocated to those programmes to key projects aimed at addressing pressing issues like job creation, fighting poverty and rural development where women are subjected to abject poverty in their majority.