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Address by the Deputy Minister of Telecommunications, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize at Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit, Cosmo City

Address by the Deputy Minister of Telecommunications, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, at the Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit, Cosmo City, 23 August 2014

Dumelang

It is an absolute pleasure for me to join you today in your Women's Economic Empowerment Summit. It is encouraging to see women engaging in economic issues because they are a cornerstone of every nation. We are still celebrating women's month and it is key that as part of our celebrations issues such as women's economic empowerment be addresses at length. Let me remind those who have not been following the women's month events that 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”. 

It is important to note that this year's Women’s Month celebrations takes place against the scenery of numerous significant milestones. Some of the milestones which we've reached as a country and as women were articulated by our President, Comrade Jacob Zuma during the celebration of National Women’s Day in King Zwelithini Stadium at Umlazi, Durban.

• It is 60 years since the signing of the Women’s Charter on 17 April 1954 in Johannesburg.

• It is 20 years since the adoption of the 1994 Women’s Charter for 

Effective Equality.

• The country is celebrating 20 Years of Freedom.

• In two years’ time we will celebrate 60 years since the historic 1956 

Women’s March to the Union Buildings.

• The 1954 Women’s Charter preceded the Freedom Charter, signaling the importance accorded to women’s rights in our country that early on.

• Significantly, the Women's Charter influenced the content and spirit of the 1994 Women's Charter for Effective Equality and also the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996.

• We have made important strides in realising the vision of the Women’s Charter since the dawn of freedom.

This very settlement, Cosmo City, is one of the beautiful results of our 20 years of freedom. It was ten years ago that the construction of Cosmo City began. This project is testimony of our government’s long-standing commitment to empower and bring dignity to our people. Cosmo City is a complex development and one of the few places in South Africa that provides three types of housing to suit the financial circumstances of different people. There are fully subsidised houses, credit linked houses and fully bonded houses. I am glad that the residents of Cosmo City take care of their city with pride. Together we are building a new South Africa.

We are indeed blessed to be living in a country that has overcome so much and now brims with so much promise. Our role is to continue the struggle for equality on all levels that our women leaders of the past decades have fought for. Today we are faced with different challenges, yet our response should be the same – unite and support each other in overcoming the obstacles we face.

I am happy that as we celebrate women's month we are also celebrating economic inclusion of women into the mainstream economy. As government we have in the past introduced the Broad Economic Empowerment legislation to address inequality, but later realized that it only benefitted few individuals especially men. We have since amended the BEE legislation to be Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment in order for it to cater for the broader society. 

The legislation gives preference to women in business to ensure their inclusion in the mainstream economy and full participation thereof. As a nation and as government we are still faced with the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and mass joblessness. These are challenges which affect each and every one of us and our different families. As government we are working very hard to resolve this and create a balanced society.

We encourage women to voluntarily participate in business ventures such as cooperatives and small businesses whereby they will give each other support. There is also a deliberate move by government to support small businesses and cooperatives which is more reason why women should be encouraged to participate in this business ventures. Government has also introduced a new ministry which will focus solely on the needs for small businesses. This new Ministry is aimed at fostering development of small businesses. We acknowledge that the main issue hindering women participation in the economy has always been access, access to financing and access to the markets. 

There are funding opportunities provided by government exclusively for women. An example of such 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. There is also the Isivande Women's Fund (IWF) aims to accelerate women's economic empowerment by providing more affordable, usable and responsive finance than is currently available. The IWF assists with support services to enhance the success of businesses. It pursues deals involving start-up funding, business expansion, business rehabilitation, franchising and bridging finance. This just goes to show how committed our government is in ensuring the inclusion of women into the mainstream economy.

The other important factor which will ensure continued inclusion and participation of women in the economy is education. Government has removed all the barriers which were hamper our people to have access to quality education. There are various efforts available to ensure that we are an educated nation. For those who were not able to finish the high school education there are Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges which assists in augmenting those lessons that were not acquired from high school and can act as a stepping stone towards Universities of technology. FETs are 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. The other opportunities are available in Universities. There are a lot of bursary opportunities available today than they were in the past. We should always work together to ensure that we succeed and must always remain organized around economic issues.

One of the key economic priorities is industrialization. As women we should be thinking about ways in which we can make every household an industrial center. I do agree that in most cases a spaza shop is a starting point but we need to thing beyond this, we should come up with innovative industrial ideas. We should align ourselves with the priorities of government in order to benefit our societies and also benefit from incentives offered by government. I believe that as women we are capable and we can come up with industrial ideas which can later graduate from being backyard operations into huge firms which will employ the majority of our unemployed society.

As part of government’s radical economic transformation programme of this term of government, we aim to create hundred black industrialists in the next three years, who will participate in the productive sectors of the economy. These measures include reforms to the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA), customising incentive schemes offered by government and its agencies, launching a new financial support scheme suitable for black industrialists and the establishment of an advisory panel on black industrialists. 

Local procurement and increased domestic production will be at the centre of efforts to transform our economy and will be buoyed by a government undertaking to buy 75% of goods and services from South African producers. To ensure that even our future generation of women participate fully in the mainstream economy we need to bring back the spirit of ubuntu where we believe it takes a whole village to raise a child and that children are innocent and need to be protected at all times. Gender-based violence such as gang rape, wartime rape and date rape, also domestic violence, incest and family killings can be prevented by us as the community. Some of our cultural practices are tantamount to gender-based violence because they affect women negatively. Examples include things such as ukuthwala, muti killings and burning of those suspected of being practicing witchcraft. These violence subjects the victims to emotional trauma and causes a person to be emotionally, dysfunctional, suffering from intrusion of thoughts. The victims find it difficult to concentrate both at work and at school. The last time I spoke to you I was with the Economic Development Department but now I am with the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services. On arrival into the new department there were a few things to note, some positive on the one hand and others need more work to improve the situation. 

We all know that the country is doing very well in terms of mobile connectivity, we are able to say today that every household has a cellular phone. We are however still faced today with low participation of women in the ICT sector. Government has introduced next generation transversal systems across all levels of Government. We strongly believe that the focus on e-Government measures will support Government and make services easily accessible in a unified, simple manner. Broadcasting Digital Migration is one of our flagship projects and it will see the South African nation moving from analogue television to digital television. Working with one of our agencies, the South African Post Office, we are working towards improving the Post Bank to be able to cater for the banking needs of our poor underserved communities.

I am glad to say that we recently launched the SA Women in ICT Forum and through this initiative we hope to empower and bring more women, especially young women, into the ICT sector through various means. We are doing all of these things following the theme of NDP, "Our Future - Make it Work". It is calling for the citizens to participate fully in efforts to liberate ourselves from conditions that hinder the flowering of our talents. Cosmo City will be a different place on condition that we work hard jointly.

I thank you.