Economic empowerment for South African women stands out as the focal point of this year’s annual Women’s Month activities.
Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, launched the 2011 Women’s Month programme in Pretoria.
“We are going to take advantage of Women’s Month to focus on the economic empowerment of women as a vital component of triumph for South Africa’s endeavours to reach the targets on economic growth, which includes the creation of five million employment opportunities over the next 10 years, as layed out in the New Growth Plan. All of us have agreed that women economic empowerment needs to be the primary focal point of this Women’s Month festivities ,” she stated.
The programme emphasises the function of women as equal partners in the economic, social and cultural growth and development of modern society, in addition to terminating economic marginalisation of women.
The high point of the month is the observation of the annual National Women’s Day on 9 August and this year it will be celebrated under the theme, ‘Working together to enhance women’s opportunities to economic empowerment.’
On 9 August 1956, 20 000 women staged a march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest in opposition to the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act, typically referred to as the pass laws of 1950.
The 2011 Women’s Month commenced with a three-day National Women’s Conference of well over 800 women coming from all parts of the country.
The conference provides a platform for engagement on crucial challenges impacting on the status of women in the country.
Xingwana pointed out that the intention of the gathering is to talk about and clear up key policy considerations to be contained in the Gender Equality Bill, which happens to be in development to boost women participation throughout all sectors of society.
She pointed out that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is expected to respond to key issues brought up by women when he delivers the closing address on August 3.
The minister at the same time revealed that this year’s National Women’s Day is going to be commemorated at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Limpopo, adding that President Jacob Zuma will be the key speaker.
She also announced that there will be a Women Economic Empowerment Conference at the ICC in Durban on the 11 -12 August. As outlined by Xingwana, the conference is going to review advancement and identify steps necessary to improve women empowerment as a prerequisite for global economic competiveness.
Human Settlements Deputy Minister, Zoliswa Kota-Frederick announced that they planned to hand over 55 houses of the 1 956 houses constructed in commemoration of 1956 Women’s march in Branford, Free State.
Branford stands out as the location where the veteran of the women’s movement, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ended up being put under house arrest as a result of apartheid regime.
The Department of Public Works will in addition run a programme inspiring indigenous building techniques in Limpopo, which were in the past led by women.
This year, the country lost Albertina Sisulu and Bertha Gxowa last year. Both were members of the group of women who left bundles of petitions comprising in excess of 100 000 signatures at Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom’s office doors at the Union Buildings.
MaSisulu and Gxowa, in conjunction with other women, stood silently for 30 minutes outside Strijdom’s office. The women sang a protest song which had been written in honour of the occasion, Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’ imbokodo! (You strike a woman, you strike a rock).
Xingwana stated: “We owe it to Mama Gxowa and Mama Sisulu and several other fallen heroines of the struggle for gender equality and freedom in order to make this Women’s Month programme a success.”