Women need a louder voice

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

By Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women Susan Shabangu

This past Sunday we celebrated the International Women’s Day (IWD), which this year happened to take place at the same time as our country marked the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter.

These two events exalt the vital role women have played, and continue to play, in virtually all spheres of life.

We use occasions such as the International Women’s Day to take stock and review progress, as well as barriers that continue to militate against women’s empowerment in our country. They offer an opportunity to elevate women’s emancipation and gender equality.

Indeed, as a country, we have done well in ensuring women claim their rightful place in society. In 1994, women constituted a mere 27.8% of the 400 seats in the South African parliament to the current 41%. Similarly, the representation of women in provincial legislatures increased from 25.4% to 37%.

To this end, the governing ANC has consciously adopted a 50% women representation in all decision making structures. This has led to increased female representation in all spheres of government at the legislative and executive levels. A lot has been achieved in ensuring that the people govern.

There is no doubt that South Africa’s gender parity laws, implemented since the dawn of our democracy, have seen women rise to positions of power in the state, the private sector and indeed civil society. Although there is still much to do before we are content with the gains of women, there is no doubt that the status of women in our country has improved.  

To accelerate the empowerment of women in this term of office, my department is planning to convene national and provincial dialogues between March and June this year in order to provide a platform for discourse on the strides made towards the attainment of women empowerment and gender equality in South Africa and identify obstacles against women’s progress.  The dialogues will give women a voice to tell their stories. The national and provincial dialogues will lead to the development of the ‘’Report on the Status of Women,’’ to be launched by the President on 9 August 2015.

As we participate in the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN-CSW) taking place in New York over the next few days, we will do so with the confidence that, despite challenges that women still face in South Africa, our country has made great strides to ensure women enjoy equal rights.

This year’s session is of particular importance, as it marks the 20 year review of progress countries have made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPA).

The BPA is an international declaration of women’s rights established at the UN’s landmark Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.  It covers 12 key critical areas of concern, which include women and poverty, violence against women and access to power and decision-making.

South Africa will table its progress on implementing the Beijing Platform for Action fully knowing that in the past 20 years of democracy in our country, few countries can claim to have progressed as we have in ensuring the emancipation of women.

However, despite this magnificent progress we have made, we acknowledge there are still challenges that women in South Africa face. We stand firm in our belief nothing should be done for women without women.

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