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Address by Deputy Minister Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize at the Gert Sibande Area Old Mutual Women's Month Celebration

Address by the Honourable Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Honourable Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, MP, on the occasion of the Gert Sibande Area Old Mutual Women's Month Celebration on 16 August 2014

 

Programme Director; Ms Tshidi Kekana

Govan Mbeki Executive Mayor, Hon.Cllr L.L.Masina, 

CEO of Evander Hospital; Ms Nana Hlatshwayo;

Area Manager (Gert Sibande) Old Mutual, Ms Monalisa Nzimande;

Old Mutual Employees

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Introduction

It is an honour to join you today in commemorating Women’s Month. The theme for this year’s Women’s Month is, “Celebrating 60th Anniversary of Women's Charter, 20 years of Freedom: Moving Women’s Agenda Forward”. 

As we honour the women who 60 years ago drafted a Women's Charter, we recall their agenda. They stated that, their organisation, the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW), is formed for the purpose of uniting women for the common course of removing all instruments of oppression, be it legal, administrative, religious, economic or social.

I would make a special reference to one of the FEDSAW's aims, which for me defines the responsibilities we are faced with today: 

“To build and strengthen women's sections in the National Liberatory movements, the organisation of women in trade unions, and through the peoples' varied organisation.”


The vision was clear that for women to pursue their gender agenda they have to break down all the barriers like race, religious divide, educational boundaries, political ideological positions and cultural beliefs.  

We honour women who mobilised and organised other women to develop a Charter. Even after 60 years the charter is still relevant and it guides women’s struggles for gender equality and empowerment. Amongst others we honour women like Ray Simons who was the brain behind the formation of women’s organisation and brought together Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi and Amina Cachalia to form a steering committee.

As we celebrate the August month it is proper and fitting to evaluate the status of women in society and their participation in growing the GDP of this country. Prior to 1994 there were few women in leadership positions in either the public or private sectors. The results of the 2013 Report of the Commission for Employment Equity paints a sobering picture of our achievements. Women representation in top management positions across the country stood at only 20.6 percent in 2013. It is a reminder that when we celebrate our achievements there is still more to be done. 

We can however pride ourselves as women with people like Gill Marcus who is the governor of the Reserve Bank, Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita who is the chairperson of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and Nicky Newton-King who is the Chief Executive Officer of the JSE. 

During the past 20 years of democracy we have experienced defining moments for women, like exercising the right to vote like our male counter parts in 1994 and by having the gender equality clause in our Constitution in 1996. South African women like the late Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi and many others led discussions on Gender Based Violence in preparation for the Women's Beijing Conference of 1995. 

We have seen women soldiering on side by side with their male counter parts for quotas in gender representation in positions of influence and power to the moment when the African National Congress decisively declared that, South Africa should ensure gender parity during tipping points, like the appointments of politicians in cabinet, municipal levels and provincial legislatures. The ruling party went on to advocate for the implementation of gender parity policy position by the private sector as well. 

One of the early Presidents of the ANC, the late Comrade OR Tambo said:

 “No country can boast of being free unless its women are free” 

Contribution of Women to the South African Economy

Looking at most sectors across the economy, women today are still faced with issues of access, it is more difficult for women to access support services to enable them to set up businesses. For the lucky ones, as soon as they have their businesses set up it then becomes a question of accessibility to markets and investment opportunities to sustain these businesses. Women with disabilities on the other hand, are faced with challenges in terms of having access to service providers. This is usually due to their different requirements as a result of the nature or degree of the extent of their respective disabilities. 

Regardless of the position which the society has placed men in the business world, women have a lot to offer once they are included. Women entrepreneurs do not only create jobs for themselves and providing for their families, they are employing various other South Africans, who are then able to provide for their families. 

Empirical evidence confirms that when a woman entrepreneur receives funding, the opportunities and wealth which they create with the funding is likely to be spread further than when a male is funded. Women are more likely to share wealth and resources with family, employees and shareholders. Women entrepreneurs also have an added responsibility, as they are often breadwinners in their families and are perceived as role models to the younger generation.

In South Africa women show more resilience when it comes to entrepreneurship as many start from a very small base without much in the form of capital. 46% of all the self-employed entrepreneurs are women as they generally have to keep home fires burning. 

 

Women make up 36% of all entrepreneurs in South Africa; while they make up 52% of the total adult population in the country. This observation is not unusual in the world of work as women make up about 42% of Entrepreneurs in richer countries. As employers, women make up only 21.1% as compared to men.

The largest number of women entrepreneurs is in the retail trade. Women entrepreneurs are really the backbone of the informal economy. They often have to provide a living for families as overall 57% of all women entrepreneurs make a living outside of metropolitan areas. The second largest number of female business owners is in the clothing industry followed by economic and professional organisations. 

 

Government Policy Framework Geared Towards Women Inclusion

Government has been hard at work, ensuring that there is a policy framework to drive economic transformation:

•Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment

In February 2007, government gazetted the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Codes of Good Practice, in terms of which a number of Transformation Sector Charters were introduced. 

 

•Transformation Sector Charters

The Codes of Good Practice provide government and industry with a standard framework for the implementation and measurement of broad-based BEE. This framework is the guide to formation of the different Sector Charters and scorecards, which will express an industry's commitment to BEE.

 

•Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP)

The Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) sets out in detail key actions and time frames for the implementation of industrial policy. It has three main components:

•A range of sectoral actions;

•A set of cross-cutting actions of particular importance for industrial policy; and

•Measures to improve government’s organisation and capacity to implement industrial policy.

The action plan aims to promote long-term industrialisation and diversification beyond traditional commodities and non-tradable services, expanding production in value-added sectors with high employment and growth opportunities.

Emphasis is placed on labour absorbing production and services sectors, increasing access to the economy of historically disadvantaged people and regions, and building South Africa’s contribution to industrial development beyond our borders.

•New Growth Path

Key drivers in government policy are the creation of jobs, the reduction of inequality and poverty alleviation. Government has set out on a New Growth Path to ensure that this happens. NGP is both bold and imaginative in its destination which is the creation of millions of new jobs. At the same time, it takes into account the broader global factors that impact locally. The New Growth Path also outlines how South Africa can achieve a more developed, cohesive and equitable economy. It identifies specific focus sectors to generate an inclusive, green economy.

 

•National Development Plan

The National Development Plan is a plan for the country to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 through uniting South Africans, unleashing the energies of its citizens, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capability of the state and leaders working together to solve complex problems.

 

 

 

•Development financing

There are funding opportunities provided by government exclusively for women. One such example of funding is the Women Entrepreneurial Fund offered by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). This fund applies to businesses with a minimum shareholding by women of at least 50%. The fund can apply to a start-up business or for expansions purposes. This just goes to show how committed our government is in ensuring the inclusion of women in the mainstream economy. 

 

The Financial Sector Charter

The Financial Service Sector Charter came into effect as a transformation policy based on the terms of the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act. It is a voluntary agreement by all members/constituents of National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), a multilateral social dialogue forum on social, economic and labour policy, members to promote social and economic integration and access to the financial services sector.

The Financial Sector Charter commits its participants to ‘actively promoting a transformed, vibrant, and globally competitive financial sector that reflects the demographics of South Africa, and contributes to the establishment of an equitable society by effectively providing accessible financial services to black people and by directing investment into targeted sectors of the economy’.

The Charter provides transformation guidelines for the financial sector, which is one of the key sectors of the South African economy. Upon gazetting the Charter, the dti  Minister also approved the application of the 'once empowered, always empowered' principle with a condition that Government, together with the Financial Services Sector Charter Council, monitor the dilution of black shareholding in the sector. 

In his words the former finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said: "the launch of the financial sector charter in 2004 was a good start in setting concrete targets for transformation for the sector as whole, and for the banks in particular. Under the financial sector charter, significant strides have been made with respect to lending to black SMEs, black farmers, low-cost housing, transformation infrastructure and BEE finance as well as improvements in the employment profiles in all tiers of management and governance".

Inspiring Women's Future through Education and Skills

Quality education is an important right, which plays a vital role in relation to a person’s health, quality of life, self esteem and the ability of citizens to be actively engaged and empowered. The father of our democracy Tata Nelson Mandela said: " Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."


There are ample opportunities provided through government programmes for women to take participate shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts:

 

•Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs)

SETAs must work out a sector skills plan and implement the plan by:

•starting learnerships;

•approving workplace skills plans from employers;

•giving funds to employers, trainers and workers; and

•watching over education and training in their sectors.

Fasset is the Finance and Accounting Services Sector education and Training Authority which can be used as tool to increase skills pool in the financial sector.

•Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges

Further Education and Training (FET) is an education and training programme provided from Grades 10 to 12, including career-oriented education and training offered in technical colleges, community colleges and private colleges. FET colleges are playing a growing role in the provision of the intermediate to higher-level skills required to support economic growth and development.

•Universities

Research and innovation by universities and the private sector has a key role to play in improving South Africa's global competitiveness. Higher education is the major driver of information and knowledge systems that contribute to economic development. Our universities must produce more qualified Charted Accountants and Financial Engineers.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when we look around, we see how much we have achieved since 1994 in creating a better life for our people, in particular how the lives of women have improved. Women’s empowerment forms the cornerstone of many of government’s policies.  The government recognizes that by empowering women, the whole nation will be empowered. But we know that it is not enough; and more needs to be done to transform our society to one where women are equal at all levels.

 

Ensuring equal opportunities for women and girls at all levels and all spheres requires that we acknowledge existing gender disparities and take appropriate, positive differentiation to bridge the gender gaps.   

 

We must therefore renew our commitment to the vision of achieving a non-sexist and non-racial society in which women are equal and active partners in building our society. 

Igama lamakhosikazi malibongwe!

 

I thank you.