Speech by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services,
Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize on the Occasion of the Launch of Tlhabane Website
at Deloitte in Woodmead on 09 March 2015.
Sharoda Rapeti - Deloitte
Sergio Verusha - Deloitte
Yauvan - Deloitte
Thabani - Intel
Nokuzola - Telkom
Omashani - Telkom
Dr,. Miriam Altman - Telkom
David Wang - Huawei
Jacky Zhang - Huawei
Queen Muthiwana - Landbank
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is an honour for me to stand before you on this august occasion to launch the Tlhabane website, following the visit in November last year when we launched “Making Tlhabane a Safer and Friendly Township for Women and Children” as part of the 365 days of no violence against women and children . This was done on a request for support to be given to women in the area with special emphasis on gender based violence issues and the economic growth for women in the area.
It is remarkable that we launch the website when the whole world is commemorating the International Women’s Day which is celebrated globally on 8 March. According to the UN Women vision International Women’s Day 2015, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is the clarion call of UN Women’s Beijing+20 campaign “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” whereby we join governments and activists across the world in commemorating the ground-breaking Conference of 1995.The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments 20 years ago to set the agenda for realizing women’s rights. While there have been many achievements since then, many serious gaps remain. This is the time to uphold women’s achievements, recognize challenges, and focus greater attention on women’s rights and gender equality to mobilize all people to do their part. The Beijing Platform for Action focuses on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisions a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination. We celebrate the many achievements that have come since then and galvanize action to address the gaps that still remain in making gender equality a reality.
One of the key events which occurred in commemoration of the International Women's Day is the "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality" which asks governments to make national commitments to address the challenges that are holding women and girls back from reaching their full potential within the next 15 years. Launching on the occasion of International Women's Day 2015, Step It Up showcased specific commitments that governments make, leading up to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. The initiative comes at a critical moment in time as a new development agenda is taking shape to replace the Millennium Development Goals.
In support of International Women’s Day on Sunday 08 March 2015, the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon said:
“We must take a clear global stance against this total assault on women’s human rights. The international community needs to translate its outrage into meaningful action, including humanitarian aid, psycho-social services, support for livelihoods, and efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. With women and girls often the first targets of attack, their rights must be at the centre of our strategy to address this staggering and growing challenge. Empowered women and girls are the best hope for sustainable development following conflict.”
UN Women’s Executive Director, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s message in commemoration of International Women’s Day is “Women want their leaders to renew the promises made to them. They want leaders to recommit to the Beijing Declaration, to the Platform for Action, and to accelerated and bolder implementation."
She emphasised the need for more leaders to be women as a need for most women world-wide. These women should dare to change the economic and political paradigms. We ought to reach gender parity before 2030, so that we avert the sluggish trajectory.
We have in the previous year participated in the International Telecommunications Union programme called the Gender Equality Mainstreaming - Technology (GEM-Tech), whereby women were honoured for their contribution in the ICT sector. Our engagement with women in the international space continued last week when we attended a session at the GSMA Mobile World Conference called GSMA Women Leadership. We have through all of this learnt that ICTs can be used to grow the female digital economy and empower women through a variety of initiatives. These include educational outreach programmes that increase female digital awareness and access to mobile services; community initiatives that encourage women to become digital entrepreneurs.
Coming back locally, it is indeed befitting to thank all the private companies, who after the November function, met to look at ways in which they could help the women of Tlhabane community. This is particularly important in this information age where ICTs are the main ingredients of survival, growth and development.
Oprah Winfrey once said:
“It isn't until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are - not necessarily a religious feeling, but deep down, the spirit within - that you can begin to take control.”
Today I believe that I am indeed standing in front of women who have taken full control of their lives, despite their daily circumstances.
It is a great pleasure that I announce the brand new website www.lwazi-ict.co.za that has been especially developed for women in the Tlhabane community. Through this website, women will be able to include their business profiles, access more business information and also give them the opportunity to network in their community.
The website will also act as a support mechanism for women who have victims of gender based violence by providing information of local councillors, police, and support groups in the area to assist those affected.
In line with the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030 we have partnered with the private companies such as Deloitte, Telkom, Huawei and Landbank. The NDP articulates the position of government on ICT, skills and inclusion of women in the mainstream economy clearly.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to say that by December, 20 women were already receiving digital training from Intel SA through School Net and a further 20 were trained in January and yes training is still ongoing. During this time, Deloitte was busy developing this amazing website for the women in this community. Today Deloitte is not only celebrating with us but they are also hosting this important and life changing event.
Telkom will be ensuring that the technical structure needed to ensure that the website is a success is there and for that we are grateful.
Huawei has sponsored 20 tablets for the first group of women to be trained and Landbank has donated five laptops and a printer in support of this project. We are very grateful.
This project will then provide for the contribution to promote women in Information and Communications Technologies, and also contribute to the support of alleviating gender based violence.
Access to the facilities which will be a container as a starting point, will only be for the women in the community. I want this place to be their sanctuary, a place where they can feel safe and most importantly be free to be whoever they want to be.
We are however, hoping that in the near future we can change this container to being a well equipped multi-purpose centre for women in Tlhabane. If we can dream it, we can definitely achieve it. South Africa is one of the countries with high levels of gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence and sexual offences. This is despite us having legislation that seeks to address these crimes and ongoing campaigns that are against this form abuse.
The country speaks out against abuse of women & children thus creating the awareness of communities to be vocal against this social impedance. As every government department contributes to this reprieve, the Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services has pledged support from an ICT perspective.
Women in ICT has been elevated as important in the country and we have found that there is a need to improve the lives of women in communities through the ICT sector, thus bridging the gender gap from a technology perspective.
According to a KPMG report, gender-based violence costs the South African economy an astounding R28.4-billion to R42.2-billion a year. The report says the cost could be as much as 0.9% to 1.3% of South Africa’s annual gross domestic product (GDP). Based on a prevalence rate of 20% – an assumption that one in five women experience an incident of gender-based violence each year. What is worrying about this is the fact that such kind of reports are based on the limited information that is currently available in the public domain.
The sad reality is that many incidents of gender based violence such as rape go unreported; some studies estimate that if all such cases were reported, the figures could be as high as over 500 000 for the entire country. A total of 4850 sexual crimes have been reported in the North West Province for the period April 2013 to March 2014, this is compared to a total 5521 reported in the period April 2012 to March 2013. Although this shows a decline, we know that there are a lot of cases which are withdrawn and others are not even reported.
The South African Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world. The Constitution has laid a foundation for a multi-racial society based on democratic principles. As government, the foundational policies and laws that we set twenty years ago has ensured that a conducive environment is created for the participation of women in the economy and the communities in which they live in.
In the past twenty years government has made significant strides in ensuring that we create a South Africa that is safe for women and other vulnerable groups of our society, and we continue to be resolute in our commitment to eradicating violence against women.
However, we continue to be faced with a situation in which women are unemployed, continue to live in poverty and where violence has become a part of everyday life. Violence against women and young girls threatens to erode the policy, legal and political gains women have made since democracy.
We are all aware that ICTs are pivotal to societal and economic transformation. Governments all over the world, recognise that ICTs are not just enablers of development but are fundamental pillars that drive development in every aspect of modern existence. While we recognise the potential of ICT for stimulating economic growth, that is, its ability to create an enabling environment for the creation of jobs, for eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities, there is also a danger that the benefits of ICTs can be unevenly distributed. This unevenness is especially evident in the so-called gender divide as reflected in the lower numbers of women accessing and using ICT compared to women.
The increased usage of ICTs presents new types of dangers for women and girls in particular. Technological advances now mean that women must be prepared to deal with new avenues for violence and need to be equally prepared to reclaim ICTs to further their own social justice struggles including that of combating violence perpetrated against them.
ICTs are now being used in various ways to perpetrate violence against women. Human Traffickers now use the internet to recruit victims more quickly, domestic violence perpetrators use tools such as spyware and GPS (global positioning systems) to track and control their partners’ movements and ICTs are enabling sexual predators to exploit women and girls anonymously. We are facing dangers of cyber stalking, cyber bullying, digital voyeurism which are violations typical of the internet age.
Against this background, we need to work together, government, civil society, gender advocacy groups and the private sector to ensure that we have strategies and tools that address the gender divide and reduce inequalities related to ICTs and to identify ways to use ICT pro-actively and effectively to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women.
We have “South Africa Connect”, which is our Broadband Policy and Strategy, adopted by cabinet in December 2013. This policy was developed in response to evolving global trends, and the need to meet the diverse ICT requirements of the people of South Africa. SA Connect adopts an integrated and cross-cutting, but citizen-centric approach to broadband deployment. The approach leverages the linkages in the ICT ecosystem to create a more equitable knowledge economy and information society. South Africa Connect mobilises the capabilities, resources and commitment of both the public and private sectors, together with civil society, in order to connect South Africans to each other as well as South Africa to the continent and the world. This collective energy will be channelled towards realising a bold vision of a connected society.
The Department is in a position to coordinate and support the targets to achieve 100% broadband penetration by 2020 as well as transforming 70% of all front-line service to e-Service by 2019. Through the four strategic pillars of this policy, which are: digital readiness, digital development, digital future and digital opportunity the department will develop a citizen, business and government oriented e-strategy. Useful electronic applications can be created through this strategy to better the lives of women. Examples include, e-agriculture which is the introduction of electronic services in a sector which in most cases is dominated by women; e-villages and e-emergency services.
I am aware that with the ongoing digital trainings that are currently underway in Tlhabane have already yielded some great and positive results. The fact that women in the area have already created their own WhatsApp chat support group specifically to stand up against women abuse amazes me. This proves that when people who share a common goal unite, a lot can change. We, as women should never give up without a fight. Women abuse has to come to an end and I accept that it may not happen immediately, but with perseverance and with the right strategies, nothing is impossible.
For ICTs to be effective tools for advocacy on violence against women, the needs and realities of women must be identified and addressed. This requires a multi-faceted approach to dealing with violence against women. Some of the strategies we need to employ are in respect of the following:
Through the use of multiple forms of media and communication technologies we need to reach women, particularly those who are marginalized and are in remote communities using a mix of “traditional” and new technology platforms, for example using the combination of radio and the internet to strengthen existing communication strategies.
Implementation of gender mainstreaming plans will ensure that gender equality aspects are incorporated in all aspects of the work we do, particularly in terms of policies and regulatory frameworks as well as implementation of projects on the grounds. The needs and priorities of women must be reflected in policy-making as well as the implementation of strategies that support equitable access, use and benefits of ICTs.
The main barriers to women’s use of ICT continue to be lack of training, language and access to the necessary tools. Therefore capacity building activities and development must be geared towards specific training for women, women’s groups and networks.
We must continue to support the continued research on gender equality and ICT issues, which will deepen the understanding of policy makers and other role players on the linkages between ICTs and gender equality. This will ensure that we continue to mainstream gender perspectives in ICT policy development and ICT for development initiatives.
Enhanced role for national machineries for the advancement of women. As government we will ensure that there is active participation of all stakeholders in the policy development processes, including national machineries for the advancement of women and women’s groups and networks. In this regard, the national machineries for the advancement of women should be capacitated to support their role as advocates and catalysts for gender mainstreaming. These machineries must be able to produce relevant information that can be utilized to influence national ICT policies and initiatives.
ICTs have not yet been a game-changer for women but they should and must be. We cannot talk about inclusiveness, social justice in the information society, and bridging the digital divide without putting women at the centre of the conversation.
It is therefore important to ensure that women’s access to ICTs, capacity building initiatives and the digital empowerment of women and girls is embraced in everything that we do.
To do this we have to be much more deliberate and accelerate action. We count on all stakeholders to invest, scale, and undertake necessary interventions and special measures around women’s access, digital literacy and capacities, active leadership and digital empowerment.
Gender based violence in communities is a reality. The abuse of women, children often goes unreported because of numerous challenges. We have to change that and also ensure that these cases are reported. Through technology, we as a country have the ability to create both the awareness of this concern, and also seek to improve and support victims of such abuse.
Working together with stakeholders, we can and must accelerate the implementation of programmes that will support and empower women and girls to end violence against women.
I believe that today is the starting point of a great and empowering journey for the women of Tlhabane. More partners will be brought into play to replicate similar projects into other provinces' poor districts such as the ones mentioned by the President during his State of the Nation Address. These include districts such as Vhembe District Municipality, Amathole District Municipality, Umzinyathi District Municipality, Alfred Nzo District Municipality, Lukhanji Municipality and OR Tambo District Municipality.
Ladies, let us go out there and MAKE IT HAPPEN.
I thank you.