Pretoria - While South Africa has a progressive legislative environment, many rural women, children, and people with disabilities are still marginalised with limited access to opportunities, resources, environments and the technical support to afford them independence, dignity and self-sufficiency.
"Underlying the polarising patriarchal and social constructs in our society are conservative gender and disability blind economic frameworks that constrain the development and implementation of policies aimed at empowering women and vulnerable groups," said Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana.
Presenting the country's report to the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held in New York on Tuesday, Xingwana noted that budgets have been instrumental in perpetuating gender biases globally, however, they can be utilised as a tool to transform and redress existing gender and disability inequalities.
In the context of South-South Cooperation, Xingwana reported that South Africa had established an important platform of engagement for women, including rural women with a number of African countries as well as India, China and Brazil.
The country has also prioritised the empowerment of rural women through the mainstreaming of gender as part of a Comprehensive Rural Development Programme, elements include providing access to funding, training, transfer of technology, building partnerships, ensuring food security, access to land as well as monitoring inequality in the redistribution of land.
She highlighted that women in South Africa have always been at the forefront of the liberation struggle and they are still at the forefront of the continuing struggle for economic emancipation.
The minister commended the country for doing well in political decision making for women, the country has 44% women representation in Parliament and 43%t women cabinet ministers.
"Enhancing rural women's leadership and meaningful participation at parliamentary and local government levels, also with the participation of traditional, religious and civil organisations will ensure that more attention is given to meeting the needs of women and girls."
She added that women's empowerment contributes to the achievement of MDG 1 on hunger and poverty reduction and to economic growth directly through women's increased labour force participation, productivity and earnings.
"We are striving for parity and this year, my department will table the Gender Equity Bill in Parliament," she said.
The Session of CSW is held under the theme "the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty eradication, development and current challenges", which is in line with the Declaration by African Heads of State and Government of 2010-2020 as the African Women's Decade.