Opening remarks by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas, during the commemoration of International Women’s Day

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Programme Director
Members of the Executive Council
Mayors and Councillors
Representative from the Office of the Gender Commissioner
Social Cohesion Advocate, Ms Sophie de Bruyn
Officials from Government
Ladies and gentlemen

Good Morning, Dumelang, Goeiemôre, Molweni

Considering the rich political history of the International Women’s Day, and the special occasion and meaning of this gathering, I feel quite humbled to address you here today.

The faces in this room this morning are a reminder of our history that brings forth memories and personal experiences. It tells me that we have travelled a long way and that we cannot give up now in this struggle for the improvement of women's lives.

Ladies and gentlemen, Comrades and friends,

The progress of women’s rights has not been a gracious present offered to women, but rather the result of their determined action against gender hierarchy and inequality, and women’s ability to advance proposals and make alliances to build a universal movement. In South Africa the contribution that women made for the advancement of women’s rights is seen in three major campaigns.  The first, in 1913, was in Bloemfontein and stands out because it also set the tone for later anti-pass action by militant African women.

The second episode was in 1930 in Potchefstroom, which at that stage was a small white-dominated town, where officials tried to bully the women to comply with the particular labour needs of the town. In this case, the grievance of the women was against lodgers' permits.

The third campaign was masterminded in Johannesburg from 1954-1956, culminating in the march in 1956 of nearly 20 000 women to Pretoria. In each of these episodes women reacted not because of major political issues or broad developmental policies but because the stability of their homes and families were in jeopardy.

Today we are honoured and privileged to have in our midst, Ms Sophie de Bruyn. She led the Women’s March to the Union Buildings in 1956 and is the only surviving leader of the historical event. We thank you for joining us here today and look forward to your input. We know that we will gain insight from your contribution here today.

Ek wil ook net noem, dat nog voor die gebeure van 1913, en voor die totstandskoming van die “Bantu Women’s League” het vyf duisend vroue in 1912 na die kantoor van Generaal Louis Botha opgeruk om te protester teen die Paswet. Hierdie dapper vroue was nie georganiseer of geregistreer onder ‘n spesifieke Beweging in die tyd, maar het die gewetens oortuiging gehad om te protes teen ‘n onregverdige sisteem. Dit is gebeure soos hierdie in die geskiedenis wat ons merkvaardige vordering tot dusver soveel meer insiggewend en merkwaardig maak.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The International Women's Day thus forms part of global efforts to create a better world order where there shall be Peace and Friendship. Originally called the International Working Women's Day, it first started as a political and socialist movement in 1909 in four European countries. Until the late 1900s, the influence of the day was limited to Europe. In 1975 the United Nations announced 8th March as the official date for the International Women's Day.

This year, in South Africa, we celebrate International Women’s Day under the theme” “Press for progress – Leave no woman behind, Together we can empower woman across the globe.” This theme says to us that now more than ever, there is a strong call to action to press forward and progress gender parity. There is a strong call to motivate our friends. colleagues and communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

On this day it is also important that we note the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, where the global community stressed the importance of women assuming positions of power and influence, not only because of their points of view and talents are needed, but also as a matter of their human rights. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was therefore established and signed to encourage women and girls to make choices, get an education, get involved in politics and have an income without being discriminated against.

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s nothing in the history of the struggle for women’s emancipation that suggests that it was ever an easy struggle. The idea of championing a cause for women’s aspirations, did not only meet with resistance from traditional anti-progressive forces, but, for quite some time, even from within revolutionary and progressive formations all over the world.

It is for this reason, that while the legitimacy of many protests movements against race, culture and class oppression were recognised much earlier on, global support for the cause for gender equality followed a path more tedious.

Despite these difficulties, the truth that could not be denied was that women had real social experiences that alienated them from the obtaining social structures of the time. So, even if the mainstream political thinking of the time refused to recognise this, it was these experiences of women that mobilised them as a social force.

Dames en here, op hierdie geleentheid kyk ons terug en reflekteer ons op die vordering wat gemaak is asook die struikelblokke wat nog bestaan in die opheffing en bemagtiging van vroue, en veral jong vroue in ons land. Hierdie dag bied ‘n geleentheid om vroue bemagtiging te verhewe en te vier en ook om vroue gelyke regte te bied. Dit is ook ‘n geleentheid om hulde te bring aan vroue wat hul lewens en familie opgeoffer het in die stryd om nie net vroue regte nie, maar ook gelyke regte te bevorder.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as we celebrate the International Women’s Day which takes place at a strategic moment in our political history, we are once again reminded of the sacrosanct declaration made by South Africans from all walks of life that converged in Kliptown in 1955 that the People Shall Govern! Today in South Africa the people govern because every man and woman has the right to vote and to be voted for.

South Africa remains resolute in promoting gender equality, women’s rights as human’s rights and women empowerment in all spheres of life. To this end, the ANC has consciously adopted a 50% women representation in all decision making structures. This has led to increased women representation in all spheres of government at the legislative and executive levels. A lot has been achieved in ensuring that the people govern. However, we still have a long way to go in ensuring that women occupy their rightful position in society. We need to ensure that we transform not in quantity in terms of numbers but also in quality in terms of women occupying strategic positions in all sectors be it the Private or Public sector.

We are optimistic that this is achievable in our lifetime because our country is taking great strides to redress gender imbalances and promote women’s rights. The vigorous implementation of women quotas has gone a long way in challenging the attitudes and changing the mindset of our people.

This Provincial Government also remains committed and will ensure that women's rights and, in particular, women's socio-economic empowerment will be prioritized in all possible sectors of society to promote that very important balance between men and women.

We will continue to pay attention to empowerment of women and especially young women, not only in the socio-economic aspect, but also in the political part of society. We will thus build on the progress we have made in the promotion, empowerment and development of women and also ensure that our women cooperatives are strengthened in order to stimulate economic development. At the same time we will also review existing gender policies to test their effectiveness.

Ladies, the key to prosperity is to participate in economic sectors such as mining, construction, manufacturing, the green economy, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and engineering. This is important, because although the public service is already actively addressing women's transformation, it will not bring us equality on the road to development.

Ladies and gentlemen, this year, as we pay tribute to the 100 years of the legend of Nelson Mandela, the vision we have for our women should be mirrored in the words of our late great statesmen when he proclaimed that, “As a tribute to the legions of women who navigated the path of fighting for justice before us, we ought to imprint in the supreme law of the land, firm principles upholding the rights of women.” This we have done with great success.

Dames en here, dit is al te duidelik dat hierdie ANC beleerde regering groot spronge gemaak het in die opheffing van vroue. Baie van ons hier teenwoordig is die eind resultaat van hierdie initiatiewe en word ons as een van die toon aangewende lande beskou waar dit kom by die opheffing, bevordering en gelyke behandeling van vroue.

Ladies and gentlemen, considering the strides that have already been made, the struggle for freedom and equality continues for women beyond equal participation. The struggle for women takes an even more challenging route of fighting poverty and underdevelopment, HIV/AIDS and women and children abuse. These struggles touch at the very core of the rights of women in our country and demands strong action, not only from women, but also from all South Africans.

Ladies and gentlemen, comrades and friends let this celebration and dialogue of the International Women’s Day, serve as a new motivation in all of us to attend to the unfinished business of ensuring women’s empowerment and gender equality.

This year 2018, being the year of unity, renewal and jobs as part of emulating the good example of service and selfless dedication to the course of our people and recognising the centenary of the birth of the late Nelson Mandela; we wish to call upon women to take action to build on the strides that this ANC led Government has made. This should be done by making sure that Government at all spheres is in safe hands. As women; let us grab opportunities and shine. I wish to thank everyone present for this opportunity to celebrate our women and to engage in dialogue with our women. We carry with us the burden of many other women out there who do not have the opportunities we have. Let us therefore rise to the challenge.

I thank you

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