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Commemoration of Women’s Month

richards baySpeech by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Honourable Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize
During the Occasion of
Commemoration of Women’s Month at
uMfolozi FET College – eSikhawini Campus
18 August 2015


Theme: “Uniting Women to Move South Africa into a Digital Economy”

 

Introduction


I will first start by congratulating the forty-one (41) women who received basic Information Communication Technology (ICT) training yesterday. To them I say welcome to the world of technology, I hope your communication methods are now going to change dramatically. I would like to believe that from this point hence forth you view your phone with a different eye.

 

In this country, we commemorate Women’s Month in August every year as a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. Our bias is always on women but when going into rural areas it becomes imperative to also consider the disabled people, youth and women.

 

This women’s month we celebrate the sterling work towards women inclusion in the ICT Sector by stalwarts such as the former Minister of the Department of Communications, Dr. Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri. During her tenure, she always made sure that within the telecommunications portfolio, there were programmes aimed at women empowerment and inclusion. In every board that she has been part of she always advocated for gender parity. The commitments she has made in the ICT sector talk to concrete commitments of the democratic government. She used her public and political platforms ensuring that government, together with the civil society social partners, facilitate the provision of opportunities to the marginalised groups through, inter alia, ICT skills and training programmes; initiating ICT SMMEs and rolling out ICT infrastructure to health centres and schools.   
 
This year’s commemoration of women’s month comes at a time wherein there are a number of key achievements, especially in women empowerment that we can look back to our country and be proud of ourselves:


•    This year marks the 60th year since the adoption of the Women’s Charter, and provides an opportunity to celebrate all our

      gains and to step up our resolve for a truly non-sexist society.

•    This is the 21st year of our freedom and democracy, which created a conducive environment for advancing the struggle of

      gender equality, women empowerment and human rights.

•    As women we pay a tribute to the pioneers of the women’s movement in this country, dating back to 1913, when women like

      Charlotte Maxeke led the way in establishing the ANC Women’s League and encouraging women to engage in the struggle for

      freedom.  

•    We revive the spirit of Bertha Gxowa, Lillian Ngoyi, Albertinah Sisulu, Amina Cachalia, Ray Alexander and Helen Joseph,

      amongst others, to inspire women to take forward all issues that affect women directly in every community in our country.


We therefore have a daunting task as women to perpetuate these achievements further. Ours it’s a bit easier today because in most cases the situation can be turned around by us being educated and participating in sectors such as the ICT sector.


According to the Women’s Ministry in the Presidency, all the activities during the 2015 Women’s Month Celebrations will be used as a build-up towards the 60th Anniversary of the Women’s march and which is aimed at:


•    educating the nation about the role women played in the emancipation of the continent

•    documenting the correct stories of heroines of South Africa

•    celebrating women who have made it in all spheres of life in the continent

•    honouring and celebrating the girls of 1976 and recognise the role played by young women in the liberation struggle

•    uniting South African women

•    celebrating the struggles of the women over the decades and a rejuvenation of our commitment to strive for a society that is truly non-racial, non-sexist, united, democratic and free of all forms of discrimination

•    remembering the history of Women's struggle in South Africa and to continue writing our history as it has to evolve.


Deliberate Government Policies Towards Inclusion of Women


The ICT Sector has been no exception to government’s continued effort to address issues of inclusion and transformation. Government’s deliberate move to inclusion of vulnerable groups such as women in the ICT Sector was seen through the South Africa Connect Policy.


South Africa’s Broadband Policy was published on 06 December 2013. South Africa Connect gives expression to South Africa’s vision in the National Development Plan. South Africa Connect outlines a number of activities to improve broadband in South Africa. The vision for broadband is that by 2020, 100% of South Africans will have access to broadband services at 2.5% or less of the population’s average monthly income. A four-pronged strategy, with both supply- and demand- side interventions will close the identified gaps between the current status of broadband in the country and the vision in the NDP.


The information and Telecommunications Sector has been declared by government in the Industrial Policy Action Plan as a game changer. Broadband roll-out, which is one of the main activities in the sector features as one of the President’s nine-point plan to boost the economy. It is because of the utilities such as broadband that the ICT Sector is cross-cutting and useful to all the other sectors in the economy.


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.

 

Challenges Facing Women Entrepreneurs


Since the dawn of our democracy, the country has placed emphasis on legislative reform that removed all forms of institutional discriminatory laws with a view of attaining a free non-racial, non-sexist, peaceful and democratic South Africa for all in accordance with our constitution. The number of women participating in politics has since increased, we now have women judges and magistrates; we have many more in senior management positions in the public service. In the private sector women are now able to work in sectors that were predominantly white and male dominated such as mining, construction and infrastructure development.


It is a well-known fact that women bear most of the brunt of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. To embellish these challenges women are still faced with other challenges which make it hard for them to progress from lower levels in for instance, their contribution to the agricultural sector.

 

Entrepreneurs have the following challenges:

 

1. Land issues

Progress in increasing access to land for women in South Africa depends substantially on the geographical, urban versus rural, and cultural context. Statistics South Africa (2014) found that the proportion of adult women who owned a traditional dwelling increased from 44,4 percent in 2002 to 59,1 percent in 2013. Subsequently, some studies have noted the improvement in political and traditional support on a national level for women’s access to land. Women’s access to land and property is central to women’s economic empowerment as land can serve as a base for food and income generation, collateral for credit, and a means of holding savings for the future. In 1995, South Africa’s commitment Platform for Action (BPFA) obligated the South African government to address women’s inequitable access to, and rights in, land.


Additionally, several pieces of legislation including the 1996 Green Paper on South African land reform, the 1996 Constitution, and the 1997 White Paper on South African Land Policy formed a framework to end discrimination in land Redistribution Programme, the Land Tenure Programme, and the Land Restitution Programme. Surprisingly, however, gender South Africa, but from the limited data available there are mixed results, which is highly contextualised by geography, urban people with only 9 percent of the recipients being women. Moreover, a study by Jacobs et al (2012) found that in KwaDube challenge to women owning land within South Africa, particularly in rural areas, lies in the dynamics of power relations and customary law, which tend to favour men.

 

2. Education for women
The report released by the Department of Women earlier this month recognises the improvement of access to quality education is one of the key challenges facing government and receives attention through the country’s National Development Plan. In the beginning of the democratic government in 1994, we inherited a fractured education system that had historically focused its resources on a small minority of learners. Consequently, immense gaps in infrastructure between institutions from different parts of the prior 1994 education system were inherited and remain in evidence today.


According to the second Millennium Development Goal, countries need to “achieve universal primary education”. This implies that all children of school-going age must achieve universal primary education by 2015, or must have at least completed primary education. According to Statistics South Africa, our country has achieved near universal primary education and has in effect achieved this goal. However, educational quality and female access to education are still of great concern.


In South Africa females account for an increasing share of enrolment as one progresses through the primary and secondary education system. In 2013, females are estimated to have accounted for 48.5 percent of enrolment in primary schools, rising to 51.9 percent in secondary schools. Should the female share of enrolment change as one progresses through the education system, this would indicate differences in the throughput rates for males and females.

 

3. Access to Finance
According to the report produced by the Department of Women in the Presidency, deficient financial inclusion within the developing world presents even more of a challenge for women who are typically constrained in accessing to credit to a greater extent than men. In some countries, the male-dominated world of banking is particularly hard for women to navigate. The residual of women who are able to obtain credit in the developing world may often be charged extremely high interests by microfinance firms. This can place women, especially those in poor populations, in an even more vulnerable position to become severely over-indebted if their income source is constrained. Thus, many restrictions and challenges faced by the poor in the developing world concerning access to finance are often even more acutely experienced by women.

 

Ongoing Development and Mentorship
Women do not often get the same amount of ongoing development and mentorship as entrepreneurs. Working together with the private sector this can be corrected.

 

Conclusion
Allow me to conclude by emphasising a few points:
Let us make a commitment to continuously explore business opportunities and innovations so as to escalate the scale of economic participation to women at all levels, including rural women. South Africa needs to re-industrialise off the back of the opportunities   identified in the New Growth Path. We then need to introduce new ways of thinking about how we think about how women should benefit from economic development. Women should identify sectors which they can participate in and identify product niches which they can develop. South Africa has access to a number of markets with which these can be traded.  

 

We also need to look to achieving substantive gender equality. We need to consider the implications for women in the current push towards industrial reconstruction (rather than economic reconstruction). Work done by women tends to be undervalued. For example, many women are engaged in nursing where technology advances imply and require continuous skills advancement - but there has been no change in the status of nurses or salary increases relative to doctors. Interventions therefore, need to be targeted to prioritise and ensure women not only have equal opportunity to skills that are valued (and the labour market) but also receive equal pay for equal value.

 

Access to capital remains one of the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs, despite the existence of development finance institutions. There are many lessons to be learnt from countries who are growing their economy around financing of small, medium enterprises in an accessible, simple and user-friendly for new entrants.

 

I thank you.