Pretoria - Women have been challenged to take the lead in the development of sustainable communities and participate in creating conditions ensuring service delivery.
"Women should take the lead in creating the conditions that will ensure that necessary infrastructure is available and social amenities are provided," said Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya.
She was speaking on Thursday at a consultative meeting with various women groups in Pretoria.
"President Jacob Zuma indicated during the announcement of his Cabinet in May this year that the decision to establish this ministry was taken to emphasise the need for equity and access to development opportunities for vulnerable groups in our society.
"What is now critical is to ensure that adequate resources are allocated to promote the interests of women through the ministry," Minister Mayende-Sibiya said.
She emphasised that women in rural areas needed to be the primary beneficiaries of government programmes on rural development, agricultural support and land reform, as they constitute the majority of the population and are at the receiving end of the challenges posed by underdevelopment in these areas.
"Our goal is to ensure that women are liberated from the constraints of many centuries of land deprivation. We will be working with the departments responsible for these areas to ensure that women constitute the majority of beneficiaries of these programmes.
"We have to ensure that the 500 000 jobs created through the Expanded Public Works Programme primarily benefit women," the minister said.
She said the programme for the new ministry will focus on strengthening and broadening the National Machinery for Women's Empowerment and gender equality through the establishment of effective and efficient advisory units in all structure of government at the national, provincial and local level.
The minister further stressed the need for the formation of a Women's Advisory Council that will meet from time to time to measure the women's progress as a country with regard to women empowerment, gender equity and gender mainstreaming but also advice the executive on the crucial matters.
"This formal structure is not only a necessary tool in our resolve to improve the lives and position of women in society, but it is also important that women have a credible platform through which they communicate regularly and effectively with their government," she said.
The minister also acknowledged that while there were many challenges still facing women, much progress had been made in the emancipation of women through various initiatives including legislative reforms.
"Compared to 1994, more women now have access to basic services such as housing, education, health, free basic water and electricity," Minister Mayende-Sibiya said