Women make input on empowerment fund

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pretoria - Women groups across the country have started engaging the Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities on the proposal for a Women Empowerment Fund.

The establishment of the Women Empowerment Fund would enable women to start and develop their own businesses.

Speaking at a women consultative meeting on Thursday, department Minister Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya said the fund should also assist non governmental organisations and civil society in undertaking women empowerment programmes.

She said the department wanted a fund that would speak to ordinary women and meet their needs.

"We want to come up with an empowerment fund with a vision to make it real for our people and speaks to us as women. Our objective is to ensure that this fund assist ordinary women to break the shackles of poverty and to enter into the mainstream of the economy.

"We are determined as the ministry to meet this delivery and in my view, it is possible," the minister said, adding that the fund would not be complete if it did not include the cooperatives.

She said the department will be engaging with other funds available in the public sector to ensure that it increase funding opportunities and avoid duplication.

With regards to the issue of equal representation, she said the department's legislative programme will focus on a legal framework for enforcing at a minimum 50 percent participation of women in political and decision-making positions in both public and private sector.

"This is part of advancing our 50/50 campaign, which calls for the equal representation and empowerment of women to enable them to play a positive and dynamic role in bringing about social justice in society," she said.

The department will further identify blockages that limit progress towards attaining the 50 percent equity target for women in senior management positions in the public sector.

"We will take all the necessary measures to ensure that gender parity targets are achieved and this will apply also in the private sector," she said.

The minister further acknowledged the appointment of Gill Marcus, who was recently appointed by President Jacob Zuma to serve as the first female Reserve Bank Governor as well as the appointment of Cheryl De La Rey as the first female Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pretoria.

"Both appointments are remarkable indeed and I am certain that both these women and their respective appointments will ensure that the glass-ceiling so many women still experience is shattered," she said.

She urged women organisations to support the department in improving the lives of women.

"'Our programme is diverse and challenging, it will require the intensive mobilisation of a multitude of stakeholders for it to success. It also requires commitment of adequate resources to support the organisational structure necessary to advance the interests of women," Minister Mayende-Sibiya said.