Women Economic Assembly to empower women

Monday, October 4, 2021

In a bid to tackle inequality in key sectors of the economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa will on Wednesday launch the Women Economic Assembly (WECONA) which will put major sectors under the spotlight to evaluate the level of participation of women-owned businesses.

The Assembly will be launched during a hybrid event to be attended by businesswomen, government leaders and officials, private companies, civil society organisations and other stakeholders.

The private sector, civil society, women’s organisations, businesswomen and government have partnered to form the WECONA – an initiative to facilitate the participation of women-owned businesses in core areas of the economy.

This initiative emphasises the participation of women-owned enterprises on the entire value chain to foster sustainable economic development.

Women Economic Assembly national convener and co-chairperson, Futhi Mtoba, says the Assembly will activate, coordinate and monitor government and private sector actions towards preferential procurement for women-owned businesses.

“The initiative seeks to connect and inspire innovation, thought leadership and action to transform value chain eco-systems, as well as to obtain a deep, common understanding and detailed articulation of sector specific value-chain eco-systems.

“This will enable businesswomen to identify entry points and opportunities for sustainable economic participation,” Mtoba said.

The Assembly aligns with the outcomes of Pillar 5 of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. Pillar 5 calls for “the need to create more economic opportunities for women who are vulnerable to abuse due to poverty, unemployment and social inequality.

Recognising that women-owned businesses still account for 1% of public procurement, while Agenda 2063 of the AU calls for this allocation to be at least 25%, the Women Economic Assembly sets out to contribute substantially to easing the plight of vulnerable sectors of our economy.

“Unlocking market access through preferential procurement has a direct multiplier effect to economic growth and increased access to income.

“Women have been disproportionately affected by the economic and social fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily because the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing structural inequalities and gender norms. Women are also over-represented in the hardest-hit sectors within the informal economy, making them vulnerable to job losses and lack of social security protection,” Mtoba added.

Mtoba says public procurement helps domestic industry start-ups by propelling industrial growth, securing technology transfer and innovation.

Preferential procurement can help small firms achieve goals of equitable distribution of resources; enable sustainable development and play a significant role in promoting gender equality and poverty reduction.

This Assembly will facilitate the convergence of stakeholders to contribute to a movement of economic emancipation for all the women of South Africa in their diversity, using innovation, creativity and thought leadership to transform the economic system. 

The Women Economic Assembly also aims to build a long-term framework of monitoring and a measurement index.

It also presents an opportunity for businesses to derive benefit from greater equality for women as espoused in the UN global compact on Women’s Empowerment Principles, particularly, Principle 5, in terms of which, business is required to implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women.

“It is time that, as women, who constitute 52 percent of the population, we play an equitable role in the human and social development of our own country. The Women Economic Assembly is not a once-off event but an annual national programme that will be strengthened and enabled by complimentary pre- and post-assembly activities,” Mtoba said.  SAnews.gov.za