Address by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas, at the launch of Women’s Month, Mieta Seperepere Convention Centre, Kimberley

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Ladies and Gentlemen

The empowerment of women in South Africa is about redressing the legacy of apartheid and about transforming society, particularly the transformation of power relations between women, men, institutions and laws. It is also about addressing gender oppression, patriarchy, sexism, racism, ageism, and structural oppression. This creates a conducive environment, which enables women to take control of their lives.

We are all aware that Black women suffered triple oppression, namely race, gender and class, especially those married under customary law, who were regarded as minors by the Black Administration Act of 1927 and placed under the custodianship of their husbands. The aspirations of women for self-determination and equality were espoused in the Women’s Charter of 1954. Now 63 years later, in 2017, the Women’s Charter remains as valid in the call for women’s emancipation, development and empowerment as it was then.

Since the dawn of democracy and freedom in 1994, the Government of the Republic of South Africa has committed to a determined human rights framework. This is enshrined in the Constitution as the Bill of Rights. In that context, the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality, which was adopted in 1994 by the Women’s Coalition, and launched on National Women’s Day in August 1995, informed the basis for consideration in all political, legal and legislative strategies, as well as a source for the writing of the National Constitution.

This year we will be commemorating the 61st Anniversary of the 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings, under the theme, “The Year of OR Tambo: Women united in moving South Africa forward.” The women’s day celebrations will pay tribute to women and their role in the liberation struggle. Important to note is the fact that this year’s celebrations coincide with the centenary of our struggle icon, OR Tambo, who himself was a strong advocate for gender equality. During the conference of the women in Luanda in 1981, he stated that, “The mobilisation of women is the task, not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike, comrades in struggle. The mobilisation of the people into active resistance and struggle for liberation demands the energies of women no less than of men.”

As we commemorate the march of 20 000 women in 1956 on the Union Buildings; we are reminded of a wonderful story of strength, determination and activism across the class and racial barriers amongst women in South Africa. This story even crossed the gender lines with some men that came to play very important roles in our history, assisting the women. The march was a turning point in the role of women in the struggle for freedom and our society at large.

During this month we celebrate women who led the march to protest against the inclusion of women in the pass laws that served to control the movements of Blacks. This was coordinated by the Federation of South African Women (Fedsaw) led by four women; Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams – De Bruyn. These leaders delivered petitions to the then Prime Minister JG Strydom’s office in the Union Buildings. Women throughout the country had put their names to these petitions indicating their anger and frustration at having their freedom of movement restricted by the hated official passes.

The struggle of women today is however different to the struggle of those women in 1956 who took on an oppressive system chanting in union, Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo’ (you strike a woman, you strike a rock). However this slogan has come to represent the courage and strength of women of this country.

We have come a long way in this country and remain committed to redressing the legacy of apartheid and the transformation of the rest of society. Here I refer specifically to the power relations between women and men amongst others. What we should be mindful of is that women empowerment cannot achieved without the socio-economic transformation. On our part as government, there is however a strong commitment to accelerate economic growth and overcome the triple challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty.

I think that we are all in agreement that there have been noticeable advances through government and private sector programmes aimed at empowering women. Whilst there is reason to celebrate, it should be borne in mind that more can be done and more needs to be done in order to fully emancipate women. Women comprise the majority of the population and should become the primary beneficiaries of a growing and inclusive economy, whilst their human rights are fully protected by all spheres and societal institutions.

The Northern Cape will continue to place specific emphasis on the socio-economic empowerment of women. This will involve focussing on women’s education, health, access to land and social infrastructure. We wish to encourage women to actively participate in our economy and seize the opportunities that our new democracy offers. Our constant message is to encourage women to unleash the enormous potential within them and make full use of the opportunities to enter into the mainstream economy.

I mentioned that the struggle of women today is different to the struggle of women in 1956. Unfortunately the commemoration of Women’s month this year takes place against a backdrop of an increase in the levels of violence against women and children in our society. Since the beginning of this year, a number of shocking incidents of violence and abuse have been making headlines. The rape of women and children statistics have increased by 9, 7%, women and children have been killed unabatedly.

This led us to make our provincial “Call to Action.” Which entails mobilizing society, especially men, in combating this scourge of abuse against women and children? As we join to celebrate women’s month let us honour our women and children by acting together to prevent abuse and to ensure a safer society for our women and children.

Provincially, Women’s Month will be celebrated with a calendar of events whilst the National commemoration is planned to take place at Galeshewe stadium in Kimberley, with an official address by the President of the country, honourable Jacob Zuma.  The celebration will build on the announcements made by the President with regard to women economic emancipation, addressing issues of gender based violence and the role that government is playing in fighting this scourge. There will also be exhibitions showcasing government achievements and programmes aimed at women empowerment especially mining and agriculture, which are key in our province. The day will also showcase our rich cultural heritage.

Further to this, our planned activities for this month will focus on programmes specifically structured around girl and women development and empowerment. Together with the national Department of Women, we will also be rolling out dialogues on violence against women to help combat the continued scourge of violence attacks and abuse against women. The dialogues will serve as a platform for deepening democracy whilst ensuring safer and crime-free communities especially for our women and children. Emanating from this dialogue there should be a gender based violence strategy so as to ensure that we walk our talk.

I encourage you to join us during this month as we join with civil society in not only celebrating the successes of women emancipation, but also to recommit ourselves to the promotion of gender equality as a means of combatting poverty and stimulating development.

On behalf of the Provincial Government, I would like to take this opportunity and wish the women of our Province and country a happy women’s Month. This should not only be a month to celebrate, but to seek inspiration and wisdom from women such as Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Sophia Williams De Bruyn and many other brave heroines who spoke truth to power during that fateful day in 1956 when they marched to Pretoria to denounce the draconian laws of the apartheid regime.

Let us put women at the centre of the development of our Province and our country.



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